Franklin Graham's 'Famous Father' Problem

The preacher finds controversy as he defines his legacy.

ByABC News

March 15, 2006 — -- Like many sons of world-famous figures, Franklin Graham has faced a lifetime of comparisons to his dad.

And when the father in question is Billy Graham -- perhaps the most famous preacher in the Western world, a first-class orator, a friend of U.S. presidents, and persuader of millions of souls to come to Jesus Christ -- that is a lot of dad to live up to.

Compounding the challenge is Franklin's decision to join his father's profession: After what the younger Graham described as a sinful youth, he decided at age 22 to follow Jesus and join the ministry.

Nowadays he runs the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and is the featured preacher at its festivals and celebrations. He stands where his father stood, behind the pulpit, with the same message: Jesus Saves.

Even the son admits he's nowhere near the preacher his dad was in his prime. And yet he appears quite comfortable with who he is, accustomed to the comparisons, and content with the ways he has chosen to become his own man. In some ways, rather than being labeled the "lesser" Graham, he is actually more interesting than his father, or at least more controversial. In a conversation with "Nightline," he stood by a remark he made in 2001, calling Islam a wicked and evil faith.

He went further: "If people think Islam is such a wonderful religion, just go to Saudi Arabia and make it your home. Just live there. If you think Islam is such a wonderful religion, I mean go and live under the Taliban somewhere." It's not the sort of thing his father would have said in public. But then, he's not his father.