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The ‘Billy Graham Rule’? Candidate refuses to meet with women unless a man comes along

Rep. Robert Foster, R-Hernando, a first term lawmaker who is a candidate for the Republican nomination for governor, addresses editors and publishers at the annual Mississippi Press Association Candidates Forum in Biloxi, Miss., Friday morning, June 21, 2019.
Rep. Robert Foster, R-Hernando, a first term lawmaker who is a candidate for the Republican nomination for governor, addresses editors and publishers at the annual Mississippi Press Association Candidates Forum in Biloxi, Miss., Friday morning, June 21, 2019. AP

A Mississippi candidate who refused to meet alone with a woman says he’s following the “Billy Graham Rule” — and he’s not the first politician to do so.

Robert Foster, a Republican running for governor in The Magnolia State, invoked the policy on Tuesday when explaining why his campaign told female reporter Larrison Campbell to bring a male colleague with her if she wants to cover his candidacy.

“Before our decision to run, my wife and I made a commitment to follow the ‘Billy Graham Rule’, which is to avoid any situation that may evoke suspicion or compromise of our marriage,” he wrote on Twitter. “I am sorry Ms. Campbell doesn’t share these views, but my decision was out of respect of my wife.”

Billy Graham — a late evangelist with roots in Charlotte, North Carolina — in 1948 worked with his staff to come up with rules, including one that called on each worker to not spend one-on-one time with a woman who wasn’t his wife.

Since then, similar comments have gained national attention.

Before he was vice president, Mike Pence in 2002 told The Hill he “never eats alone with a woman other than his wife.”

In the recent Mississippi case, Campbell was told she couldn’t join Foster on the campaign trail alone, her media outlet reports.

Campbell, a journalist with Mississippi Today, said there was “inherent sexism — not only in his request, but just the Billy Graham rule in general,” according to Poynter.

On his Twitter page, Foster says he’s doing it to respect his marriage and his Christian values.

“I refuse to change my moral stance on any issue because it’s not popular among the radical left,” he said. “My wife and the State of Mississippi deserve a governor who doesn’t compromise their beliefs, and I’m sticking to my guns.”

Evangelist Billy Graham influenced many generations of evangelical pastors and their flocks over the years. Charlotte Observer faith and values reporter Tim Funk explains his relevance to young people.

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