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Puerto Rican Baptists back out of Franklin Graham event over Trump travel ban

(Wikimedia Commons/Cornstalker)Franklin Graham during his Decision America tour at the Nebraska State Capitol Building in Lincoln, Neb.

Baptists in Puerto Rico will not be attending Franklin Graham's evangelistic rally in the country's capital city of San Juan this weekend due to his support for President Donald Trump's travel ban.

In a statement issued on Feb. 4, the Baptist Churches of Puerto Rico (IBPR) said that its board of directors has withdrawn their support for the Festival of Hope rally, which will be held on Feb. 10–12 at the same stadium where Graham's father, Billy Graham, preached to more than 175,000 people.

Graham, who became the CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in 2002, came out in defense of Trump's executive order that halts the entry of immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim nations into the U.S. He said that the travel ban was "not a Bible issue" and added that laws that pertain to immigration must be followed.

IBPR Executive Minister Roberto Dieppa-Báez and President Margarita Ramirez argued in their statement that Graham's endorsement of the immigration policy "are for us contrary to the values of the Kingdom."

"From the Old Testament to the New Testament, God continually calls us to justice, to love, peace and mercy and, above all, to accompany the marginalized, foreigners, widows and orphans," the statement said, as reported by Baptist News Global.

The leaders contended that Trump's immigration policies "attack the life of our neighbor, and Jesus has always called us to love even enemies and to be our brother's keeper." They said that they do not wish to undermine the Festival of Hope, but they issued their statement in order to affirm their "testimony in favor of the poor, marginalized and foreigners, among others."

There are currently 112 Baptist churches in Puerto Rico with more than 25,000 members. The leaders said that individual churches and pastors are still free to make their own decisions whether to participate in Graham's rally.

On Wednesday, Graham took to social media and posted a message saying he is heading to Puerto Rico to warn the people that God uses "extreme vetting." He explained that the only way to get to heaven is "through faith in Jesus Christ, and Him alone."

Graham maintained that religion and good works will not help people get into heaven. He said that the purpose of his rally is to help Puerto Ricans "immigrate" from earth to heaven someday.

"I want Puerto Ricans by the thousands—and people everywhere—to have their immigration status in Heaven stamped and sealed with the blood of Jesus Christ for all eternity," he wrote on Facebook.

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