Franklin Graham Rides to Defense of NJ Mayor Who Lashed Out at LGBTQs

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Wednesday August 14, 2019

Phobes of a feather would seem to be flocking together, as Franklin Graham comes to the defense of a Republican New Jersey mayor who sparked outrage when he declared that sexual minorities are "an affront to almighty God."

The son of famed pastor Billy Graham and a die-hard Trump supporter, Franklin Graham took to Facebook to heap praise on Alfonso Cirulli, who serves as mayor of Barnegat Township. Cirulli blasted non-heterosexuals at a township committeee meeting, and denounced a state law that mandates schools to teach about the historical contributions of LGBTQ individuals. Cirulli's disparagements prompted an outcry.

Evidently confusing factual disciplines like history with fuzzier fields such as ethics and theology, Cirulli declared the state had "no right to teach our kids morality" — an assertion that would seem to be in complete contraction to the usual claims of the hard religious right, which insists that societal ills are a direct result of government refusing to promote religious instruction in public schools or force students in those schools to engage in mandatory prayer.

Cirulli then made remarks that stood in even starker contrast to the anti-gay religious right's decades of activism in the areas of denying marriage equality and pressing for the "right" to freely discriminate in the public arena against LGBTQ individuals:

"Everyone has a right to live his or her life the way they want to, but no group has a right to force others to comply with their beliefs," Cirulli told the media.

Ignoring such paradoxes, Graham plunged into the fray with an enthusiastic endorsement for the embattled mayor.

"Love this guy — he's got a lot of guts!" Graham fawned in an August 13 post.

Graham went on to recount the story of Cirulli's outburst, concluding with: "In the world we live in, the truth of God's Word many times isn't received well. But that shouldn't stop us from standing with God's teachings from the Bible.

"Pray for Mayor Cirulli — and pray that this state mandate will be reversed."

The New Jersey state law was signed earlier this year. More recently, the governor of Illinois signed a similar law that requires public schools to teach not only about the historical contributions of LGBTQs, but also other marginalized and stigmatized groups, such as African-Americans.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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