Ever since he was burned by Richard Nixon's resignation, the Rev. Billy Graham has kept his distance from politics and has warned other preachers to do the same.
That's why the revered evangelist's public pronouncements since May, and in these last weeks of the 2012 presidential campaign, has some observers wondering why and who is behind it.
"Experts who’ve watched Graham's decades-long career say 2012 marks a new trajectory for the 93-year-old evangelist, and they speculate that Franklin Graham, his son and the president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, could be playing a primary role," the Religion News Service reported.
Graham's most recent foray into presidential politics began with GOP candidate Mitt Romney making a personal visit to Graham's home in Montreat, N.C., on Oct. 11. Romney advisers reportedly said Graham committed to help Romney, whose Mormon faith has troubled some evangelicals. Soon after the visit, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association removed an article from its website that claimed Mormonism was a cult.
And last week, the BGEA launched a "vote biblical values" ad campaign in swing-state newspapers, as well as the Wall Street Journal and USA Today. The full-page ads feature Graham's photo and signature with a statement opposing abortion and supporting traditional marriage.
The ads don't name a candidate, but "it was as close to an endorsement of Romney as Graham could get without explicitly saying so," The Los Angeles Times reported.
The Christian Post examined whether Graham or his son, Franklin, is behind the campaign by inviting the evangelist's biographer, longtime spokesman and a historian to pen their views. Biographer William Martin and Michael Hamilton, history department chairman at evangelical Seattle Pacific University, both see Franklin Graham's hand in the BGEA's campaign.
They both point to the campaign's emphasis on issues embraced by the religious right, a movement that the senior Graham avoided because of its heavy political involvement.
"His son Franklin, however, has had close relations with leaders of the Religious Right, and has been much more willing than his father to openly identify with their agenda," Martin wrote.
But Larry Ross, Graham's spokesman since 1981, says his boss is aware and involved in the BGEA and the campaign is consistent with the association's longtime agenda.12 comments on this story
"Billy Graham's quotations incorporated into the layouts are not driven by timely issues, but rather are an extension of the timeless message of the Gospel he faithfully preached to crusade audiences around the globe for more than six decades," Ross wrote.
"Graham, and so many others on the religious right, apparently want to narrow the Bible's teachings down to only abortion and same-sex marriage," wrote Roland Martin on CNN's Opinion page. "Does the rest of the Bible matter, or are we to tell Bible believers that one or two issues matter more than any other?"