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A North Carolina committee has unanimously selected a model of a statue of televangelist Billy Graham, the infamous anti-LGBTQ evangelical, to represent the state in the National Statuary Hall of the U.S. Capitol.
Currently, one of the two statues representing North Carolina is that of Charles Aycock, a former governor and white supremacist whose inclusion has come under fire following months of protests and calls for racial justice in the wake of the police-involved killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Aycock’s statue was specifically named in a bill by the Democratic-led House Appropriations Committee, primarily targeting busts of Confederate leaders or sympathizers, as one that might be removed because of Aycock’s problematic views on race. Even though the provision has no chance of passing the Republican-led Senate, North Carolinians saw an opening to replace Aycock’s statue with that of Graham.
While Graham undoubtedly was a significant religious and political figure throughout his lifetime, LGBTQ people have less to be cheered about when it comes to his legacy.
As NBC News pointed out following Graham’s death, while Graham rarely talked about LGBTQ people, when he did, he clearly communicated his distaste for homosexuality, which he called a “sinister form of perversion.”
Graham reportedly told a young woman who wrote to him confessing her feelings for another woman that “we traffic in homosexuality at the peril of our spiritual welfare.”
In 1993, he implied that AIDS might be a form of God’s judgment, although he later retracted the comments and apologized for the hurt they may have caused.
But perhaps Graham’s biggest impact, more than anything he said, was establishing the infrastructure for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, which has been used by his son, Franklin, to provide a platform for anti-LGBTQ activism.
The younger Graham has, particularly in recent years, has become known for comments expressing anti-LGBTQ sentiments, and, most recently, during the COVID-19 pandemic, barring LGBTQ medical professionals from working with his Samaritan’s Purse organization.
Last year, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association signed onto an amicus brief arguing that the Supreme Court should not find that LGBTQ people are protected from employment discrimination by federal civil rights laws — something it did just two months ago.
The North Carolina Legislature’s Statuary Hall Selection Committee unanimously approved the proposal for a statue of Graham, to be completed by Charlotte-based sculptor Chas Fagan, who created the statue of Ronald Reagan that currently represents California in the U.S. Capitol, reports the Charlotte Observer.
The final vote to approve the statue must now be approved by a congressional committee.
Former State Rep. Dan Soucek, who was the one who proposed installing the statue of Graham, said Graham was a better fit due to the global impact he had as one of the key leaders of the Religious Right and the evangelical religious movement.
“We wanted [the statue] to be someone who really made a significant impact in the lives of the state and the country and the world,” he said, adding, “When people from all over the country and all over the world walk through Washington and say, North Carolina has two choices to be in here, what do we want them to be?”
Once Fagan completes the statue, it will stand 10 feet and 10 inches tall, made of bronze, and will show Graham standing upright, gesturing to a passage in the Bible in his hand.
Crosses will be etched into either side of the base, with the statue selection committee to vote on which Bible verses to add to the statue’s sides in late September.
Meanwhile, the statue of Aycock will be moved back to his birthplace, a historical site in Wayne County, according to Garret Dimon, an attorney for the North Carolina General Assembly.
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