Evangelist Franklin Graham says a "Law Enforcement Appreciation Dinner" will be held in Seattle next week despite criticism from area politicians, and that all police officers – including members of the LGBT community – are welcome.
Franklin made the remarks on Seattle radio station KIRO (97.3 FM) nearly two weeks after the Seattle Police Department invited its members – and then rescinded the invitation – to the free Law Enforcement Appreciation Dinner May 11, sponsored by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Graham is the president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan's Purse.
In a department-wide email cited by the Seattle Times, police Chief Adrian Diaz referenced Graham's stance on LGBT issues. Graham affirms the biblical definition of marriage as between one man and one woman.
"I want to make clear the Department fully supports the equity and just treatment of all people," Diaz said in the email. "The SPD did not sponsor this event and is not connected in any way to its hosts."
Seattle City Council President M. Lorena González also criticized the event.
"There is no legitimate reason why the Seattle Police Department should be promoting an anti-LGBTQ, far-right group, and this incident just shows the importance of the next mayor in choosing a police chief who can reform the department's culture," said González, who is running for mayor. "Actions like these undermine trust between SPD and Seattle's LGBTQ community, which is tenuous at best."
But Graham says all people are welcome at the dinner, which he said is being held to encourage police.
"We're wanting just to have a dinner, and we're inviting the police and their spouses ... regardless of their religion or their sexual orientation or whatever. If you're a police officer, you and your spouse are invited," Graham said. "And we're gonna just have a great time for fellowship, one with another. We've got a great speaker. We'll have live music. But it'll be just an evening for them. And we're paying the bill. There's no charge to them. We just want to encourage them and let them know that we love them, and we support them."
Asked for his response to comments by González, Graham said, "This is a chance to get behind law enforcement when they're discouraged, when they're down."
"I'm not anti-gay," he said. "... I'm sorry that she took this position, and hopefully, she'll change her mind."
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Drew Angerer/Staff
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.