Edward Graham responds to Beto O’Rourke’s threat to churches: ‘God is bigger than tax exemption’

Ed Graham, assistant to the Vice President of Samaritan's Purse, speaks at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C., on October 12, 2019.
Ed Graham, assistant to the Vice President of Samaritan's Purse, speaks at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C., on October 12, 2019. | Courtesy of Values Voter Summit

WASHINGTON — Edward Graham, grandson of the late Rev. Billy Graham, said he believes that even if a future administration stripped churches and nonprofits of their tax-exempt status because of opposition to same-sex marriage, God would still provide.

At CNN's Equality Townhall, news opinion host Don Lemon asked Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke if he supported ending the tax exemption of colleges, churches and charities that oppose same-sex marriage.

"Yes," responded O’Rourke. "There can be no reward, no benefit, no tax break for anyone or any institution, any organization in America that denies the full human rights and the full civil rights of every single one of us.

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Graham, a U.S. Army veteran who began working for Samaritan’s Purse in December 2018, moderated a panel on the ministries of Samaritan’s Purse at the Values Voters Summit at the Omni Shoreham Hotel on Saturday. 

In an interview with The Christian Post following the panel, Graham said he found O’Rourke’s comment “silly” and doesn't believe anyone [takes him] “seriously as a candidate.”

Samaritan's Purse relief work helping Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh in 2017.
Samaritan's Purse relief work helping Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh in 2017. | (Photo: courtesy of Samaritan's Purse)

“I think he’s playing to the extreme left and the young progressive movement that is in this country. So I laugh when I hear that,” said Graham.

Regarding the possibility of Samaritan’s Purse losing its tax exemption for its stance on sexual ethics, Graham responded that “God is bigger than tax exemption.”

“We don’t exist because we’re a business or it’s about the money,” he told CP, “there is a need and God gives us the resources and entrusts us with those resources to His work.”

“If they did that, I think God is so big, He would give us beyond what we need in order to accomplish our task.”

In addition to Graham, the panel featured leadership from Samaritan’s Purse, namely Luther Harrison, vice president for North American Ministries; Ken Isaacs, vice president for Programs and Government Relations; and Randy Riddle, senior director for Operation Christmas Child; and Todd Chasteen, vice president for Public Policy.

The panel featured an overview of the various ministries of Samaritan’s Purse, which is headed by Edward Graham’s father, the Rev. Franklin Graham.

The nonprofit’s public policy department was created within the last few years partly in response to concerns over threats to religious liberty both in the United States and internationally.

Chasteen told CP in an interview following Saturday's panel that while Samaritan’s Purse continues to “stick with our emphasis” on charitable works, they “couldn’t stay silent.”

“Especially when people weren’t able just to live out their faith moment by moment, day by day, and ordinary activities. Beliefs that have been accepted for thousands of years, all of a sudden are deemed discriminatory,” he said.

“I totally agree people can have their own opinions and have their own positions, but that position shouldn’t be shut down, shouldn’t be silenced.”

Chasteen added that Samaritan’s Purse President Franklin Graham “has always wanted to speak out on behalf of others and had the courage to do that,” but with the public policy division “it is more official.”

“Specifically, we may assist and try to advocate for, say, Andrew Brunson in prison. We may help his attorneys so he gets representation,” explained Chasteen.

“There are people who are kicked out of countries because they are believers all over the world. We may help them with subsistence, help them through the dark hour and deep waters until they settle somewhere.”

Chasteen added that in the United States, they occasionally join U.S. Supreme Court briefs on cases that deal with both religious liberty and freedom of speech issues.

One example was the Supreme Court case National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) v. Xavier Becerra, in which a pro-life pregnancy center network successfully challenged a California law compelling pregnancy centers to promote abortion.

When asked by CP what he hopes attendees who watched the panel discussion take away from the presentation on Samaritan’s Purse, Edward Graham said he wants them to know “there’s an opportunity for them to serve, throughout the world, here in the U.S. and overseas.”

“We take volunteers and staff everywhere. If there is something you are interested in partnering with, we just want you to be bold and get outside the boat,” said Graham.

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