A columnist’s scathing reaction to the death of Rev. Billy Graham ignited controversy on social media. The columnist subsequently disclosed that she received death threats in response to her statement.
On Feb. 21, Graham passed away at the age of 99. The Southern Baptist pastor was credited for elevating the prominence of the evangelical movement in America during the 20th century and was possibly the most well-known U.S. clergyman.
Graham also maintained relationships with American presidents as far back as Harry S. Truman. Several heads of state offered their condolences in the wake of the evangelist’s death, CBS News reports.
“Billy Graham was a humble servant who prayed for so many – and who, with wisdom and grace, gave hope and guidance to generations of Americans,” tweeted out former President Barack Obama.
“Billy Graham was America’s pastor,” said former President George H.W. Bush in a statement. “His faith in Christ and his totally honest evangelical spirit inspired people across the country and around the world.”
Former President Jimmy Carter said that Graham “exemplified the life of Jesus Christ by constantly reaching out for opportunities to serve.”
Not everyone expressed a high opinion of Graham following his death, most notably freelance journalist Lauren Duca, who is currently a columnist for Teen Vogue.
“The big news today is that Billy Graham was still alive this whole time,” Duca tweeted out. “Anyway, have fun in hell, b***.”
Duca added “‘Respecting the dead’ only applies to people who weren’t evil pieces of s*** while they were living, thanks.”
Duca’s tweet sparked some backlash, with several social media users condemning her.
“Wow Evil is showing up on Twitter today,” wrote a Twitter user named Jennyv.
“That comment is gross and despicable,” tweeted another social media user named Vince. “But I bet you get a lot of clicks for it. Nice to have such low life goals.”
Conservative writer Ben Shapiro tweeted to Duca “Hell is your Twitter feed.”
Graham accumulated several controversies during his lifetime. In 2002, the pastor publicly apologized after the disclosure of audiotapes containing an anti-Semitic conversation between him and former President Richard Nixon, The New York Times reports.
The influential evangelist is particularly controversial among the LGBT community, who assert that his rhetoric helped fuel homophobia in America. In the 1970s, Graham stated that homosexuality was a “sinister form of perversion.”
In 1993, Graham asserted before an Ohio crowd of over 40,000 that AIDS was a divine punishment from God. He subsequently stated “To say God has judged people with AIDS would be very wrong and very cruel. I would like to say that I am very sorry for what I said.”
Garrard Conley, a writer who penned a memoir about undergoing the discredited practice of conversion therapy, said that Graham’s rhetoric hounded him as a child.
“I grew up hearing Graham’s name referenced in almost every church service, and when I was sent to conversion therapy, his evangelical fire was the model for our change,” Conley told NBC News. “Though many saw Graham as a loving influence, his legacy has been harmful for queer individuals.”
LGBT writer Ana Mardoll echoed that view on social media.
“Billy Graham was an evil, horrible, hateful man who celebrated the deaths of queer people,” Mardoll tweeted out.
Mardoll added that Graham’s teachings were “used to bludgeon us for being who we are, for being born the way we are.”
On Feb. 22, Duca stated that she had received death threats after her derision of Graham.
“Conservatives are emailing me death threats over my tweet regarding deceased homophobic pastor Billy Graham,” Duca tweeted. “The ethics on this don’t quite line up, but I’m sure their commitment to respecting the dead means they’ll only speak of me lovingly once I have been brutally murdered.”
Sources: Ben Shapiro/Twitter, CBS News, Jennyv/Twitter, Lauren Duca/Twitter (2, 3) NBC News, The New York Times, Vince/Twitter / Featured Image: Pete Souza/Flickr via Wikimedia Commons / Embedded Images: The Billy Graham Library/Instagram, Lauren Duca/Twitter