CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV/AP) - Two months after Russian President Vladimir Putin defended Russia's anti-gay law by equating gays with pedophiles, evangelist Franklin Graham is praising Putin for his stance on homosexuality.
Putin made headlines ahead of the Sochi Winter Olympics saying Russia needs to "cleanse" itself of homosexuality if it wants to increase its birth rate.
A Russian law passed last year banning "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations" among minors has caused an international outcry. The law has contributed to growing animosity toward gays in Russian society, with rights activists reporting a rise in harassment and abuse.
Putin said the law was aimed at banning propaganda of homosexuality and pedophilia, suggesting that gays are more likely to abuse children.
In the March 2014 issue of "Decision Magazine," Graham said he wasn't endorsing Putin, but stated that it was sad that "Russia's standard [of morality] is higher than our own."
"Even though Putin said that gays and lesbians would be allowed at the Olympics, the fact that he took a stand—simply to protect children—ignited a worldwide cultural firestorm," Graham stated.
"Just a few generations ago, America held the high moral ground. How the times have changed!"
Graham called America's response to the controversy around Putin's comments "sadly predictable."
"It's obvious that President Obama and his administration are pushing the gay-lesbian agenda in America today and have sold themselves completely to that which is contrary to God's teaching," Graham commented in the article, which was posted online on February 28.
Graham says he's never heard Putin quote the Bible, but says the Russian leader met with church leaders during his 2012 election campaign and vowed to protect persecuted Christians around the world.
"To be clear, I am not endorsing President Putin. To survive in the KGB and rise to power in Russia, you have to be tough," Graham wrote. "His enemies say he is ruthless. To some, he is a modern version of a czar. His personal life has its own controversies."
Graham says Putin is right on gay issues.
"Obviously, he may be wrong about many things, but he has taken a stand to protect his nation's children from the damaging effects of any gay and lesbian agenda," Graham said. "Our president and his attorney general have turned their backs on God and His standards, and many in the Congress are following the administration's lead. This is shameful."
According to Graham, the world used to look to America for moral leadership, "but those days are long gone."
Putin accused the United States of double standards in its criticism of Russia, pointing to laws that remain on the books in some U.S. states classifying gay sex as a crime.
The U.S. Supreme Court, however, ruled in 2003 that such laws were unconstitutional.
Homosexuality was a crime in the entire former Soviet Union, which collapsed in 1991. It was decriminalized in Russia in 1993.