CHARLOTTE, N.C. (BP) - A grassroots petition to honor the late Billy Graham with a national holiday has already gathered more than 100,000 signatures at change.org.
Petition author Kyle Siler, described in media reports as a 41-year-old heavy-equipment operator from Trinity, N.C., said honoring the evangelist would be good for America.
“True men of God don't want recognition,” he said in a March 6 Facebook video posted by Spectrum News of Charlotte. “Yes, this is about Billy Graham, but also if it’s a day that we could recognize a preacher and if everybody could think about the Lord for a day or for a minute, it would be great for this country.”
Siler never attended a Graham crusade, he told The News & Observer March 5, but said his late grandfather was a Graham fan. After Siler's grandfather died in February 2017, the family found among his belongings a large collection of Graham's books and recordings, the News & Observer wrote.
“Mr. Graham preached the Gospel to more people in live audiences than anyone else in history - nearly 215 million people in more than 185 countries and territories -- through various meetings,” Siler wrote in his petition. “Hundreds of millions more have been reached through television, video, film, and webcasts. Mr. Graham's counsel was sought by presidents, and his appeal in both the secular and religious arenas is evidenced by the wide range of groups that have honored him, including numerous honorary doctorates from many institutions in the U.S. and abroad.”
The petition addressed to President Donald Trump, both houses of Congress, North Carolina State Sen. Jerry Tillman and both federal senators from the state was slow in receiving responses days after its Feb. 27 posting, but has since gained steam. Change.org notes several signatures a minute, with more than 10,000 signing in the past day. Siler's goal is 150,000 signers.
Baptist Press reached out to media representatives of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, which indicated a delayed response because of the volume of inquiries since the evangelist's Feb. 21 death at age 99.
The road to the establishment of a national holiday is steep. The creation of the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday in 1983 culminated a 15-year journey, and although King was a pastor, the day specifically recognizes his work in the civil rights movement, according to the 1999 Congressional report Federal Holidays: Evolution and Application. Of the 1,100 different national holiday proposals launched since 1870, only 11 have been successful, the report said.
Diana Chandler is Baptist Press' general assignment writer/editor.