A new advertisement featuring Christian evangelist Billy Graham began running in newspapers across the country today, encouraging voters to cast their ballots this November for candidates who "support the biblical definition of marriage between a man and a woman."
The full-page ad, which ran in USA Today and The Wall Street Journal today and will run in other publications prior to Election Day, is signed by Graham and reads:
The legacy we leave behind for our children, grandchildren and this great nation is critical. As I approach my 94th birthday, I realize this election could be my last. I believe it is vitally important that we cast our ballots for candidates who base their decisions on biblical principles and support the nation of Israel. I urge you to vote for those who protect the sanctity of life and support the biblical definition of marriage between a man and a woman. Vote for biblical values this November 6, and pray with me that America will remain one nation under God.
—Billy Graham, Montreat, NC
Graham's ad, which notes that this election could be Graham's last as he approaches his 94th birthday the day after Election Day, comes a week after Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney met with Graham at his North Carolina home, but is just shy of an endorsement.
The ad was funded with designated contributions from supporters of the ministry of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
Although Graham has not officially endorsed Romney, after their meeting Graham said in a statement that he was impressed by Romney's "values and strong moral convictions."
"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," Graham added.
In a statement released by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, the organization reaffirmed that Graham has not and will not make an endorsement in the presidential race.
"The ads intentionally do not mention any candidate, political party, or contest, urging instead for readers to cast votes for candidates—at all levels—based on their support for biblical values," the statement reads.
However, after last week's meeting a Romney campaign spokesman told reporters Graham told Romney, "I'll do all I can to help you. And you can quote me on that."
Graham's son, Franklin Graham, has endorsed Romney.
The 93-year-old Graham has a reputation for being more diplomatic than other evangelists on the right, such as Pat Robertson. However, his views on homosexuality are no less conservative. He opposes marriage equality and has argued that "any willing person can be liberated from homosexuality through the power of Jesus Christ."
Founder and chairman of the anti-gay Liberty Counsel, Mat Staver, applauded Graham's ad in a statement released Thursday, crediting Graham for "boldly modeling what Liberty Counsel has been telling pastors and churches."
"Pastors and Christian ministry leaders have a high calling to speak the truth from the Word of God," said Staver. "There is an ongoing struggle for the soul of America. Many people look to pastors and Christian ministry leaders for guidance on important moral and social issues."
Most recently, Liberty Counsel sued the state of California over a historic new law that bans "ex-gay" or reparative therapy for LGBT youth, equating it to child abuse.
According to the Billy Graham Evangelist Association, Graham has prayed with every president since Harry Truman. He met with President Barack Obama in 2010 and Sen. John McCain during the 2008 presidential race.
READ Graham's ad here:
[Photo: Mitt Romney and Billy Graham (Courtesy of the Bill Graham Evangelist Association).]