The lobby campaigning for a redefinition of marriage, to incorporate same-sex unions in a new understanding of the institution, will probably be saying this morning, “Well, he would say that, wouldn’t  he?”  when they read the statement just issued by the venerable and reverend Billy Graham. But it will still worry them.  Although Graham’s last crusade was in 2005, he remains deeply influential across the United States and further afield. In April 2010, President Barack Obama made the pilgrimage to meet with Graham, continuing a tradition of counselling commanders-in-chief that began with Dwight Eisenhower.

“Watching the moral decline of our country causes me great concern,” said 93 year-old Graham. “I believe the home and marriage is the foundation of our society and must be protected.” the Rev. Graham is reported as saying by the Associated Press yesterday.

His statement was issued in the context of his support for  North Carolina’s marriage amendment. It is to run in advertisements in 14 newspapers across the State this weekend.  He has urged North Carolina voters to support the amendment to the state constitution banning gay marriage. Observers have said that while this move was highly unusual , it was nevertheless clearly in keeping with Graham’s moral beliefs.

Graham’s statement was issued by the Charlotte-based Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, which is led by Graham’s son, the Rev. Franklin Graham who recorded his own message last month in support of Amendment One, which is on the ballot in the election next Tuesday.

“At 93, I never thought we would have to debate the definition of marriage,” Billy Graham’s statement said. “The Bible is clear — God’s definition of marriage is between a man and a woman. I want to urge my fellow North Carolinians to vote for the marriage amendment” Tuesday.

It is an indication of how deep and divisively this issue has penetrated the civic and religious consciousness of Americans that William Martin, who wrote the authorized Graham biography “A Prophet With Honor,” said he couldn’t recall another effort by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association like the one the ministry plans in support of Amendment One. Grahamt preached often on the need for sexual purity, but rarely spoke about same-sex marriage, Martin said.

“I am somewhat surprised that he would take that strong a stand,” said Martin, professor emeritus of religion and public policy at Rice University. “In the past, I have heard him say with respect to homosexuality, there are greater sins. Franklin has been more outspoken about it, but it sounds as if this is Mr. Graham expressing his own will.”

Clearly Billy Graham sees this issue as primarily one concerning civilized society itself, marriage and the natural family, and the essential definition of these institutions.

Michael Kirke was born in Ireland. In 1966 he graduated from University College Dublin (History and Politics). In that year he began working on the sub-editorial desk of The Evening...