On Protecting Women from Abusers, Franklin Graham Is an Opportunist and a Hypocrite

On Protecting Women from Abusers, Franklin Graham Is an Opportunist and a Hypocrite October 25, 2017

In response to North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper signing a bill to prevent discrimination against trans people by government agencies, Franklin Graham posted this on his facebook:

North Carolinians have been betrayed by Gov. Roy Cooper. The people of this state are now going to be exposed to pedophiles and sexually perverted men in women’s public restrooms. Shame on him and those who supported this executive order for being so morally bankrupt and blind to the threat this is to young girls, children, and women. Join me in praying that the eyes of the governor and other politicians who support this would be opened to the dangers, and that the people throughout the state will let their voices and concern be heard. What the governor has done is wrong, and if one woman or one child is molested because of this executive order, he should be held accountable.

Graham positions himself as a supporter of women and children against predators and others who might abuse him. His own history would suggest otherwise. In early 2016, when Naghmeh Abedini accused her husband, Saeed Abedini, of abusing her, Graham immediately sided with her alleged abuser. Graham undermined her statements publicly and went so far as to suggest, again publicly, that she was doing the devil’s work.

Seen in this light, Graham’s proclamations of support for women and his denunciation of abusers suddenly feel exceptionally hollow.

Who was Naghmeh Abedini, and why did Graham side with her alleged abuser? Naghmeh’s husband, Saeed, was a Christian missionary imprisoned in Iran; American evnagelicals spent years working to secure his release. But just as Saeed’s return became imminent, the veneer of Naghmeh’s longsuffering supportive Christian wife facade cracked.

As I wrote in February 2016:

In November, Naghmeh announced that she was taking a step back from her activism to focus on herself and her two children. In emails to her supporters she mentioned, for the first time, the abuse that she had suffered at Saeed’s hands since their early marriage.

There was even a police report and conviction to back up Naghmeh’s claims—Saeed pled guilty to misdemeanor domestic assault in 2007. When Saeed arrived in the United States three months after Naghmeh’s emails to her supporters, he accused Naghmeh of lying. Because that is what abusers do.

And what of Franklin Graham, champion of women and bane of abusers everywhere? What did he do? Graham said Naghmeh and Saeed’s marriage needed strengthening and tried to arrange for Naghmeh and Saeed to spend several days alone together in a cabin at Billy Graham’s training center, The Cove. Naghmeh said she would go if they were in separate cabins, if there were guards, and if counseling was involved, but when Graham chose marriage counselors—rather than individual counselors to work with Saeed—she said no.

As blogger Julie Anne reported at the time, marriage counseling is not a good fit when there is abuse involved. Marriage counseling is simply not set up to deal with abusers. And yet, Graham approached Naghmeh’s allegations of abuse (allegations substantiated by a police report) as though they were evidence of a simple inter-couple squabble, the kind that could be solved by a few sessions of marriage counseling and a forced intimate setting like a cabin in the woods.

Let’s be completely clear about what happened here—Graham tried to convince Naghmeh to spend time alone in the control of a man she had accused of abuse—a man who had years before plead guilty to misdemeanor domestic assault. Naghmeh alleged that Saeed had abused her physically, emotionally, psychologically, and sexually since early in their marriage, and that this abuse had worsened over time—and yet Graham’s solution was to put the two together in a cabin in the woods.

So much for Graham’s concern about protecting women.

As the disagreement between Graham and Naghmeh escalated and Naghmeh refused Graham’s attempts to “reconcile her” to the husband she had accused of abuse (did I mention that there was a police report?), Graham posted this on his public Facebook page:

I was one of millions of people around the world praying for the release of Saeed Abedini, the American pastor imprisoned in Iran for his Christian faith. It was an honor to finally be able to meet him last week. This young men has spent 3 1/2 years of his life in jail for his faith, where he was beaten and tortured.

While we rejoice at his new freedom, we now lift him and his wife Naghmeh to the Lord for healing in their marriage. Other than God, no one knows the details and the truth of what has happened between Saeed and Naghmeh except them. There’s an old saying that there are at least two sides to every story. I can tell one thing for sure—not everything that has been reported in the media is true. 

As a minister of the Gospel, I have tried to be a friend to both and to assist them in getting Saeed home and in getting access to any help that they may need. Clearly, there is a great need for prayer for their relationship and their family. God has answered prayer by bringing about Saeed’s release from prison, and now, Satan would like nothing more than to continue to destroy their lives. It is my prayer that this will not happen.

That’s right, Graham claimed that there were “two sides” to the story, publicly undermined Naghmeh’s allegations, and went so far as to suggest that Satan was trying to come between Saeed and Naghmeh, thus placing Naghmeh on the same side as the literal devil.

That is how Graham treats abused women.

But no, this same man, this man who did everything in his power to make Naghmeh Abedini return to her abuser, thinks trans women are the real threat to women and girls.

For Graham, abuse is something other people do. It’s something ungodly, perverted people do, not something good, godly missionaries do. Abuse is not something someone close to him, someone he knows and cares about, would do. It’s out there. It’s the other. It’s something the scary boogeymen do. Except that it’s not. Most abuse is perpetrated by someone a woman knows. The most common form of abuse women suffer is at the hands of a domestic partner.

If Graham actually cared about protecting women from abuse at the hands of predatory men, he would have stood by Naghmeh. Instead, he stood by Saeed. Graham can posture all he likes, but he is no supporter of women. He is an opportunist and a hypocrite of the worst sort.

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