As recently as last week, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association made no secret of what it thought of Mitt Romney's faith, naming Mormons among an online list of those religious groups it deemed a "cult." This week, that reference is nowhere to be found on the group's website. What happened between now and then? The group's 93-year-old namesake, the Asheville Citizen Times explains, sat down with Romney and promised to do everything he could to help the GOP hopeful get elected.
The change was noticed first last week by The New Civil Rights Movement, which has posted some screenshots of archived versions of the webpage in question. For posterity's sake, here's what the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association's website had been saying about cults for the past several years:
"A cult is any group which teaches doctrines or beliefs that deviate from the biblical message of the Christian faith. It is very important that we recognize cults and avoid any involvement with them. Cults often teach some Christian truth mixed with error, which may be difficult to detect... Some of these groups are Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, the Unification Church, Unitarians, Spiritists, Scientologists, and others."
That page went missing sometime between Graham's meeting with Romney last Thursday and the start this week. When CNN asked the association about the page's removal, a spokesperson said that they "removed the information from the website because we do not wish to participate in a theological debate about something that has become politicized during this campaign."
By contrast, Graham's endorsement of Romney for president cites the former governor's "values and strong moral convictions," adding:
"I will turn 94 the day after the upcoming election, and I believe America is at a crossroads. I hope millions of Americans will join me in praying for our nation and to vote for candidates who will support the biblical definition of marriage, protect the sanctity of life and defend our religious freedoms."
This isn't the first time that the Grahams have come under fire for their comments about the beliefs of others. Earlier this year, Franklin Graham made the news by responding "I don't know" to a question about whether Obama is a Christian or not, bringing back one of the religious right's favorite attacks on the president. And in recent years, the elder Graham has been dragged back into the headlines for critical comments he made about Jewish people in taped conversations with Nixon.