A month after defending Duck Dynasty" star Phil Robertson's comments against homosexuality, evangelist Franklin Graham is now affirming Russian President Vladimir Putin's signing of legislation in 2013 that effectively bans the "propaganda" of homosexuality to minors.
Rev. Graham, who is scheduled to preach a three-day revival in Pittsburgh in August, commented on Russia's legislation in a cover story in the most recent issue of Decision, the magazine of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Franklin Graham heads the organization, which was founded by his evangelist father.
The article cites recent controversies over Russia's hosting of the Winter Olympics but likely went to press before Russia's seizure of Ukraine's Crimea region.
Rev. Franklin Graham wrote:
"To be clear, I am not endorsing President Putin. To survive in the KGB and rise to power in Russia, you have to be tough. His enemies say he is ruthless. To some, he is a modern version of a czar. His personal life has its own controversies.
"Isn’t it sad, though, that America’s own morality has fallen so far that on this issue—protecting children from any homosexual agenda or propaganda—Russia’s standard is higher than our own?"
Rev. Graham contends that during the Cold War, "America held the high moral ground" in the Cold War standoff with "godless communism."
But "times have changed!" Rev. Graham said, citing protests by President Obama and others to the legislation.
Rev. Graham wrote: "In my opinion, Putin is right on these issues. Obviously, he may be wrong about many things, but he has taken a stand to protect his nation’s children from the damaging effects of any gay and lesbian agenda."
Critics of Russia's legislation say that, under the guise of protecting children, it muzzles free speech and advocacy for the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people: “With the stroke of a pen, the authorities have endorsed debilitating restrictions on the right to freedom of expression, in the name of so-called ‘traditional values’,” said a Human Rights Watch statement.