Over 16,000 Christians Want Franklin Graham Fired for 'Helping Incite' Capitol Riot

More than 16,000 Christians have signed a petition calling for evangelical leader Franklin Graham to be fired as the head of Samaritan's Purse and his father's namesake non-profit Billy Graham Evangelistic Association after he endorsed President Donald Trump's conspiracy theories that the election was "rigged or stolen."

Graham said in December that he believed Trump when he said that the election was "rigged or stolen." Graham later tweeted his support for Republican lawmakers planning to object to the certification of President-elect Joe Biden's win in multiple battleground states. The petition argues that Graham's support of Trump's false claims helped to incite the mob of the president's rioters who stormed the U.S. Capitol while Congress convened to count the Electoral Votes on January 6.

"As long as Samaritan's Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association stand by Franklin Graham, it must be said that these once-vaunted organizations have forgotten their original Christian missions, abandoned the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and are complicit in the spread of dishonest, discredited election conspiracy theories and the deadly, unpatriotic, white-nationalist terrorism at the U.S. Capitol incited by those lies," the petition launched by Faithful America says.

"Our faith in Jesus Christ demands that we do better than this. Your fellow Christians from across the country call on you to fire Franklin Graham, or to resign from the Board in individual protest," the signatories add. The petition will be sent to board members of both organizations.

Franklin Graham
Thousands of Christians have signed a petition calling on Samaritan's Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association to fire Franklin Graham, son of the late evangelical Christian leader Billy Graham. In this photo, Franklin Graham pre-records his invocation to the Republican National Convention at the Mellon Auditorium on August 27 in Washington, D.C. Drew Angerer/Getty

Faithful America describes itself as the nation's largest online community of Christians organizing for social justice. The organization, backed by thousands of supporters, previously called on Samaritan's Purse to remove Graham as its CEO after he prayed at the Republican National Convention in late August of last year.

"The petition is in response to Graham's discredited and incendiary claim that the 2020 election 'was rigged or stolen,' the type of misinformation rhetoric that inspired the failed coup of January 6 and likely contributed to the presence of signs like 'Jesus 2020' and 'Trump is my savior, Jesus is my president' at the preceding 'Stop the Steal' rally," Nathan Empsall, Faithful America's campaigns director, wrote in a Tuesday email to Newsweek.

Paul Saber, who serves on the boards of directors for Samaritan's Purse and BGEA, dismissed the petition in a statement emailed to Newsweek.

"Faithful America is a left-wing advocacy group who regularly attack positions of Biblical Christianity to further their progressive, secular agenda. Faithful America fabricated the lie that Franklin Graham incited violence at the Capitol. Mr. Graham was not in Washington, D.C., he didn't encourage people to go to the Capitol on January 6, and he condemned the violence at the Capitol," Saber said

"The Boards of Directors of Samaritan's Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association have expressed that they fully support Franklin Graham and are more than satisfied with the job he has done and is doing in leading these ministries to bless people in over 100 countries around the world," he added

Samaritan's Purse was founded in 1970 and provides disaster, medical and other humanitarian relief in countries around the world. The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association was founded in 1950 by Graham's father, the legendary American evangelist Billy Graham, who died in 2018. Graham serves as both organizations' president and CEO.

White evangelical Christians were a key base of support backing Trump in the 2016 presidential election and throughout his tenure in the White House. Exit polls from the 2016 presidential election showed that about eight in 10 white evangelicals voted for Trump. In 2020, the results were similar, with exit polls showing somewhere between 76 and 81 percent of white evangelicals supporting a second Trump term.

Although the president and many of his supporters continue to claim the election was stolen by Biden, there is no evidence to support this extraordinary allegation. More than 50 lawsuits contesting the election results brought by Trump and his supporters have failed in state and federal courts. Even judges appointed by Trump and other Republicans have emphasized in their rulings that lawyers did not provide evidence to support the claims of widespread voter fraud.

In November, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency at the Department of Homeland Security, which was led by a Trump appointee, asserted that "there is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised." The federal agency described the 2020 election as "the most secure in American history."

Former Attorney General William Barr, who was widely viewed as one of Trump's most loyal and effective Cabinet members, said in early December that there was "no evidence" of fraud that would change the election outcomes. Recounts and audits—including hand recounts—have verified the results in multiple battleground states disputed by Trump.

Trump became the first president in U.S. history to be impeached a second time last Wednesday for his role in inciting the January 6 insurrection against the U.S. Capitol. Ten Republicans in the House of Representatives voted to impeach Trump alongside their Democratic colleagues, while a number of other Republican lawmakers condemned the president's actions and said he should be held accountable.

Graham condemned the Republican members of Congress who voted to impeach a president of their own political party. The prominent evangelical compared them to Judas, the Biblical disciple who betrayed Jesus ahead of his execution.

"Shame, shame on the ten Republicans who joined with Speaker Pelosi & the House Democrats in impeaching President Trump yesterday. After all that he has done for our country, you would turn your back & betray him so quickly?" Graham wrote in a Facebook post.

Updated January 19 at 4 p.m. ET: A statement from Paul Saber was added.