Three forthcoming events by US evangelist Franklin Graham have been cancelled in the past week due to increased pressure from the LGBT lobby who are calling for his silencing.
LGBT campaigners have called into question his teaching on marriage and sexuality, which follows the Biblical teaching that sex is reserved for marriage between one man and one woman.
Hounded out by the LBGT mob
Christian evangelist Franklin Graham, the eldest son of the late Billy Graham, was due to speak in eight venues across the UK in May and June, including Glasgow, Newcastle, Milton Keynes, Sheffield, Liverpool, Cardiff, Birmingham and London.
However, after a letter was sent to Sheffield City Trust earlier in January, petitions were launched elsewhere in the country calling for the events to be cancelled, calling his Biblical teaching ‘hateful’ and ‘homophobic’.
The ACC Liverpool conference centre was the first to cancel the event on 28 January, branding Graham’s views ‘incompatible’ with their values. Just one day later, both Sheffield and Glasgow also swiftly axed the events.
Pressure from the LGBT lobby in London has also been mounting, after 8,500 people signed a petition calling on the O2 Arena to refuse to host the US evangelist. However, on Tuesday 29 January, a spokesperson for the O2 said that no deal was ever made and the event would not be hosted on the premises. It remains unclear where a London event will be held, if it is held at all.
Nonetheless, LGBT activists remain intent on silencing the US preacher, with LGBT news outlet Pink News stating in a headline of 29 January, “Two more UK arenas cancel ‘repulsive’ hate preacher Franklin Graham’s events. Only four to go.”*
Not allowed to disagree with LGBT ideology
The initial letter of protest sent to the Sheffield City Trust on 16 January was signed by 22 representatives of the city’s LGBT community. It claims that Graham’s faithful Biblical teaching on marriage and sexuality is “direct hate speech and incitement to violence against LGBT+ communities and individuals.”
Campaigners in Liverpool cited the same reasoning in its petition to oust Graham, arguing that he promotes ‘hate speech’ and ‘supports conversion therapy’. The Liverpool City Region Pride Foundation wrote to the ACC’s chief executive, the city’s mayor and the city council, asserting that: “We are sure that you share our stance that these types of dangerous views are not welcome in, or representative of, our great city.”
Similarly, a petition launched in Glasgow called on the event at the Hydro on 30 May to be scrapped following the “recent adverse publicity”.
The lie about ‘diversity’
On top of claims that venues are worried about an ‘incitement to violence’, all venues have also ironically cited concerns over ‘diversity’ and ‘tolerance’ as their supposed reason for cancelling the events. Leader of the Sheffield City Council, Julie Dore, said:
“All my life I have worked hard to fight discrimination and have worked with communities, especially in my time as leader, to make sure we have an inclusive, tolerant and cohesive city that embraces diversity.
“Franklin Graham, who has demonstrated his intent on creating divisions with his discriminatory and repulsive views, could affect the long-established values that we all hold so dear in Sheffield.”
Similarly, Glasgow council leader Susan Aitken told the Glasgow Times that she thought “it would not be appropriate” for the event to go ahead: “How he expresses his views could, I believe, fundamentally breach the council’s statutory equalities duty.”
This is not the first time that venues have cancelled Christian events citing ‘diversity policy’ as their reasoning. In 2012, a conference on marriage hosted by Christian Concern was cancelled by the Queen Elizabeth II (QEII) Conference Centre just hours before the event was due to take place when the chief executive of the QEII claimed the conference ‘breached its diversity policies’. The case was settled nearly three years later.
The church endorses censorship
David Grey, chairman of the Sheffield City Trust, initially claimed to support the “right to free speech and freedom of expression whilst promoting equality and freedom from hatred and abuse.” He claimed to have met with faith groups in the city and taken advice from South Yorkshire Police. “If individuals or groups aren’t breaking the law then their right to speak freely should be respected,” he said.
However, leaders within the church have been quick to support the decision to censor Graham and cancel his events. Bishop of Sheffield, Pete Wilcox, said: “Mr Graham’s rhetoric is repeatedly and unnecessarily inflammatory and in my opinion represents a risk to the social cohesion of our city.”
Rev. Bryan Kerr, a Lanark-based Church of Scotland minister was the one to launch a petition to Glasgow’s Scottish Event Campus, calling them to cancel the event. He cited the Bishop’s statement as his reasoning: “The same is true for Glasgow and Scotland as a whole.”
Discriminated against for religious beliefs
Responding to the first petition launched in Sheffield, Graham wrote a letter addressed to the LGBT community on Facebook:
“It is said by some that I am coming to the UK to bring hateful speech to your community. This is just not true. I am coming to share the Gospel, which is the Good News that God loves the people of the UK.
“… The rub, I think, comes in whether God defines homosexuality as sin. The answer is yes. But God goes even further than that, to say that we are all sinners—myself included.
“… I’m not coming to the UK to speak against anybody, I’m coming to speak for everybody. The Gospel is inclusive. I’m not coming out of hate, I’m coming out of love.”
Speaking to Newsweek, he continued to speak out against the censorship that he is now facing:
“We feel that we are being discriminated against because of our religious beliefs. Cancelling venue contracts based on the demands of one very vocal group, without consideration for the views and rights of the Christians who contracted for the venue, including the views of thousands of other Christians who support it and who would be negatively impacted, does far more to harm and divide society than simply letting the events go on as planned.
“It is wrong for venue managers and local officials to make a decision that disadvantages Christians.
“It should be noted that Christians are protected under the Equality Act of 2010 and the Human Rights Act 1998 against unlawful discrimination and have the right to freely exercise and manifest our religious beliefs. It is our hope that venues will allow contracts to remain unchanged.”
It is understood that Graham may now be taking legal action against the venues.
True love rejoices with the truth
Andrea Williams, chief executive of Christian Concern commented:
“Franklin Graham’s tour of the UK was only ever about one thing: preaching the gospel. The gospel is the good news that God sent his Son, Jesus to save the world. It’s good news for everyone – people from every country, with every possible background and every possible history. Jesus died, rose and is Lord of all.
“At a time of division in our country, we should welcome someone who comes to proclaim a message of such hope. Instead, LGBT campaigners are shutting him down, falsely claiming that he preaches hate so that venues cancel his bookings. Churches caving in to the pressure does not help the gospel.
“True love ‘does not rejoice at wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth’ (1 Cor 13:6). It doesn’t leave people where they are but gives them what they need. And all of us need the saving grace of God more than anything else – which is what we find in the gospel.
“Have we really got to a place in the life of the church in this nation where we are allowing this to happen?”
*Update 04/02/2020: since this article was published, all venues other than the Utilita Arena in Newcastle have now cancelled the events. However, the Newcastle venue is reportedly considering cancellation as well.