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Graham statue bill leads to angry debate

Posted April 16, 2015

Rev. Billy Graham (Photo courtesy of Billy Graham Evangelistic Association)

— House lawmakers voted 71-28 Thursday to make the Rev. Billy Graham the state's next representative in the Statuary Hall of the U.S. Capitol, replacing a statue of former Gov. Charles Aycock.

But the debate over the honor was divisive and acrimonious at times, with Republicans accusing Democrats of not liking Graham. Meanwhile, Democrats argued Republicans had refused to consider other candidates and had subverted the committee process to avoid debate on the matter.

Sponsor Rep. Charles Jeter, R-Mecklenburg, said he had the idea for the bill while walking through Statuary Hall last year, thinking that Aycock should be replaced. Aycock was once honored for his commitment to public education but has fallen out of favor in recent years due to views many now consider racist.

Asked how he had chosen Graham and whether he had considered other potential candidates for the honor, Jeter shot back, "I considered the entire population of North Carolina."

"Yeah, I chose Billy Graham because I thought he was the best person," he said. "Could there always be a better way of doing things? Certainly. I decided that I thought Billy Graham was the best choice."

Jeter noted that federal rules don't allow a statue of a living person in the hall but said the legislation would allow for a committee to be appointed to select the sculptor and begin to raise money for the statue. He said he had discussed it with the Graham family.

The bill, House Resolution 540, was in the House Rules Committee, but it was moved to the House floor for a vote Thursday without ever having had a committee hearing – a marked departure from the standard legislative process.

Democrats tried to have the bill sent back to committee for a hearing and debate, but Jeter accused them of not wanting to honor Graham.

"The only debate on this bill is the individual. This is an attempt to slow down the process. This is not about the process. This is about Billy Graham," he said.

"This is just a ploy to debate this forever," chimed in House Majority Leader Mike Hager. "Let’s just have a vote."

"Yes, this is a ploy on our part," retorted Rep. Grier Martin, D-Wake. "It’s a secret attempt to actually give the bill a hearing in a House committee."

In a committee setting, other nominees for the honor could have been considered, either instead of or in addition to Graham.

But House Speaker Tim Moore ruled such attempts out of order, including an amendment to replace Graham's name in the bill with that of civil rights pioneer Julius Chamber.

Democrats took offense at Jeter's accusation.

"I am a proud Southern Baptist, and I resent the implication that I don’t hold Rev. Graham in high regard. I do," said Rep. Verla Insko, D-Orange. "But this bill should be debated in committee."

Rep. Becky Carney, D-Mecklenburg, pointed out that she spoke on the floor when the House honored the Graham family recently. She said a decision of such significance should have had more public input, perhaps even a selection committee to choose the honoree from a list of nominees.

"It’s clear that this body is not united on this bill. It’s not our place to create this kind of division within our state," Carney said. "I don’t think the Graham family will feel honored by having a divisive debate like this around Rev. Graham."

Republicans seemed surprised by the Democrats' protests, noting that Graham has been on Gallup's annual list of the most admired people 58 times and has counseled every American president since Harry Truman.

"What more could you want out of someone to represent our state in the U.S. Capitol?" asked Rep. John Blust, R-Guilford. "This is a man who’s made a difference critically in millions and millions of peoples' lives."

38 Comments

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  • Carol Smith Apr 20, 2015
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    Another radical right wing idea to represent nawth calina.....

  • Sam Nada Apr 20, 2015
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    A divisive and acrimonious debate on this issue is precisely why Graham should not represent NC in the nation's capital. The GOP, as is often the case, is attempting to coerce and force their preference on everyone else. You like Graham, fine. But don't pretend he represents all of NC, and don't use parliamentary maneuvers to suppress opposition and play the arrogant bully yet again.

  • Quinn Satterthwaite Apr 17, 2015
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    "But the debate over the honor was divisive and acrimonious at times, with Republicans accusing Democrats of not liking Graham."Can you quote the part where some Democrat said no, we dont like Superstar Billy Graham?

    Because I dont see anyone speaking against him.

    You have taken RAL's appraisal of the debate ("debate over the honor was divisive and acrimonious at times") and projected a divisiveness to Graham himself that isnt in the article. Thats something you are adding.

    The Democrats are only the record about procedural objections. I am not sure how much time they think should be allocated to debate proposals that pass with 40+ vote margins.

  • Amy Singleton Apr 17, 2015
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    View quoted thread


    "But the debate over the honor was divisive and acrimonious at times, with Republicans accusing Democrats of not liking Graham."

    I'll be happy to copy more of the article for you. Or you can read it. I imagine many of those 43 votes came down to legislators who voted "eh... whatever"... knowing they need to move on to real issues instead of spending their time pandering.

  • Quinn Satterthwaite Apr 17, 2015
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    Why chose such divisive representation?How is he divisive? He passed by 43 votes.

    There arent even any Democrats legislators speaking against him.

  • Amy Singleton Apr 17, 2015
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    View quoted thread


    Hammer meets nail head.

  • Amy Singleton Apr 17, 2015
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    With the number of people avoiding organized religion increasing and the number of people attending church in decline how is Graham representative of all North Carolinian's? Why chose such divisive representation? Before anyone embarrasses themselves, try finding any study that contradicts this claim of church attendance, even churches are worried. In fact, it's been shown that attendance was in rapid decline before 9/11. Then a search for answers and the us against them Muslim vs. Christian effect took over and attendance rose. Not to levels it was in the 60's and 70's but we're now approaching the low levels in the 90's and will likely go lower. American's are very disenchanted with church leaders enriching themselves and pulpit politics. Graham is an excellent example of a lifetime spent doing both.

  • George Herbert Apr 17, 2015
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    It wasn't so popular. It was popular among Republicans, who like to pander to the religious right.

  • Amy Singleton Apr 17, 2015
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    I think it's a bad idea and would rather not see it done at all, "keep the arguing to a minimum".

    See how that works?

  • Terry Watts Apr 17, 2015
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    How does the Rev feel about us talking about him like he's dead???

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