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Reporting the Truth.
Restoring the Church.

Naghmeh Panahi: Franklin Graham & Others Bullied Me to Salvage #SaveSaeed

By Julie Roys
Naghmeh Panahi Abedini Franklin Graham Jay Sekulow
ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow (far left) and ACLJ Executive Director Jordan Sekulow (far right) gather with Samaritan's Purse CEO Franklin Graham and Naghmeh Panahi for a prayer vigil on Sept. 25, 2014. (Source: ACLJ)

When Nagmeh Panahi, the former wife of Iranian-American pastor Saeed Abedini, told Samaritan’s Purse CEO Franklin Graham that her husband had abused her for years, she expected sympathy and understanding.

Instead, she says Graham asked Panahi if she was cheating on her husband.

“I felt like this bleeding woman on the side of the road,” Panahi told The Roys Report in an exclusive interview. “And this is the big stone being thrown—the first stone of adulteress.”

At the time—November 2, 2015—Pastor Abedini was imprisoned in Iran and the focus of a massive #SaveSaeed campaign, spearheaded by Samaritan’s Purse and the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ). Yet just hours before the call with Graham, Panahi sent an email to supporters revealing the shocking allegations of abuse.

Similarly, Panahi says when ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow learned that Panahi’s email, describing Abedini’s abuse, had been leaked to the media, he encouraged her to fabricate a story.

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Jay Sekulow ACLJ #SaveSaeed
Jay Sekulow speaks at a #SaveSaeed vigil in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 25, 2014.

“The message I got from ACLJ was, ‘Now media is on this. We need to have a statement . . . What are we going to say to the media? We can say you’re on medication and you are mentally ill,’” Panahi recalled.  

Panahi said she refused, telling Sekulow she was seeing more clearly than she had in years.

Despite repeatedly being beaten—once so badly she thought she was going to die—Panahi said she had excused and rationalized her husband’s abuse. But after Abedini’s relentless put-downs, calling her names like “Jezebel” and “whore,” and threats by phone and online from prison, Panahi said she had reached a breaking point.

Yet, she said Sekulow and Graham continued to pressure her to salvage her husband’s reputation and the #SaveSaeed movement, especially after Abedini’s release two months later—on January 16, 2016.

When first contacted by The Roys Report for comment about Panahi’s allegations, Sekulow did not respond. However, when asked specifically if he had pressured Panahi to say she was mentally ill, Sekulow responded through his press agent: “The answer to your question is no. We will have no further comment due to attorney-client confidentiality.”

The Roys Report also reached out to Graham. And he replied in a statement that he was “shocked and saddened” when he heard Panahi’s “account of abuse suffered during her marriage.”

Franklin Graham Saeed Abedini
Franklin Graham (left) and Pastor Saeed Abedini at the Billy Graham Training Center in Asheville, NC, in 2016. (Source: Facebook)

He added, “While I am not a licensed counselor, I did offer limited counsel—to both Naghmeh and Saeed—as a minister. . . . I do not believe it would be appropriate for me to publicly disclose advice or counsel I may have offered to this couple—other than to say it was always my sincere desire to see Naghmeh and Saeed experience Biblical reconciliation and a God-given restoration to their marriage.”

Yet Panahi said she suspects Graham and Sekulow had an additional motive—the desire to continue a movement that had exploded both men’s social media platforms and had proven a powerful fundraising tool.

And for the first time, Panahi has released numerous emails between her and Graham, often copied to Sekulow, documenting the pressure Graham exerted on Panahi to reconcile with her allegedly abusive husband.

This, despite Panahi telling Graham that Abedini was furious with her for speaking about the abuse; that she feared for her safety; and that Abedini had threatened to take their kids with him to Iran.

In one email dated January 23, 2016—a week after Saeed was released from an Iranian prison—Graham writes to Panahi that Abedini is “a hero.” He adds, “I’m not saying that Saeed is not guilty of abuse or watching pornography and I am sure he is guilty of much more. The problem is you exposed him publicly to the whole world and embarrassed him.”

Panahi also has released audio of a sometimes-heated meeting in August 2016 between Graham, Abedini, Panahi, and Panahi’s pastor.

In one recorded exchange, Graham seems to blame Panahi for the rift in her marriage, and dismisses her insistence that her husband deal with his abuse before she’ll begin in-person marriage counseling.

“If you want to make this work, you’re going to have to move a little bit, okay?” Graham says to Panahi on the recording.

“Not on abuse, I’m sorry,” Panahi says.

“Don’t tell me you’re sorry,” Franklin replies, “because it doesn’t matter to me, Naghmeh. It really doesn’t.”

Then, addressing her husband, Naghmeh says, “I’m sorry, Saeed, but the abuse has to be dealt with.”

The Roys Report reached out to Abedini for his side of the story. But after initially agreeing to an interview, Abedini declined.

Panahi Refuses to Come to Abedini, So Graham Sends Abedini to Her

In the days after Abedini’s release, Panahi says Graham urged her to fly to Germany to meet Abedini in route to the United States. Initially, she agreed, but then said she didn’t feel safe and decided against it.

Then, Graham urged Panahi and her children to come to the Billy Graham Training Center at the Cove, a secluded area of Asheville, North Carolina, to receive marriage counseling.

Again, Panahi said she initially agreed, thinking marriage counseling might fix the couple’s relationship. But after consulting with abuse counselors, who strongly advised her not to meet with Abedini until he had dealt with his abuse, Panahi changed her mind. Panahi said she also had a growing concern that her husband was going to use his new-found platform to enrich himself.

In an email, dated January 18, 2016, Panahi writes to Graham and Sekulow:

Because of the tremendous abuse that I have gone through the last 11 year(s) of our marriage, including (Abedini’s) time in prison, and including his call with me yesterday and his hunger for fame . . . And because of his heart yesterday showing his lack of repentance . . . I need to keep the boundaries that the Lord has clearly spoken for me to keep. This means that I will be more than happy for Saeed to get counseling by himself. The kids and I will not be part of that process and try to sugar coat the horrors of abuse.

Panahi also forwarded Graham a letter written by George Wood, former superintendent of the General Council of the Assemblies of God—the denomination in which Abedini had served while in Iran.

Panahi told The Roys Report that Wood had called her shortly after she had sent the email to supporters on November 2, 2015, describing Abedini’s abuse. Wood told her that years earlier, the pastors overseeing Abedini in Iran had put him under church discipline, which was news to Panahi.

Panahi then asked Wood to write a letter, explaining the issues with Abedini, so she could share it with leaders like Graham, who didn’t believe her.

Wood writes in the letter to Panahi, shared with Graham:

. . . Shortly after Saeed was imprisoned, several different sources related to me that I should be careful in what I said publicly regarding Saeed as there were genuine concerns about his temper, reports of physical and verbal violence against you and/or your parents, reports of destruction of property in the home, and reports of a stated desire to become famous and rich by writing a book and doing public speaking that would obtain these objectives.

As Panahi described in a part one of a two-part podcast with The Roys Report, Abedini, prior to his conversion to Christianity, had been trained by Hezbollah. Once in 2005, she says Abedini beat her mercilessly when the couple was in Dubai, and Panahi thought she was going to die before escaping into a bathroom.

In 2007, Abedini reportedly beat her again and was convicted in Idaho of domestic assault.

And according to a transcript of divorce proceedings Panahi shared with The Roys Report, Abedini admits he broke Panahi’s father’s nose. Panahi’s father testified that he was injured so badly, he required two surgeries. Panahi said Abedini also once went on a rampage at her parents’ house, smashing a window of her mother’s Lexus, breaking a TV and lamps, and putting holes in walls.

Panahi said this violence continued as mental and emotional abuse while Abedini was imprisoned in Iran. But she said because of her Middle Eastern background, and Christian teaching on submission, she didn’t recognize Abedini’s behavior as abuse.

That is until November 1, 2016, when she shared what was happening with North Carolina Pastor David Chadwick, and he labeled the behavior abuse. (Pastor Chadwick spoke with The Roys Report and confirmed Panahi’s account.) This revelation led to Panahi’s email the following day and subsequent calls with Graham, Wood, and Sekulow.

Yet, in an email January 18, 2016, Graham appears unfazed by Panahi’s arguments. He reproves Panahi for deciding to stay with her parents in Boise, Idaho. “The Bible is very clear when we get married we’re to leave mother and father and be joined together and become one flesh,” Graham writes.

He adds, “Even if (Abedini) was able to prove to you that he is changed and satisfied all of your conditions, I am afraid you would raise the bar even higher to make it impossible.”

Panahi replies, “I don’t even have a bar. I don’t want abuse any more. If this is a high bar, then please explain that to me? I don’t want to be treated like trash.”

On January 21, 2016, Panahi sends an email to Graham’s sister, author and evangelist Anne Graham Lotz, who had become a trusted ally.

Anne Graham Lotz
Anne Graham Lotz (Source: Wikipedia)

Panahi writes that she’s “really scared,” noting that Graham “is expecting (Panahi and Abedini) to stay at the same house.”

She adds, “Franklin does not understand the deep evil that Saeed is dealing with and Saeed’s pretend humility. I spoke with Franklin today and it seems like he believes if the woman loves enough and submits enough things will be fixed. I have learned otherwise. The more I gave in, the more abusive he became.”

Lotz responds the same day: “I totally confirm that you are to stay in Boise, where you have your network of support. You are right, Franklin does not understand. And I can also tell you, Franklin is not a good listener. Just never mind him, if that’s possible.”

Panahi said Lotz also told her during a phone call that the Cove did not have cell phone reception and was miles away from the nearest place, which felt unsafe.

On January 22, 2016, Graham writes in another email to Panahi that she can’t know if Abedini is repentant unless she talks to him “face-to-face,” adding: “I’m counting on you to keep your word as your (sic) promised . . . I’ll see you Monday.”

The next day, Graham sends a longer email, stating that Abedini is a “hero to millions.” He adds that wanting fame and riches for ministry is common, and that even if Abedini did abuse Panahi, she should have kept it quiet.

I know many people in the ministry Who (sic) want money fame and two (sic) sell their books. I’m not saying that Saeed is not guilty of abuse or watching pornography and I am sure he is guilty of much more. The problem is you exposed him publicly to the whole world and embarrassed him.

Graham adds:

You want Saeed to crawl to you in Boise where he has been publicly exposed embarrassed and shamed to have your family and friends wag their finger in his face to humiliate and shame him more. I recommend that you come for one week of counseling with him and then make your decision but you need to get away from Boise to be with him quietly where you will be protected . . . that is my recommendation

Despite Graham’s insistence, Panahi refuses to come to North Carolina. So, on January 26, 2016, Graham flies Abedini, Abedini’s parents and sister, two counselors, and a bodyguard on a private jet owned by Samaritan’s Purse to Panahi’s home in Boise, Idaho.

Panahi said she didn’t know about the visit until the plane took off from North Carolina. That’s when Reuters called her and said Abedini was on a jet headed for Boise.

“I said, ‘Oh no, he’s not.’ They’re like, ‘Oh yes, he is,’” Panahi recalled. “They’re like, ‘We confirmed it with the Samaritan’s Purse people. His private jet has just taken off.’”

Panahi said the impending visit threw her into a panic. Her lawyer had recently informed her that Abedini could legally take her children from her unless she filed for legal separation and got an order of protection. So, in the hours before Abedini and his entourage arrived, Panahi rushed to obtain the necessary documents from a local court.

Panahi said that as she pulled into her driveway, after obtaining a protection order, two cars arrived. In one, was Graham’s bodyguard, Abedini, and Abedini’s parents and sister. In the other, were the two marriage counselors.

“Who does that when I’ve told Franklin, ‘I’m afraid. Saeed has threatened to take the kids’?” Panahi said. “Who does a surprise with a bodyguard and Saeed and his parents and his sister and the marriage counselors? They show up unannounced on a private jet—like that is traumatic.”

Panahi said she then informed Graham’s bodyguard that she had obtained a protection order, so Abedini couldn’t take the couple’s children. Panahi was willing, however, to allow Abedini to visit with the children, which he did.

This family reunion was reported in the press at the time as though it was planned. Graham’s spokesman, Mark DeMoss, told the Idaho Statesman that Abedini was originally scheduled to see his wife and children in North Carolina, but plans had changed. “It now looks like they’re going to actually reconnect in Boise and not in North Carolina,” DeMoss said.

The next day, Graham posted on Facebook that he was praying for healing in Naghmeh and Saeed Abedini’s marriage. He added, “Other than God, no one knows the details and the truth of what has happened between Saeed and Naghmeh except them. There’s an old saying that there are at least two sides to every story. I can tell one thing for sure—not everything that has been reported in the media is true.”

More pressure by Graham

For the remainder of the winter and spring 2016, Abedini remained in Boise and saw his children frequently. However, Panahi said Graham continued to pressure her to submit to in-person marriage counseling with Abedini.

In February, Panahi said Graham’s marriage counselors, Dan and Linda Stephens, who work with Samaritan’s Purse, flew to Boise to meet with Panahi’s pastor, Bob Caldwell. Panahi said the Stephenses also spoke with Panahi’s abuse counselor, Robert Needham.

Caldwell was pastor of Calvary Church Boise at the time, but resigned in December 2016, after confessing to adultery. The Roys Report tried to contact Caldwell for comment but did not get a response.

We also reached out to Panahi’s counselor, Robert Needham. Needham stated in an email that he couldn’t remember specifics of his discussion in 2016 with the Stephenses. However, he wrote that a “serious problem for Naghmeh was the concerted efforts on the part of some professional counselors to force Naghmeh into intense ‘marriage counseling,’ instead of FIRST dealing with her husband’s high profile abuse of her, and the children. That painfully difficult time for her I remember very well.”

Dan Linda Stephens Samaritan's Purse
Dan and Linda Stephens (Source: Samaritan’s Purse)

Panahi said that after their meeting with Needham and Caldwell, the Stephenses conceded that Abedini should get abuse counseling prior to any marriage counseling. The Stephenses then emailed Abedini, encouraging him to contact one of two abuse counselors they recommended, Panahi said.

The Roys Report reached out to Samaritan’s Purse, requesting comment from Dan and Linda Stephens. Samaritan’s Purse responded that the Stephenses “cannot discuss conversations of information related to any counseling sessions they have been involved in.”

About two months after the Stephenses’ visit, on April 22, 2016, Panahi emailed Graham, informing him that Abedini had not contacted either abuse counselor. She asked Graham to address the issue with Abedini to “help our family move towards healing and reconciliation.”

On April 24, 2016, Graham responded: “You have made many demands sense (sic) Saeed got out of prison. I think both of you need to see a counselor together. If you continue this way you and Saeed will destroy your children. . . . I’m willing to help both of you but only the two of you together.”

Panahi replies that the abuse is “the most critical issue that our marriage has faced” and requested again that Abedini meet with an abuse counselor.

Graham responds that Panahi has “continued to have bad advisors,” adding: “I would strongly recommend the two of you come to Asheville with marriage counselors of your choice . . .” (View entire email thread.)

Panahi, however, remained resolute. And in June, 2016, Abedini left Boise and went to Alaska to work for Graham at Samaritan’s Lodge.

Tense meeting in August 2016

In August 2016, Graham called Panahi, and requested an in-person meeting between her, Abedini, and himself. Panahi said she agreed to meet, fearing that if she refused, Graham would paint her in the media as the reason the marriage failed.

So, on August 9, 2016, Graham, Abedini, and Panahi had a meeting at a hotel conference room in Boise, which Panahi recorded. Also at the meeting were Panahi’s pastor, Bob Caldwell, Panahi’s lawyer, and Graham’s bodyguard.

Pastor Saeed Abedini Naghmeh Panahi
Naghmeh Panahi and Saeed Abedini and their family. (Source: ACLJ)

In audio of that meeting released to The Roys Report, Graham is heard at the beginning, reminding Panahi that Samaritan’s Purse had given her lots of money during Abedini’s imprisonment.

“We have given you a lot of money—tens of thousands of dollars,” Graham says. “And that was for you and the children. . . . It was to help them.”

Then, Graham says Abedini is ready to do “whatever it needs” to reconcile and states, “This can be fixed, Naghmeh, and it can be fixed easy.”

Yet when Panahi says she won’t budge on her requirement that Abedini get abuse counseling, Graham objects. He also seems to dismiss Panahi’s allegations that she’s a victim of abuse and that her husband is dangerous.

“In most marriages . . . abuse is where a husband comes home and he drinks a six-pack of beer, he comes up out of the chair because the kids are making noise, and he beats his wife, and he beats the kids . . .” Graham says. “That’s not what you’ve been facing. Your husband has been in prison.”

“I was beaten,” Panahi states.

“Your husband has been in prison for three-and-a-half years,” Graham replies. “And he’s not the same person that went into prison.”

“He’s going to be more dangerous,” Panahi states. “He might have PTSD . . .”

Graham seems surprised and asks: “PTSD? So, you think he has that.” (Panahi says a psychiatrist confirmed in divorce proceedings that Abedini had PTSD.)

Later in the conversation, Pastor Caldwell confronts Graham: “You’ve never been around, obviously, psychological abuse, because if you have, it is worse by far sometimes than any physical abuse.”

Graham objects, “We deal with this. I understand it.”

“No, I’m serious,” Caldwell replies.

“I understand . . .” Graham says.

“But you were saying her weakness in this situation is she’s not getting beat up, so therefore, it’s not ‘real abuse’—it’s kind of ‘mental abuse’ that can be dealt with by talking it over and . . .”

“And trying to find counselors . . .” Graham says. “The marriage counselors we’re dealing with, Bob, they’re saying this is kind of a gray area, you know, getting a special counselor for abuse.”

Several times, Graham expresses frustration with Panahi. At one point, he confronts her for changing her mind and deciding not to meet Abedini in Germany, and then in North Carolina.

Another time, he accuses Panahi of lying because during Abedini’s imprisonment, she denied she had any communication with Abedini when she had. Panahi tells Graham she withheld this information from him because Jay Sekulow told her not to tell anyone Abedini had a phone, or it might endanger his life.

Panahi also confronts Graham—challenging him for questioning if she had cheated on Abedini.

Graham responds, “Listen, we have got a . . . bone to pick with you.” He then confronts Panahi for not telling him about Abedini’s abuse sooner.

“We sat in this restaurant in this town,” he says, “and you never once said, ‘Hey, there’s a problem here.’”

Despite many objections, the meeting ends with what seems to be an agreement for Abedini to see an abuse counselor. However, about a month and a half later, Panahi says she received a text from Abedini saying he’s filing for divorce.

Lobbying for change

In the past five years, Panahi said she feels she’s been vindicated. In 2017, Panahi and Abedini were divorced, and a court awarded Panahi full custody of her children.

That same year, Abedini pleaded guilty to violating a restraining order and was ordered to remain at least 300 yards away from Panahi’s home.

In 2018, Abedini was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of violating a no-contact order for sending derogatory, name-calling text messages to Panahi. According to Panahi, Abedini failed to show for his court date, and now there’s a warrant out for his arrest in Idaho.

Panahi said she’s speaking up now because she’s tired of Christian celebrities getting a pass when they bully and abuse victims.

Naghmeh Panahi
Naghmeh Panahi (Source: Tahrir Alnisa Foundation)

She said she was especially disheartened recently when she posted an article The Roys Report published about allegations of sexual misconduct concerning Oregon megachurch pastor, Ben Courson. Instead of calling for Courson to repent, she said some people attacked her for urging Courson’s church to deal with the misconduct biblically.

Panahi said she saw what women can do when she was advocating for her husband’s release from an Iranian prison. She said it was primarily women who made the #SaveSaeed movement go viral, and she said she believes women need to step up now.

“As women, we have a voice to speak out for each other,” Panahi said. “I wanted the religious leaders to speak out. . . . (But) there’s just a bond between them. There’s loyalty . . .

“So I want to say as women, we do have a voice. . . . I believe there can be a movement to say no more. . . . Let’s tear down the idol, the idolatry of celebrity pastors and worship leaders and those we . . . worship and we say, ‘Don’t you dare say anything negative about them.’

“Let’s tear them down and say you’re accountable. You should be above reproach. And if someone comes out about abuse, let’s investigate.”

Full audio of meeting between Graham, Abedini, Panahi, & Panahi’s Pastor:

Podcast: Ex-Wife Tells of Abuse & Betrayal Behind #SaveSaeed, Part 1:

Podcast: Ex-Wife Tells of Abuse & Betrayal Behind #SaveSaeed, Part 2:



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42 Responses

  1. So much corruption and evil, finally being exposed.
    On a regular basis.
    My thanks to Julie Roys for a wonderful job, here and elsewhere.

    Hopefully the future will be better than the past in this damaged religion.

  2. Keep in mind that there is no public evidence that Franklin challenged Ravi even though he knew about it at least a year before Ravi died.

    1. If that is so, it is truly disgusting! Do you have a source for that information? I have done research online and cannot find it.

  3. “If a woman loves enough and submits enough” … “This can be fixed and fixed easy.” It’s a very poor witness to the world when Christians espouse such attitudes in an attempt to save a marriage at any cost. Can anyone seriously defend how this woman was ignored let alone mistreated? Reconciliation might have made for a pretty story in this high-profile situation, but far too many women have been similarly dismissed.

    1. It seem to me that the words “a woman should love her husband” without remembering the rest of the scripture that a man should love his wife “as Christ loved the church”. Maybe if he did that more there would be more respect from the wife. How can a wife respect a husband who beats her nearly to death?

  4. After listening and reading this, I can accept that those who wanted to help may have been uninformed or wrong in approach. I will not accept that they were motivated by greed. Are everyone’s motives to be suspected?

    1. Yes Richard if it’s an American evangelical then absolutely. And I’m a Jesus following Christian and believer in the beatitudes vs the immoral abuse of scripture. I rarely can match a prosperity evangelicals words to anything Jesus told us to do. Discernment and narrative of there agenda.

    2. I see a clear concern for the optics and protecting the organizations involved above all else. I don’t know what would be so hard about publicly stating they were unaware of Abedini’s issues. I find Sekulow’s attempt to promote a full on lie disturbing, although that seems to be par for the course in the circles he runs in.

    3. Mr. Stadter, your point is well taken. We cannot prove that Jay Sekulow or Franklin Graham were motivated by greed. Correlation of two events (efforts to release Mr. Abedini from prison and, simultaneously, increased media attention for Mr. Sekulow and Mr. Graham) does not prove causation. And we, as followers of Jesus, should be hesitant to impugn others, especially those in vocational ministry.

      Not “everyone” is suspect, however. From the article, podcast, and attachments, it is reasonable to conclude that Mr. Graham, whatever his motivations, became overly invested in this family’s troubles, crossed numerous boundaries, revealed an incomplete and inaccurate understanding of abuse, and conducted himself in a dismissive and coercive manner toward Ms. Panahi. The Roys Report is exposing repeatedly inappropriate behavior by a public figure who, even if well intended, should not have forced his own solutions upon this couple.

      Thanks to Julie Roys for exceptional reporting and another timely lesson on how believers can respond better to such situations. And to Naghmeh Panahi for sharing her story.

      1. “it is reasonable to conclude that Mr. Graham, whatever his motivations, became overly invested in this family’s troubles, crossed numerous boundaries, revealed an incomplete and inaccurate understanding of abuse, and conducted himself in a dismissive and coercive manner toward Ms. Panahi. The Roys Report is exposing repeatedly inappropriate behavior by a public figure who, even if well intended, should not have forced his own solutions upon this couple.“

        Truer words could not written on this. The problem here is that Franklin, instead of stepping back because of his deep involvement in the Iranian imprisonment issue, instead got involved in trying to fix their marriage, which he had little expertise and even less authority. Spousal violence is a CRIMINAL issue. A church that both parties have submitted to can sometimes offer support to a couple, but here, Franklin is not their pastor and using his financial support to pressure an abused woman to do what he thought was right. Thank God she refused to submit to him and got the authorities involved.

    4. Greed and money seem to be a major part of the story-Frank mentions how he gave her thousands of dollars. OOppps .. her forgot to mention that he and Sekulows’ organization possibly received millions of dollars in donations. As of a few years ago Franklin was paid enormous amounts of compensation by two organizations. I do not know if anyone is aware of how much the Sekulow’s top brass make.

      1. About 12 years ago World Magazine did a one pager on Franklin entitled “Franklin’s Purse.” It exposed how he made somewhere up to $3,000,000 off of Samaritan’s Purse and The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Look, I’m not denying that Franklin’s ministry does good, but in general ministry in America is primarily about the money. There was an old Buddhist criticism that stated, “The path to heaven is paved with many toll-booths.”

        1. Thanks for clarifying. 12 years ago! My, time flies! I used to give to Samaritan’s Purse but could not reconcile the charity with him receiving much more compensation than secular non-profit CEO’s. His is a brave man though. He flew his plane to the Sudan when it was a restricted zone in order to deliver supplies. I did some research and settled on Open Doors to donate to, besides our local church, which should be first.

          It seems when it comes to listening and marriage counseling, Franklin receives an F :)

    5. Franklin is a very highly paid man with multiple incomes. He lives a rich mans life flying private jets and living in luxury. Sometimes the proofs in the pudding.

    6. It’s not necessarily greed in the sense they were worried their fundraising would dry up, but it’s clear they were motivated by the fear of being exposed as supporting vicious and abusive wife-beater which would raise serious questions about their judgement and damage their reputation and prestige.

      The evidence presented to them was crystal clear and goes far beyond anything that would merit giving Graham and Sekulow the benefit of the doubt here.

      Who in their right mind continues to push a battered wife into marriage counseling with a husband who almost killed her and has a decades long pattern of criminal abuse?

  5. And yet people will continue to send their donations to Samaritan’s Purse and the rest of Franklin’s non-profits.
    I’m surprised he didn’t use the phrase “it takes two to tango” to try to pressure her to work with her abuser. But, basically that’s what Graham did, but not in so may words.

  6. Franklin Graham has been hamstrung by ambition and pride. Little did he realize that when he bet on this horse in an Iranian prison for his own fortunes, he was taking the bait to have his own heart condition exposed to the world.
    It should not be complicated to simply say, “Wow we had no idea he was like this…this changes everything, now we need to rescue his wife from HIS prison.”
    Did you notice his unease and aversion to having Nagmeh read the bible to him on the matter at hand? Suddenly God was not welcome in the conversation when the sword of the Spirit was in a womans hand.
    On another front can we not see how our doctrine of male dominance has born bad fruit? The level of victim shaming, minimization and equivocation displayed in Grahams tactics are symptomatic of a desperate need to put duct tape on a doctrinally produced culture that is falling apart. Namely the notion that Jesus would want us to set women in a different class in the church because Eve bit first.
    Is it any wonder the world finds us primitive and irrelevant?

  7. Disappointing and shocking information. Thank you for your thorough report. Do we know if Anne Graham Lotz has remained in contact with and support of Naghmeh Pahani? I pray she and her children remain safe.

  8. In addition to his repeatedly horrendous, clueless words and actions in dealing with an abusive husband and abused wife in this situation, Franklin Graham said in his 1/23/2016 email to Naghmeh, “I know many people in the ministry Who want money fame and two sell their books.”

    This gives some more background regarding his 2019 recommendation that people “might want to check out” Paula White’s new book, and his own combined annual salary of over a half million from donations to Samaritan’s Purse and BGEA, not to mention his other benefits and perks like a private jet that he unbelievably used to fly the abusive husband and entourage for a surprise visit at Naghmeh’s home.

  9. I followed this in real time years ago back at PhxPreacher. Mike Newnham promoted the campaign though his blog is primary a watchblog. He get very upset over being lied to, not just about this, but also about the fact that Graham was lying about the perp being tortured in jail. He was not. This made me even like Franklin less than ever. The man is in it for money and fame like the other celebs. May the idolatry of public figures of all kinds come to a end. These men worship things other than Jesus Christ.

  10. ** “… abuse is where a husband comes home and he drinks a six-pack of beer, he comes up out of the chair because the kids are making noise, and he beats his wife, and he beats the kids . . .” Graham says. **

    This is just mind-boggling. It looks as though Mr. Graham got his “marriage” expertise watching 1950s sitcoms. It’s interesting that his bio says he has a modest education: a B.A. from App State in the 1970s. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, until a person sets himself up as an Authority Full of Wisdom.

    1. The sad thing is that I believe a large proportion of the Evangelical sub-culture does not understand or want to put in the time to understand “abusive” relationships and they remain cacooned and isolated in an increasingly bizarre underworld. There is always the good ol’ boys club too. I do not mind the club, but when it overlooks abuse, and passes it on to other churches, then we have an issue.

        1. I just read tonight a portion of an old book, Angels on Assignment. It talks about black holes and how the stars in them start to go inward and stop shining and don’t even reflect light that shines on them. It compared this to some Christians who walk away from the Lord. They eventually stop shining and reflecting light. This could also apply to the church. When a group, as you said, “gets to be inward-focused” light stops shining and it finds itself in a black hole. Self-interest and self-promotion are never productive in a positive way. It can easily turn into evil.

  11. Minor side mention that stuck in my mind was how FG flew cross county in his private jet to put the screw to Nagmah.

    NEVER trust a ManaGAWD who has a private jet.
    Even if it’s “not his” – it’s owned (on paper) by the (tax-free) Ministry(TM) that’s completely under his thumb.

  12. The taped recording of the meeting with Franklin Graham, Saeed, Naghmeh and Naghmeh’s pastor is so telling. Naghmeh came with a Biblical stance, scriptures and wisdom. Naghmeh and her pastor are the only two people in that room that day that had any common sense and wisdom.

    All Graham keeps saying is “Saeed has told me the truth” and “he will be truthful to you, Naghmeh’. Franklin Graham apparently he has never dealt with a covert narcissist. The silence from Saeed on the recording is deafening and a very telling sign!

    1. Yes, the recording lasts for almost 51 minutes, and it would be revealing if an audio technician or sound engineer could calculate how much of that time was taken by each person. Only near the end does Saeed speak, and I would be surprised if he had even 30 seconds in total. Franklin Graham dominates throughout, directs nearly all of his statements toward Naghmeh, and refers to Saeed in the third person.

      If Graham truly wanted husband and wife to talk with each other, why did he not ask questions and let both answer? Even a volunteer Bible study or Sunday school discussion group leader would have directed the conversation in a more balanced manner with remarks like “Saeed, let’s hear from you. Are these allegations true? Will you agree to consult with the abuse counselors? Why or why not? Naghmeh, how did you feel after . . . ?”

      Graham may have arranged the meeting, but he did not facilitate it. Instead, he lectured.

      1. AGL’s comments on her brother “not being a good listener” made me laugh out loud. She’s so spot on. Also remarkable wisdom from her on not making an idol out of the “Graham” name.

  13. Why does no one discuss Franklin Graham’s close relationship with Greta VanSustern a Scientologist? I have never been able to square that rightly in my mind and then reading this…quite disturbing and once again has me questioning organized church. So many disappointments.

  14. Thank you Julie and Naghmeh for posting/speaking this story aloud. It is so necessary. There needs to be a CONTINUED OUTCRY from abused women who have been silenced and minimized by “Christian leaders.” I being one of those women as well.

  15. “Graham’s spokesman, Mark DeMoss, told the Idaho Statesman that Abedini was originally scheduled to see his wife and children in North Carolina, but plans had changed. “It now looks like they’re going to actually reconnect in Boise and not in North Carolina,” DeMoss said.”

    Mark DeMoss, why do you always have to insert yourself into these situations for money?

    Your fingerprints are all over numerous egregious & corrupt things — for money –, all done in the name of God and hiding behind God.

  16. Panahi is a poignant reminder of the problem of a green, young, unprepared missionary going into a cross-cultural mine-field Middle Eastern culture and marrying a local believer she is there to minister to.

    Had her husband converted to Islam, he could still be beating her in Iran and have full control over the children. Both wanton abuse of spouses and persecution of people based on their religious beliefs are worthy causes. She seems quite comfortable with her celebrity as an opponent of spouse abuse, but resents his celebrity as a persecuted Christian. It seems both husband and wife are cut from the same cloth, bitter and willful, and addicted to living out their lives as public drama.

    Graham, Sekulow, and whoever else’s emails were leaked don’t matter. Neither Graham nor Sekulow are in need of Abedini to keep their organizations alive. It’s not about the money.

    A man who beat his wife and committed other crimes, but who was falsely accused and sentenced to death for murder refusing to confess to the crime to get life and enduring long imprisonment, can still be a voice for unjust convictions of the innocent when vindicated. A person can be heroic in one instance and a moral slug in another. There’s no hypocrisy in admiring moral courage and rejecting moral shortcomings in the same person. We do it with saints in the Bible and Christians we admire all the time.

    Rom 12:9 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.

  17. “In February, Panahi said Graham’s marriage counselors, Dan and Linda Stephens, who work with Samaritan’s Purse, flew to Boise to meet with Panahi’s pastor, Bob Caldwell. ”

    good grief, why are so many people inserting themselves into Nagmeh’s marriage and her personal life??

    i can see that individuals made plans for themselves and their organizations that hinged on her doing what they wanted her to do — but it’s her life, her business — not yours.

  18. Thank you so much for exposing ineptitude, callousness, abuse, and even evil in your many articles, Julie. And thank you for doing your due diligence in providing your readers with recordings, videos, and documentation. I have been reading your articles for a couple of years now, and am so thankful that there is someone like you who is willing to expose the dark underbelly of an institution which should be operating in the love of God, but which sadly fails on so many fronts. May your work lead to addressing and healing many of these issues!

  19. If Franklin were counseling in my church, I would fire him for incompetence. When a person has been attacked physically, and is in danger of being seriously injured or even killed, it is totally inappropriate counsel to ask them to hang in there and try to reconcile.

  20. Reverend Graham has truly fallen far from the tree. His children are worse – entitled & arrogant. I’m curious about his military lodge in Alaska. His daughter stays there during the summer in housing owned by the ministry – seems like his private jet.

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