The Rev. Franklin Graham said Thursday he was “outraged” by the ACC moving its athletic championships out of North Carolina over the state law limiting protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

Graham, the president of Samaritan’s Purse, an international relief organization based in Boone, sent a two-page letter to ACC Commissioner John Swofford in which Graham strongly criticizes the ACC Council of Presidents for its decision. Graham’s letter also was sent to the presidents and chancellors of the conference’s 15 schools.

The council voted Wednesday to move the league’s championships until the N.C. General Assembly repeals the law. The decision includes 12 neutral-site championships this academic year, which means moving the ACC football title game that was scheduled to be played in Charlotte on Dec. 3.

The ACC’s action came two days after NCAA said it was moving seven of its championships scheduled to be played in the state, including the men’s basketball first- and second-round matchups scheduled for March in Greensboro, because of the law.

“While I recognize this legislation — and legislation like it in other states — is complicated by society’s continued blurring of the lines of gender and sexual identity, I also recognize the profound hypocrisy of the ACC, the NCAA and other companies and organizations who are making calculated business decisions disguised as moral outrage,” Graham wrote.

Graham also criticized the ACC’s decision on his Facebook page, saying North Carolina is being bullied by the NCAA, the ACC and some of corporations who are influenced by LGBT activists. He urged pastors and churches across the state to let Gov. Pat McCrory and state legislators know that they support the legislation.

Graham is the president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, which bears the name of his father.

The law requires transgender people to use restrooms at schools and government buildings corresponding to the sex on their birth certificates. It also excludes gender identity and sexual orientation from local and statewide anti-discrimination protections. McCrory has defended the law as a common-sense safety measure.

Amy Yakola, an ACC spokeswoman, said the ACC didn’t have a comment about Graham’s statements in his letter to Swofford. Yakola referred to Wednesday’s statements by the ACC Council of Presidents; James Clements, the president of Clemson University and the council’s chairman, and Swofford. They defended the ACC’s position in their remarks.

In his letter to Swofford, Graham wrote that the football game the ACC is moving out of Charlotte is called the Dr Pepper ACC Football Championship.

“Dr Pepper and its parent company, Cadbury Schwepps and Carlyle Group, proudly sell their products in countries where homosexuality is illegal,” Graham wrote. “Will the ACC drop its title sponsor? And why isnt’ the LGBT community demanding you sever ties with such a ‘bigoted’ corporate sponsor?”

Chris Sgro, the executive director of Equality North Carolina, said Graham “was grossly out of touch with his father’s legacy,” and that Graham is standing on the wrong side of history in the progression of LGBT’s rights in the state. His organization is the largest statewide LGBT advocacy organization in North Carolina.

In addition, Graham wrote that “LGBT relationships are illegal in more than 70 countries, including 10 where homosexuality is punishable by death.” Dr Pepper is bottled under contract by Coca-Cola Co., he said.

“Yet, Coca-Cola conducts business in virtually every nation on earth, including nearly every country where homosexuality is currently criminalized,” Graham wrote. “Can your conference continue to tolerate that?”

Graham couldn’t be reached Thursday to comment about his letter. Mark Demoss of Atlanta, a Graham spokesman, said Graham is pointing out the flaws of ACC’s stance.

“The point he’s making is that the hypocrisy of pulling games out of a state that the (ACC) thinks is discriminating, but the (ACC) is accepting money from corporate sponsors who are doing business in countries where homosexuality is punishable by death,” Demoss said.

John Senior, the director of art of ministry program and an assistant teaching professor of ethics and society at the Wake Forest University School of Divinity, dismissed Graham’s views.

“The arguments that Franklin Graham makes in his letter to ACC Commissioner John D. Swofford are a garbled and illogical mess, conflating the roles of government and business in society; misrepresenting the core issues related to transgender identity, HB2, and the ACC's response; and concocting alleged inconsistencies in the ACC's policy,” Senior said.

Graham also wrote that his daughter, Cissie, is married to Corey Lynch, a former football star at Appalachian State University who played in the NFL.

“But I would rather defend the biological definition of the two genders as created by the Creator of the universe than to attend — or even watch on TV — a football or basketball game to determine the ACC champion,” Graham wrote.

Graham mentioned Swofford's statement that the ACC reached a principled decision that represented its core values.

"Well, millions of us who oppose your decision do so as matter of principle and core values - values of privacy, safety and protection of our sons and daughters in public restrooms, and the principle that God created just two genders and assigned them at birth," Graham wrote. 

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jhinton@wsjournal.com (336) 727-7299 @jhintonWSJ

The Charlotte Observer contributed to this story.

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