(Photo: The DeMoss Group)
An African American woman's lawsuit against the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association was moved into federal court Wednesday.
Kimberly McCallum is suing the renowned ministry over racial discrimination. She alleges that she was laid off from her position at the BGEA after complaining that the organization was not reaching out to African-American churches, according to The Associated Press.
In the lawsuit, McCallum said she was told she was being let go because of downsizing but later found that her position was the only one that was eliminated. She also noted that she was cut a week after raising concerns about the exclusion of black churches in the ministry's outreaches. She's seeking back her job, back pay and damages for discrimination.
McCallum was an employee at the ministry's Charlotte office since February 2007.
BGEA spokesman Mark DeMoss rejected the claims of discrimination.
"That's a preposterous claim that the organization would deliberately bypass African-American participation," Demoss told AP. "In fact, the opposite is quite true."
The organization's founder, famed evangelist Billy Graham, is well-known for his integration efforts. Years before laws encouraging desegregation passed in the United States, Graham opened his evangelistic crusades to all races. Black and white Christians worshipped together in stadiums and hugged one another as they went forward to accept Christ.
"When God looks at you He doesn't look on the outward appearance. The Bible says He looks upon the heart," Graham said at a 1953 crusade in Chattanooga, Tenn.
BGEA is currently led by Graham's son, Franklin, who conducts evangelistic festivals around the world. He has preached to more than 5 million people in cities from Johannesburg, South Africa, to Tupelo, Miss.
According to The DeMoss Group, the BGEA currently employs some 300 full-time workers in the Charlotte office – the organization's headquarters – plus part-time and temporary associates.