Billy Graham rule

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Graham speaking at a Crusade in Düsseldorf, Germany on June 21, 1954.

The Modesto Manifesto or Billy Graham rule is a code of conduct among male evangelical Protestant leaders, in which they avoid spending time alone with women to whom they are not married. It is adopted as a display of integrity, a means of avoiding sexual temptation, to avoid any appearance of doing something considered morally objectionable, as well as for avoiding accusations of sexual harassment or assault.

In 2017, it began to be also called the Mike Pence rule, after the US vice president, a practicing Evangelical, who also supported the idea.


In 1948, Graham held a series of evangelistic meetings in Modesto, California. Together with Cliff Barrows, Grady Wilson and George Beverly Shea, he resolved to "avoid any situation that would have even the appearance of compromise or suspicion".[1][2]

By Graham's own admission, though, he was not an absolutist in the application of the rule that now bears his name: his autobiography relates a lunch meeting with Hillary Clinton that he initially refused on the grounds that he does not eat alone with women other than his wife, but she persuaded him that they could have a private conversation in a public dining room.[3][4]

In 1979, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association was inspired by the manifesto for the founding of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability.[5]

Vice President Mike Pence with his wife, Karen, in 2017.

In March 2017, The Washington Post noted that former U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, a practicing Evangelical, never eats alone with a woman other than his wife, Karen, and that he will not attend events featuring alcohol without her by his side.[6][7][8] Emma Green, writing for The Atlantic, noted that the controversy was an example of how "notions of gender divide American culture": while "socially liberal or non-religious people may see Pence's practice as misogynistic or bizarre", for "a lot of conservative religious people" the "set-up probably sounds normal, or even wise".[9][10][11][12]

Polish science fiction writer Jacek Dukaj called this rule inevitable and likely to grow in popularity as an outcome of the #MeToo movement and cancel culture.[13]

In the late 2010s, the rule entered the Korean language lexicon via "Pence Rule" (펜스 룰), and is currently featured in a moderated crowd-sourced online dictionary operated by the South Korean government called Urimalsaem.[14]


The rule itself is actually one of four rules that Graham and his associates developed during his time in Modesto: the others involved depending on funds raised prior to a meeting (as opposed to offerings held during meetings), performing the work in conjunction with local churches (as opposed to apart from them), and to provide honest reports (as opposed to exaggerated figures).[15][16][17]


The rule has been criticized for viewing women as potential objects of lust, as well as restricting opportunities for women to network with any male colleagues who happen to implement this rule.[6][18] When applied to workplace dinners or meetings in the United States, it could result in illegal labor discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.[19][20][21] American pastor Tracey Bianchi says that one result is that "women are marginalized and cut out of opportunities to network, share their ideas, and advance in the organization."[22] Bianchi also says that the rule conflicts with the practice of Jesus himself, who spent time alone with the Samaritan woman at the well.[22] American pastor Ty Grigg says that the rule (assuming all American pastors implemented it) has not been "effective at curbing infidelity". He says that the rule "has framed relating with the opposite sex with fear", and that this leads to a diminished mutual respect, which in turn creates "the kind of environment where inappropriate relating is more likely to occur".[23] Others, though, suggest that unfaithful pastors must have failed to implement the rule.[24] In 2017, the manifesto was accused of sexism by Christianity Today editor Katelyn Beaty.[25] Messianic Jewish author Michael L. Brown responded to this criticism by saying there was a misunderstanding about the manifesto.[26] He says that the rule prevents third parties from suspecting that an illicit romantic relationship exists (avoiding the appearance of evil). It also protects against any future accusations should the other party become embittered and seek to attack the innocent boss. Finally, it does protect both parties from developing natural attractions and potentially falling into adultery.

U.S. public opinion[edit]

According to a 2017 poll conducted by the Morning Consult for the New York Times, 53 percent of women and 45 percent of men believe that it would be inappropriate to have dinner alone with someone of the opposite sex who is not their spouse, compared to 35 percent of women and 43 percent of men who would consider it appropriate.[27]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Seth Dowland, The “Modesto Manifesto”,, USA, #111, 2014
  2. ^ Graham, Billy (1999). Just As I Am. HarperOne. pp. 128. ISBN 978-0060633929.
  3. ^ Graham, Billy (1997). Just As I Am : the Autobiography of Billy Graham. Harper Collins. pp. 651. ISBN 9780060633875. OCLC 883482847.
  4. ^ Gayle, J.K. (March 30, 2017). "When Hillary Clinton Persuaded Billy Graham to Break the 'Billy Graham Rule'". BLT – Bible * Literature * Translation.
  5. ^ Yonat Shimron, Billy Graham made sure his integrity was never in question,, USA, February 23, 2018
  6. ^ a b "Twitter Tangles With the Billy Graham Rule". Relevant. March 30, 2017. Retrieved April 2, 2017.
  7. ^ Parker, Ashley (March 28, 2017). "Karen Pence is the vice president's 'prayer warrior,' gut check and shield". The Washington Post. Retrieved April 2, 2017.
  8. ^ Showalter, Brendan (March 30, 2017). "Mike Pence Ridiculed for Practicing 'Billy Graham Rule'". The Christian Post. Retrieved April 2, 2017.
  9. ^ Green, Emma (March 30, 2017). "How Mike Pence's Marriage Became Fodder for the Culture Wars". The Atlantic. Retrieved April 2, 2017.
  10. ^ Bowles, Nellie (November 10, 2017). "Men at Work Wonder if They Overstepped With Women, Too". The New York Times. Retrieved November 10, 2017. Still, some workers said they were starting to follow "the Pence rule," which was formerly known as the Billy Graham rule, after the evangelical preacher, but is now named for Vice President Mike Pence. Mr. Pence has said he does not eat alone with women who are not his wife or attend an event without her if alcohol will be served.
  11. ^ Kurtzleben, Danielle (April 2, 2017). "Beyond The Mike Pence Misogyny Debate, The 3 'Billy Graham Rules' You Haven't Read". Retrieved September 17, 2021.
  12. ^ Sizemore, Vic (2020). Goodbye, My Tribe: An Evangelical Exodus. University of Alabama Press. p. 127. ISBN 978-0-8173-2057-7. In 2017 it was considered newsworthy that Vice President Mike Pence, a conservative white Evangelical, followed the "Billy Graham Rule"--no eating alone with a woman other than his wife, no meeting alone with a woman other than his wife, and no attending events without his wife where there would be both women and alcohol.
  13. ^ "Dukaj: Wyrażam niewiarę w moc sprawczą państwa i człowieka w ogóle". (in Polish). November 30, 2019. Retrieved March 10, 2020.
  14. ^ Nam, Kilim; Lee, Soojin; Jung, Hae-Yun (2020). "The Korean Neologism Investigation Project: Current Status and Key Issues". Dictionaries: Journal of the Dictionary Society of North America. 41 (1): 105–129. doi:10.1353/dic.2020.0007. ISSN 2160-5076. S2CID 219407560.
  15. ^ Graham, Billy (1999). Just As I Am. HarperOne. pp. 128. ISBN 978-0060633929.
  16. ^ Randall Herbert Balmer, Encyclopedia of Evangelicalism: Revised and expanded edition, Baylor University Press, USA, 2004, p. 462
  17. ^ Jon Sharman, What is the Billy Graham rule?,, UK, February 21, 2018
  18. ^ Turner, Laura (March 30, 2017). "The religious reasons Mike Pence won't eat alone with women don't add up". The Washington Post. Retrieved April 2, 2017.
  19. ^ Grossman, Joanna (December 4, 2017). "Vice President Pence's "never dine alone with a woman" rule isn't honorable. It's probably illegal". The Big Idea. Vox. Retrieved December 5, 2017.
  20. ^ Hirshman, Linda (October 30, 2017). "Stop trying to limit the way men and women work together. It's illegal". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved October 7, 2019.
  21. ^ Spiggle, Tom (January 1, 2018). "Following the 'Pence Rule' in the workplace will get you sued". Chattanooga Times Free Press. Retrieved October 7, 2019.
  22. ^ a b Bianchi, Tracey (June 23, 2016). "Ladies Who Lunch—with Men". Christianity Today. Retrieved April 2, 2017.
  23. ^ Grigg, Ty (July 18, 2014). "How I Learned to Stop Worrying About the Billy Graham Rule and Love Like Jesus". Missio Alliance. Retrieved April 2, 2017.
  24. ^ Russell, Bob (2016). After 50 Years of Ministry: 7 Things I'd Do Differently and 7 Things I'd Do the Same. Moody Publishers. p. 84. ISBN 9780802493712. Retrieved April 2, 2017.
  25. ^ Katelyn Beaty, A Christian Case Against the Pence Rule,, USA, November 15, 2017
  26. ^ Brown, Michael (November 20, 2017). "Why the Mike Pence Rule is as Christian as it is Wise". The Stream. Retrieved May 4, 2018.
  27. ^ "It's Not Just Mike Pence. Americans Are Wary of Being Alone With the Opposite Sex". The New York Times. July 1, 2017. Retrieved August 14, 2018.