Last week, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney met with evangelist Billy Graham -- a practice that is common for heads of state and presidential candidates, alike. Just days after the much-publicized meeting took place, The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA), the Christian leader's official organization, admitted scrubbing language from its web site that called the Mormon faith, among other religions, a "cult."
Ken Barun, who serves as chief of staff for the BGEA, said that the decision was made to remove The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS) to prevent the organization from entering into a politicized debate about the faith system. On the site, LDS was previously clumped together with Jehovah's Witnesses, the Unification Church and Scientology.
US Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney (L) speaks with the Reverend Billy Graham (C) and his son Franklin (R) during a visit to the Graham's Cabin in Montreat, North Carolina, on October 11, 2012. Credit: AFP/Getty Images
“Our primary focus at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association has always been promoting the Gospel of Jesus Christ," Barun told the Citizen-Times. "We removed the information from the website because we do not wish to participate in a theological debate about something that has become politicized during this campaign."
The article was removed from the web site after the meeting between Romney and Graham took place. Before it was taken down, though, under a section called "What is a cult?," Graham apparently gave his controversial answer -- one that is likely to frustrate those individuals who fall within the stated faiths.
"A cult is any group which teaches doctrines or beliefs that deviate from the biblical message of the Christian faith," the web site previously read. "Some of these groups are Jehovah's Witnesess, Mormons, the Unification Church, Unitarians, Spritualists, Scientologists, and others."
Below, see a screen shot from an archived version of BillyGraham.org (note: not all of the images loaded in this rendering):
This action is particularly noteworthy, seeing as Franklin Graham, the famed evangelist's son, came under fire earlier this year after refusing to say that President Barack Obama and Romney are Christians during an interview on MSNBC. In his exchange with commentators, he noted the theological differences that exist between LDS adherents and other Christian denominations.
Previously, he acknowledged the difficulty he contended Romney might have in courting evangelical voters.
"It’s going to be difficult for Romney as a Mormon with the evangelical community," Graham also said earlier this year. "For most Christians, Mormonism is an issue and he has a hurdle here that he’s going to have to jump over and navigate around if he can."
(H/T: Deseret News)