Franklin Graham, president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, recently applauded Russian President Vladimir Putin for opposing the advancement of the LGBT agenda in his country.
In a Decision Magazine editorial published on Feb. 28, the day that Russian troops first entered in Crimea, Graham claimed he was "not endorsing President Putin," but that the former KGB officer was "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," he said.
Graham acknowledged that Putin had a complicated past, but suggested that that did not render his actions with regard to LGBT issues less commendable.
"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," wrote Graham. "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?"
In the summer of 2013, Russia's Duma banned the distribution of "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations" among minors, and made it illegal for citizens to organize gay pride events or equate gay relationships to heterosexual relationships.
Graham juxtaposed Putin's actions with those of President Barack Obama and Attorney General Erik Holder, whom he accused of turning "their backs on God and His standards."
This is shameful," argued Graham. "The world used to look to America for moral leadership. But those days are long gone."
The Christian Post asked BGEA on Friday if Graham wanted clarify or ammend his remarks in light of Russia's role in introducing a secession referendum in Crimea and placing its troops in mainland Ukraine. (Crimea overwhelming voted to join Russia in Sunday's vote, although the United States and European Union criticzed the process and results.)
In a statement to CP, the organization defended its decision to run the story, saying that it saw the "Putin cover article" as a way to "provoke engagement of readers on this important issue and encourage further thought, prayer and action."
The statement did not criticize Putin or Russia's involvement in Ukraine, but only noted that BGEA "has been involved in helping in this area of the world for many years and has just sent a team to the Ukraine to meet and work with local pastors, to come alongside them in their ministry during this difficult time."
"Franklin also held an evangelistic crusade in Ukraine in 2007. We are praying for the people of the Ukraine and for peace in this troubled region."
Graham also heads Samaritan's Purse, a humanitarian organization, which has delivered over 6.5 million shoeboxes to Ukaine since 1995.
Graham's comments contrast sharply with those of Russell Moore, the president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, who blasted Russia's attempt to paint itself as a champion of traditional values.
"It really kind of makes my blood boil when I hear Vladimir Putin claiming to be pro-family values," said Moore in a podcast last month, who proceeded to point out the country's high abortion rates and lack of "adoption culture."
Moore said that Christians should be wary of taking the "stance that the enemy of our opponents' is our friend."
"Just because somebody says, 'We think that some things that you think are bad are too, so we're going to use the power of the state to run those people out of here' — that is not a Christian ethic," he said. "The Scripture does not give us a KGB to seek to maintain biblical Christian ethics. It gives to us the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God."
Moore did not address Russia's position toward its LGBT population in his remarks.