Evangelist Franklin Graham said Tuesday that Christians in America who oppose the LGBT agenda are being "persecuted" and singled out "over and over and over again" for acting in accordance with their biblical convictions on sexuality.
Graham, the president of both the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and the humanitarian organization Samaritan's Purse, spoke as a guest on the "Washington Watch" radio program hosted by prominent social conservative activist and Family Research Council President Tony Perkins to discuss BGEA's upcoming World Summit in Defense of Persecuted Christians being held in Washington, D.C. next week.
The summit, which runs from May 10–13, has been touted by Graham as the "first event of its kind" that will bring together over 600 people from over 130 countries across the globe, many of whom will tell of their own first-hand accounts of being persecuted for their faith in Christ.
The conference comes as tens of thousands of Christians are killed, imprisoned or persecuted worldwide because of their faith every year.
"I want our politicians to see what is happening and I want the voices of these people who have been persecuted, I want their voices to be heard. I want to give them a stage for them to be able to tell their stories and do it right there in Washington, where hopefully, we can see some policy changes," Graham said of the summit.
The summit was originally scheduled to be held in Moscow, Russia, last October but was moved and rescheduled after an "anti-terrorism" law was passed that severely limits freedoms of missionaries and evangelists.
Although terrible atrocities are being carried out against Christians and other religious minorities across the world, Perkins implied during the discussion that "the indifference" expressed toward religious freedom on a domestic level by the U.S. government in recent years has sent "a message to the terrorists and the tyrants abroad that they are free to do as they please when it comes to Christianity."
Graham agreed and listed various cases in which Christian business owners in the United States feel their First Amendment rights have been violated by non-discrimination policies and regulations that force them to either participate in same-sex marriage ceremonies or sell abortifacients even though those actions might come into conflict with their religious beliefs.
"That's true, Tony. We need not only put a spotlight on what is happening around the world but what is happening here in this country, where Christians are being persecuted, but in a different way," Graham said. "Like you said, it's not with a gun or a sword but they are being forced out of business because they did not support the gay-lesbian agenda."
Graham also spoke about the case of Christian bakers in Oregon who were fined $135,000 by the state for refusing to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding on the grounds that it would have violated their religious convictions.
He also mentioned the case of a Catholic family-owned pharmacy in Washington that sued the state over a law mandating that all pharmacies provide morning-after emergency contraceptive drugs like Plan B. After the U.S. Ninth Circuit court ruled against the pharmacists in 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the pharmacists appeal last summer.
"It's over and over and over again across the country where Christians are being singled out, their businesses, because they won't support the agenda of another group of people," Graham said. "We need to protect them. We need to protect the Christians in this country and abroad."
"I think, by putting a spotlight on it, it's going to help. It's not going to hurt," Graham added. "It's going to help get the word out and get the voices of those who have suffered to give them a platform to speak."
Graham called for some sort of religious freedom bill or order that would "protect Christians" and "protect the Christian faith."
On Tuesday, FRC and the American Family Association delivered their petitions containing over 168,000 signatures to the White House, calling for President Donald Trump to sign an executive order on religious liberty to help protect individuals and organizations who hold biblical views on sexuality and life from being punished for acting in accordance with their biblical beliefs.
Sources revealed to Politico that Trump could sign such an order on Thursday, the National Day of Prayer, as a number of conservative leaders have been invited to the White House on that day.
Pro-LGBT groups, who claim that such a law would open the door for religious discrimination against the LGBT community, have already threatened to file lawsuits if a religious freedom order is signed.