Evangelist Franklin Graham questions Christianity of Obama and Romney

Franklin Graham


Franklin Graham, the son of prominent evangelist Billy Graham, questioned the Christianity of both President Obama and presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Tuesday.

Asked in an interview with MSNBC's "Morning Joe" if he believed Mr. Obama was a Christian, Graham said he would "have to assume" he is because "he has said he's a Christian," but then added that he cannot answer the question himself.

"You'll have to ask President Obama," Graham said, when asked directly what he believes about Mr. Obama's faith.

"You can ask me 'Do I believe you're a Christian?' I think the best thing for a person is to ask you directly, so I think people have to ask Barack Obama. He's come out saying that he's a Christian, so I think the question is 'What is a Christian?'" Graham said.

Graham was also asked about the former Massachusetts governor, who is in tight race with Rick Santorum, a conservative Catholic, in next week's Republican primary in Michigan.

"Most Christians would not recognize Mormonism as part of the Christian faith," Graham said, declining to say outright that he does not count Romney, a Mormon, as a Christian.

"I'm just saying most Christians would not recognize Mormonism," Graham said. "Of course, they believe in Jesus Christ, but they have a lot of other things they believe in too that we don't accept theologically. But he would be a good president if he [won] the nomination."

Graham suggested Mr. Obama is not as Christian as he could be, or as Christian as other presidential candidates on the trail.

"But the question is: What is a Christian? And a Christian is a person that believes Jesus Christ is God's son who died on a cross for our sins who God raised to life. And that if we put our faith and trust in him, then God will forgive us of our sins. Now, that's the definition of a Christian. I was 22 years old when I asked Christ to come into my heart. You cannot be born a Christian; you can only be converted. And that is by putting your faith and trust in Christ," Graham said.

He said that, in a conversation he'd had with Mr. Obama a number of years ago, the president told him he'd started to go to church while working on the south side of Chicago because leaders in the community told him it was a necessity.

"So therefore, by your definition, he's not a Christian," prompted MSNBC's Willie Geist.

"Again. You'd have to ask him. I cannot answer that question for anybody. All I know is that I'm a sinner and that God has forgiven me of my sins. Because I put my faith and trust in Jesus Christ. That's all I know," Graham said.

Graham had a different response when asked if Santorum was a Christian.

"Do you believe that Rick Santorum is a Christian?" asked Geist.

"I think so," said Graham.

"How do you know? If the standard is only the person knows what's within him, when you apply it to the president why is it different for Rick Santorum?" asked Geist.

Graham said he believes Santorum is "a man of faith" because of the "stand he takes" on moral issues.

"Well, because his values are so clear on moral issues. No question about it," Graham said. "And I just appreciate the moral stand that he takes on these things. So I believe that he is. He comes from a Catholic faith; I'm Protestant so there are a lot of differences between what he believes and what I believe. But yet I think he is, no question, I believe he's a man of faith."

John Heilemann, a journalist and guest on the show, accused Graham of applying an "incredible double standard" to Mr. Obama and Santorum on the question of religion, given that previously he'd said that one can't know the depth of another's religious faith.

"No. I asked President Obama how he came to faith in Christ. And he said 'I don't go to church,'" Graham said. He said Santorum had been more persuasive on the question when he had a similar conversation with him about faith.

"You have to look at a person does with his life. Anyone can say that he's a Christian, but you look at how they live," Graham said.

Graham also said he thinks Gingrich is a Christian.

"I think Newt is a Christian," he said. "At least he told me he is."