Franklin Graham defends ‘Duck Dynasty’ star for NASCAR prayer to elect Christian president

Reality TV personality Phil Robertson greets fans in the Duck Commander Compound at Texas Motor Speedway on April 5, 2014 in Fort Worth, Texas.
Reality TV personality Phil Robertson greets fans in the Duck Commander Compound at Texas Motor Speedway on April 5, 2014 in Fort Worth, Texas. Getty Images for Texas Motor Spe

As he travels from one state capital to another this year, urging Christians to go to the polls, Franklin Graham is also taking to Facebook nearly every day to do his part in waging the culture wars.

The latest example: The North Carolina-based Graham has come to the defense of “Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson. The reality TV show’s patriarch is getting some heat for using his prayer before a recent NASCAR race to call for America to elect a Christian man president this year. Or, as he put it, “I pray Father that we put a Jesus man in the White House.”

Robertson, who has endorsed Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas for president, would seem to have ruled out a Democrat in his prayer: Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is a Methodist but not a man, and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont is a man but not a Christian (he’s Jewish).

Various racing writers criticized Robertson for using his prayer before the Texas Motor Speedway’s Duck Commander 500 to further his own political agenda.

“There are Democrats who enjoy NASCAR,” wrote one of them, Associated Press auto racing writer Jenna Fryer. “Jews and atheists and women, too.”

A columnist on the “Beyond the Flag” blog even questioned whether the prayer tradition should be continued.

Graham has pledged not to endorse anybody for president or any other office in 2016. But in his Facebook post on Saturday, the head of the Charlotte-based Billy Graham Evangelistic Association spoke up for Robertson for speaking up in Jesus’ name. And he defended the pre-race prayer tradition.

“The Name of Jesus has been controversial for 2,000 years,” Graham wrote. “Phil Robertson, ‘the Duck Commander,’ spoke in Jesus’ Name at last week’s NASCAR race, and liberals immediately jumped to say the sport needed to ban the opening prayer altogether. Are you kidding?”

Graham continued: “Phil is right when he prayed for America to get back to God. He said, ‘I pray Father that we don’t forget you brought us – you. Our faith in the blood of Jesus and his resurrection. Help us, father, to get back to that.’ Pray with me that this nation will turn back to Almighty God!”

In the last week or so, Graham, in his Facebook posts, has also:

▪ Endorsed a move in Alabama to legally recognize the fetus as a person.

▪ Defended the 1994 federal crime bill that has been blamed for mass incarceration of African-American and Latino men for putting “a lot of criminals behind bars where they belong.”

▪ Suggested “long-time gay activist” Bruce Springsteen stood up for sin by canceling a concert in Greensboro to protest North Carolina’s House Bill 2.

Graham made it plain he is a strong supporter of the North Carolina law, which overrode a Charlotte city ordinance that would have extended anti-discrimination provisions to the LGBT community and allowed transgender persons to use the bathroom of their gender identity.

“I’m thankful North Carolina has a governor, Pat McCrory, and a lieutenant governor, Dan Forest, and legislators who put the safety of our women and children first!” Graham continued in his April 9 Facebook post. “HB2 protects the safety and privacy of women and children and preserves the human rights of millions of faith-based citizens of this state.”

Graham has been getting big crowds as he holds “Decision America” prayer rallies in state capitals this year. Most recently, he reported attracting almost 7,000 in Montgomery, Ala; more than 6,500 in Jackson, Miss.; and more than 5,000 in Little Rock, Ark.

His ministry also announced that he will end his 50-state tour in Raleigh on Oct. 13.

Don’t expect him to officially endorse McCrory then for another term as governor or share the stage with him.

But Graham’s message to his conservative Christian crowd a few weeks before Election Day – to vote for “godly leaders” – could effectively help McCrory energize Bible-based voters and get them to the polls.

Sort of a non-endorsement endorsement (wink, wink).