Beliefs Faith 2016

5 faith facts about Lindsey Graham: Religious right spear carrier

Potential Republican 2016 presidential candidate U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., speaks at the First in the Nation Republican Leadership Summit in Nashua, N.H., on April 18, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Brian Snyder *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-GRAHAM-FAITH, originally transmitted on June 1, 2015.
Potential Republican 2016 presidential candidate U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) speaks at the First in the Nation Republican Leadership Conference in Nashua, New Hampshire on April 18, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Brian Snyder *Editor: This photo may only be republished with RNS-GRAHAM-FAITH, originally transmitted on June 1, 2015.

Potential Republican 2016 presidential candidate U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., speaks at the First in the Nation Republican Leadership Summit in Nashua, N.H., on April 18, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Brian Snyder
*Editor: This photo may only be republished with RNS-GRAHAM-FAITH, originally transmitted on June 1, 2015.

UPDATE: Sen. Lindsey Graham withdrew from the 2016 race December 21.

UPDATED: Oct. 15:

During the campaign season, Sen. Lindsey Graham bows to no one in zealous defense of his version of religious liberty from a conservative Christian perspective.

When the Senate debated the Iran nuclear deal, Graham was in the fray, saying there are “religious Nazis running Iran” and excoriating President Obama for showing “weakness”  toward them.

His polling numbers have been so low, however, that he was not included in the first two main-stage GOP debates but rather relegated to the minor league debate staged earlier that day. Hence, he’s not on record with the Fox New question from the first debate on how God might have a word for him in the Oval Office.

READ: 10 faith facts about GOP front-runners in Fox News’ main debate


(RNS) South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, whose hometown pastor gave the invocation at his presidential campaign announcement Monday (June 1), scores a perfect rating with the religious right.

He’s as conservative in his politics as he is in his Southern Baptist beliefs. The 60-year-old senator worships at Corinth Baptist Church, in Seneca, S.C., founded in 1884.

Here are 5 faith facts about Graham:

1. Graham was educated in his parent’s pool hall and at church.

“Everything I know about politics, I learned in the pool room,” Graham told a group of New Hampshire business leaders earlier this year, explaining his distrust of the Iranian nuclear deal, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader.

And much of what he knows of life, he learned in church, where the paper describes him sliding into the sanctuary as the service begins and slipping out quietly before the final prayer.

2. He’s passionate about religious freedom abroad.

Graham, a member of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, told Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council in a radio interview that he wants to create “a separate stand-alone section within our foreign assistance budget to deal with religious liberties.”

He likened the Islamic State group to Hitler, and told Perkins, “the world must stand up to stop religious genocide going on before our eyes.”

Graham, a 30-year veteran of the Air Force who announced last week his retirement as a colonel in the reserves, said the U.S. is in “a religious war with radical Islam.” The Islamic State is “compelled by religious doctrine, their view of God,” to murder and maim Christians and destroy the state of Israel, Graham said.

3. He’s a staunch opponent of abortion. Usually.

In 2014 Graham earned a 100 percent rating from the National Right to Life Committee.

But that might shift in the wake of his vote to confirm Attorney General Loretta Lynch. At her confirmation hearing, he pointed out that although she had once signed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting Planned Parenthood in a court battle over partial-birth abortion laws, he would vote for her confirmation anyway. This grew a rebuke from Live Action News, an anti-abortion blog, clubbing him for “pandering and posturing” toward moderates and running for “Mr. Congeniality.”

4. On church and state, he walks a fine line.

In a radio interview, Graham said creating legislation that will protect religious freedom “and at the same time not discriminate against same-sex couples is a very complicated endeavor for a democracy.”

Graham went on to say, “The one thing I will not tolerate is a national religion, even though I am a Christian, because that is counter to what we are as a people. …The strength of this nation is that people can worship God on their own terms.”

Still, he has been rebuked by Theocracy Watch, a website devoted to combating the religious right, for pushing legislation in 2004 that “includes the acknowledgment of God as the sovereign source of law by an official in his capacity of executing his office.”

5. He’s a zealot when it comes to defeating Hillary Clinton.

As more and more candidates enter the primary race, Graham and all the contenders share one near-religious fervor: Beat Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee.


About the author

Cathy Lynn Grossman

Cathy Lynn Grossman specializes in stories drawn from research and statistics on religion, spirituality and ethics. She also writes frequently on biomedical ethics and end-of-life-issues


Click here to post a comment

  • I’ve met certain conservatives who seem to despise Graham, but I agree with the writer that he sounds fairly conservative once you look at his positions.

    I guess it’s a sign of the times, as both parties’ bases are very demanding of their candidates for office.

  • He’s an establishment Republican, BFFs with McCain, someone else despised by the far right. He holds what passes for moderate positions, like “the president’s choice for attorney General should be confirmed without partisan blockades.” Then there’s the gay rumors.

  • Regarding Senator Graham, Abuita said:
    “……Then there’s the gay rumors…..”

    Senator Graham is definitely not openly gay and he probably does not support gay marriage. For some strange reason, those of us who oppose gay marriage are often accused of being secretly gay.

    Not one Democrat candidate has even so much as attempted to explain how and why gay marriage is effectively “morally righteous” so we’ll keep asking (we know the answer, do you?).

  • Yes, he’s an establishment Republican, but most establishment Republicans in our era actually are fairly conservative. True RINOs, ie what used to be called Rockefeller Republicans, are an endangered species. Many people who are called RINOs are just mainstream conservatives, as that term has been used since the 1970s.

    I guess the key is that the mainstream conservatives have been fighting the excesses and legacies of the late 1960s and 1970s, whereas the Tea Party types think that’s not good enough…..they want to push back not just against the welfare state, but the entire entitlement state of most of the 20th century.

    I understand their arguments, and am not unsympathetic, especially with entitlements in real fiscal trouble due to their shaky foundation and Ponzi elements. But they need to get a better grip on reality….that not everyone who disagrees with them is a RINO.

  • “he wants to create “a separate stand-alone section within our foreign assistance budget to deal with religious liberties.””

    Should set off alarm bells.

    1. We have no right to force any religious position on any country.
    2. The only country with an Atheist constitution is the USA: “Congress shall make no law establishing a religion..”
    3. Pushing Christianity is called a Crusade. With President Bush we learned what that will accomplish!
    4. If he is so interested in religious liberty he should try it at home and remove “In God we Trust” from our currency thereby liberating Hindu Americans, Native Americans, Buddhist Americans, Swahili Americans and Atheist Americans from being clobbered with the wrong beliefs every time we open our wallets.

  • I didn’t know that Sen. Graham was raised in a pool hall aka den of vice and gambling. As a strict Bible-believing Christian, this gives me some questions about his upbringing and moral character.

  • Shame over repressed homosexual desires is a common motivation for atheism. The atheist’s former religion taught him that homosexuality was a sin, which increased his natural shame over his homosexual desires; then he left the religion which caused him that shame. Note the great support for gay marriage among atheists; affirming gay marriage helps to reduce the atheist repressed homosexual’s shame. The atheist keeps his own homosexuality repressed, living as a heterosexual, for the same reason that he is an atheist: SHAME. Of course, a large proportion of unrepressed homosexuals are atheists also, which proves my point.

  • @Malak,

    So homosexuality = shameful sin = Atheists?

    You’ve got a nice little circle going. Unfortunately it is all wrong.

    1. 90% of Atheists are heterosexual.
    2. Homosexuality is normal across all animal species; including humans.
    3. 10% of all societies, even religious ones, have always been homosexual.
    4. Atheism is only the lack of belief in Gods – not a desire for homosexuality.
    5. Homosexuality is not shameful.

    Repression of ALL normal sexuality is a dominant feature of religion.
    As people leave religion healthier sexual attitudes predominate.

    Sexual shame is an artificial construction of religion.
    Instead, shame should be reserved only for immoral behavior – the deliberate, needless harming of another person.
    Certainly there is nothing logical about a God who makes homosexuality normal only to be disgusted by it – that is beyond incoherent.

  • I guess it should be added that Lindsey Graham is also a John McCain clone. Lindsey would add to the Train Wreck of the Executive Branch of government – let him stay off of the Presidential Stage – we have enough “clowns” trying to perform and vie for the office…

  • @ronald,


    I find it hard to believe you are a Bible-believing Christian at all. At least not one that has ever read the Gospel.

  • JR,

    “The Left,” always seek a totalitarian tyrant. Clinton fits that bill. (No pun intended.)

  • bqrq, I’m not accusing Graham of being secretly gay, I’m just reporting the facts in response to Jack’s very pointed query as to why a lifelong Southern Baptist, veteran of the armed services’ most Christian and most conservative branch, 100% rating by anti-abortion groups, is held with such suspicion by the rightwing extremists who have been trying to take control of the GOP for the last six years. The rumors about Graham’s sexual orientation long predate the Tea Party and long predate gay marriage becoming the social-issue juggernaut it is today. So there has to be an explanation for the right’s dislike of him. I know the answer, do you?

  • Be Brave, I don’t think Ronald is a Bible-believing Christian, either, but then again, you never know for sure with people.

  • Being friends with John McCain should not disqualify one for higher political office. McCain is an odd duck but not everyone who is his friend is the same as he is.

  • Because Bible believing Christians only say what you want them to say?

    That appears to be the implication there, Prophet Jack. 🙂

  • And this is why the GOP is imploding. The outright bible thumping “social conservatives” are unelectable on a national level. Instead one has to dress up fiscal conservatives as being cooperative with the bible thumpers (but not so obviously). Scott Walker is a great example of this and is probably the most viable Republican of the bunch so far.

    Romney demonstrated how that worked. He desperately avoided pushing the social agenda of the GOP in favor (but it followed him around anyway) and focused primarily on economic policies. Your RINO’s are the only bunch in the party which has a chance in hell of garnering “swing votes”. Theocrats have a nasty habit of galvanizing voters against them on a national level.

  • No, Larry, it’s because in order to have a conversation about anything, there must be a common understanding about what particular words mean.

    The word, “Christian” is no exception.

  • Larry, Graham IS a social conservative but is being bashed as a RINO for other reasons. The GOP’s biggest internal problem is how to deal with the often-impossible demands of the Tea Party folks on fiscal and constitutional issues. They expect the GOP to wave a magic wand that will erase nearly a century of policies based on admittedly dubious constitutional interpretation. I get their point on principle, but what they are demanding is, at least in the short run, utterly impossible.

    The Democrats have a similar problem with much of their own base, which believes Barack Obama isn’t radical enough for them and is somehow selling out to conservatives.

    In other words, we have entered extremely silly season politically, with fanaticism on both sides.

  • The term “Christian” has a great number of different meanings to different people. Many claim to have “sole ownership” of such meanings based on nothing more than pride in one’s faith. The most arrogant part of a fundamentalist belief is the idea that their views are the only such definitions which have validity.

    You want to claim that Bible believing Christians have the same ideas as yourself. Its what you do every time there are articles depicting religious views which are far less fundamentalist in flavor from yourself.

  • Garson Abuita has hinted what those reasons are. I wasn’t making a comment on Graham. It was more of a defense of McCain. The guy was the last sane politician to come out of Arizona. I many not agree with his positions, but one could respect his intelligence and sanity.

    The T-P folks are full of crap when it comes to “fiscal responsibility”. Somehow that also entails using the resources and power of the state to further sectarian social agendas as well. These alleged “fiscally responsible” politicians are notorious for cutting social programs and wasting money on patronage boondoogles and privatization scams. Their notions of constitutional interpretation were out of touch in the 19th Century, let alone the 21st.

    The problem with the Democrats is they haven’t realized that moderate sane Republicans are an endangered species. They are trying to extend handshakes to a lynch mob.

  • You’re confusing two things — the definition of a word and whether one fits or doesn’t fit with the definition.

    There isn’t much disagreement on the definition: Adherence to the basic creeds of the faith that Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants (for want of a better word) have shared through the millennia and their obvious implications.

    Disagreement begins on the question of who truly believes and who does not. The operative and rightly charitable assumption of any church is that if a person says they’re Christian, they’re considered one until they prove otherwise. Thus if I say I’m a Christian but am sacrificing bulls and goats in my backyard and asserting that I need that to be right with God, it would be reasonable for my church to question my profession.

    At some point, then, it’s not only permissible, but responsible, to make a judgment.

    And that’s true about any other category in life.

    Otherwise, we drain words of any semblance of objective meaning.

  • So I take it that you agree with the most zany fringe of the Democratic base that Barack Obama is too conservative?

  • How about you make a determination based on positions I state rather than try to come up with ones I don’t?

    I live in a state with a TP’er for a governor of the “fiscally responsible” stripe. He was great for killing jobs in the state, undermining quality of life for about half of its residents and flushing more than a billion dollars of taxpayer funds on a bankrupt casino and a “ghost” mall. All the while killing commuter rail expansion plans. I haven’t gotten into the details of use of property tax abatements to destroy all semblance of a middle class existence and the corrupt practices with over-construction.

    Fiscal responsibility, my posterior!

  • You’re saying that the problem with the Democrats is that they’re way too accommodating to the Republicans. You apparently see that as a greater problem than that of Democrats for whom no Democrat is liberal enough. It’s obvious where you’re coming from.

  • Not what I said. As usual you are trying to set up a strawman position rather than respond to a position.

    I think most democrat politicians haven’t realized how crazy and unreasonable their adversaries have become. Too much seeking compromise and bipartisanship with people who are not seeking the same. Not enough standing on general principles.

  • A distinction without a difference, Larry. You clearly don’t want moderation; you think compromise with Republicans is bad and your excuse is that no Republicans will compromise. That’s the off-the-rack excuse for ideologues on both sides — ie that the other side won’t compromise. That tactic is as old as politics itself.

  • Another day, another Max post filled with speculations dressed up as facts.

    1. 90% is pulled out of a hat, but it’s safe to say it’s a majority.

    2. What is “normal?” I always thought it was a useless word, no matter which side chooses to use it.

    3. 10% of all societies are homosexual? Citation, please. It could be 10%, or 5%, or more than 10%. I have no idea, nor do you. And you’re assuming the percentage is uniform across societies, which in turn depends on the validity of the demonstrably false belief that homosexuality is virtually 100% genetic. (How much less is up to debate.)

    You say, “Repression of ALL normal sexuality is a dominant feature of religion.” Again, what is normal? It’s by definition a subjective term. And just because you may have been sexually repressed doesn’t mean everyone else was or is. You are laughably off base on this one.

  • Again, not what I said. I am saying the Democrats are too often seeking compromise and suffering for it. By doing so, they wind up watering down and destroying the effectiveness of measures that get passed.

    Meanwhile the Republicans don’t bother to put anything of value forward. Outside of efforts a few Republicans you would call RINOs I can’t think of much coming out of the GOP which wasn’t either corrupt or batsh1t insane.

  • This article is simply silly. Lindsay has no love for the new birth, says he “wants to take religion out of politics”, voted for the cloture to make Obamacare possible (despite all his marketing to the contrary), wants a big tent policy toward same-sex. He has to be talked into being part of the congressional Bible & prayer meetings by the other congressmen and Senator for our state, won’t pray in public, even admits he doesn’t like participating. Whoever wrote this simply doesn’t know him or our state.

  • I live in the state of South Carolina, and I wouldn’t vote for Lindsey Graham if he was the last man on earth. He is a liar and doesn’t have a bit a character in him. I am ashamed to call him my senator. He isn’t against abortion and is for complete amnesty. He gets really spiritual and conservative around election time. You know the guy is no good if he sponsors bills with John Kerry and Joe Lieberman.