How Franklin Graham differs with Donald Trump on one thing heavenward

Donald Trump tapped North Carolina-based evangelist Franklin Graham, right, to be one of six faith leaders offering prayers or reading Bible passages at his presidential inauguration.
Donald Trump tapped North Carolina-based evangelist Franklin Graham, right, to be one of six faith leaders offering prayers or reading Bible passages at his presidential inauguration. Courtesy of Franklin Graham

North Carolina-based evangelist Franklin Graham has become an ardent supporter of President Donald Trump on many political and social issues, but this week he publicly opposed a Trump administration proposal that would change air travel.

Graham, a longtime pilot, said on Thursday on Facebook and Twitter that he disagreed with the push by the president and others to privatize the country’s air traffic control system.

A House panel voted this week to move air-traffic control from the Federal Aviation Administration to a non-profit corporation, saying the move would both modernize equipment and train air traffic controllers more quickly. Some lawmakers in both the House and Senate, though, are concerned about the loss of congressional oversight.

Graham, who heads the Charlotte-based Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Boone-based Samaritan’s Purse, also weighed in.

“As a pilot for almost 50 years who has flown to many countries around the world, I can tell you that our aviation system in the United States is still the best in the world, even with our many challenges,” Graham posted on Facebook. “I have to disagree with President Donald J. Trump and those pushing for the privatization of air-traffic control. Privatization could give too much power to the airlines and unions that continue to make a mess out of trying to run their own business.

“One congressman who is a pilot said this would be like turning control of the highways over to truckers,” Graham continued. “I believe the U.S. government should retain control of our air space and not give it to a private corporation as the House committee just voted. I can’t support this as it is now proposed.

“In the long-term it could risk us losing the control to airline monopolies,” Graham said. “It’s an issue of safety as well as fairness.”

Within six hours, Graham had drawn over 6,300 likes to his post and about 400 “wow” emojis.

Graham challenged Trump one other time this month, calling it “very disturbing” after U.S. immigration authorities arrested Chaldean Christians in Michigan and Tennessee for possible deportation back to Iraq, where their lives could be endangered.

“I understand a policy of deporting people who are here illegally and have broken the law,” Graham wrote in a June 16 Facebook post. “But I would encourage our president to give great consideration to the threat to lives of Christians in countries like Iraq.”

Like Trump, Graham has been a hard-liner when it comes to restricting Muslim immigrants and refugees.

And on most other issues, Graham has been among the most bullish backers of Trump and his administration since Election Day.

A month after Trump beat Democrat Hillary Clinton, Graham joined then-President-elect Trump at a rally in Mobile, Ala. The evangelist told the crowd that he believed God had intervened in the election to give Trump the win.

Trump later tapped Graham to be one of six clergy to offers prayers and read from scripture at the presidential inauguration in January.

Though Graham did not officially endorse Trump for president during last year’s campaign, it was clear that he agreed with Trump on most issues and considered the Republican nominee the best bet for conservative Christians.

When an 11-year-old video surfaced during the presidential campaign that had Trump making crude comments about forcing himself on women, Graham said he couldn’t defend such behavior. But he added that Clinton was running on a “godless agenda” and that the most important issue was which candidate would name conservative justices to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Graham’s reaction when President Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch to the high court in late January?

“He’s a true conservative,” Graham said about Gorsuch during an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN). “This man, certainly for all of us Christians, we are very, very thankful that President Trump has nominated him, because he will protect religious liberty.”

And this week, Graham lauded the Supreme Court’s Monday ruling, saying that a Missouri church had been wrongly denied government grant money to resurface its playground. Gorsuch joined the majority in the 7-2 decision.

Writing on Facebook, Graham appeared to credit Trump for the judicial win for conservative Christians in the church case.

“Donald J. Trump said when he became president, it would be win, win, win for our country – he said we’d win so much that we might even be tired of winning,” Graham wrote. “Well, we’re not tired of winning yet, by any means, but this Supreme Court ruling is a big win for religious freedom, and we’re thankful for it!”

Joe Marusak: 704-987-3670, @jmarusak