“One cannot help but wonder if Mr Graham is the canary in the mine, with his demise being an early warning of the coming death of religious liberty in the UK.”
At least five venues in the United Kingdom have cancelled events featuring Rev Franklin Graham after his Christian beliefs were deemed “discriminatory,” “repulsive” and “hateful”.
Graham, the eldest son of the famous American evangelist Billy Graham, has been met with opposition from UK’s LGBTQ+ activists and authorities since his eight-city tour of the UK was announced.
The 67-year-old evangelist was due to preach at the ACC Liverpool on June 12, however, on January 24, the ACC Liverpool stadium issued a press release saying Graham’s appearance would “no longer be going ahead.”
“Over the past few days, we have been made aware of a number of statements which we consider to be incompatible with our values.
“In light of this we can no longer reconcile the balance between freedom of speech and the divisive impact this event is having in our city. We have informed the organisers of the event that the booking will no longer be fulfilled.
The press release continued, “We are proud to represent all communities and will continue to move forward with our aim as a business to drive profile, major events and economic impact for Liverpool City Region.
Life Site News reported that Graham’s plans to appear at ACC Liverpool stadium were overset after a group called the Liverpool Labour [Party] LGBT Network circulated a petition against his “platforming” and sent it to the Liverpool City Council.
The group objected to Graham’s Christian view of sexuality and claimed his “appearance may incite hateful mobilisation and risk the security of our LGBTQ+ community.” The petition gathered only 500 signatures.
Two days after the cancellation was announced, Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson tweeted, saying: “Our City is a diverse City and proud of our LGBTQ+ community and always will be. We can not allow hatred and intolerance to go unchallenged by anyone including by religious groups or sects. It’s right we have banned from the M&S Arena Franklin Graham. #Love conquers hatred always”
In response, Graham posted a “letter to the LGBTQ community in the UK” on his Facebook page, denying the accusation that his message is one of hate.
Graham’s letter reads:
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, and that Jesus Christ came to this earth to save us from our sins.
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. The Bible says that every human being is guilty of sin and in need of forgiveness and cleansing. The penalty of sin is spiritual death—separation from God for eternity.
That’s why Jesus Christ came. He became sin for us. He didn’t come to condemn the world, He came to save the world by giving His life on the Cross as a sacrifice for our sins. And if we’re willing to accept Him by faith and turn away from our sins, He will forgive us and give us new life—eternal life—in Him.
My message to all people is that they can be forgiven and they can have a right relationship with God. That’s Good News. That is the hope people on every continent around the world are searching for. In the UK as well as in the United States, we have religious freedom and freedom of speech. 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.
I invite everyone in the LGBTQ community to come and hear for yourselves the Gospel messages that I will be bringing from God’s Word, the Bible. You are absolutely welcome.
Meanwhile, LGBTQ+ activists in Sheffield wrote to the city trust, demanding Graham’s visitation to the city be cancelled, saying, he “has repeatedly publicly promoted his homophobic beliefs, including but not limited to branding homosexuality a sin.”
The letter, reportedly signed by 22 representatives of the city’s LGBTQ+ community, went on to say: “We believe that these statements far exceed freedom of speech and are direct hate speech and incitement to violence against LGBTQ+ communities and individuals, which should not be welcomed in our city or anywhere else.”
The Sheffield city council agreed, and promptly axed Graham’s visitation.
Sheffield Council leader, 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 division with his discriminatory and repulsive views, could affect the long-established values that we all hold so dear in Sheffield.”
Glasgow’s Scottish Event Campus (SEC) Hydro was next to ban Graham from preaching after a majority shareholder called for the event to be cancelled.
An SEC spokesperson said: “The booking for this event was processed in the same way we would for any religious concert of this nature and as a business, we remain impartial to the individual beliefs of both our clients and visitors.
“Following a request from our principal shareholder the matter has been considered and a decision made that we should not host this event.”
Scottish National Party councillor, Susan Aiken, told the Glasgow Times: “The reporting of the ways in which Mr Graham expresses his views makes clear that this is not simply about offence or disagreement. Neither is it a debate about free speech.
“How he expresses his views could, I believe, fundamentally breach the council’s statutory equalities duties.”
Dorothy Cummings McLean of Life Site News said the lack of welcome for Franklin Graham, particularly in Glasgow, is in dramatic contrast to the one rolled out for his late father Billy Graham in 1955.
“Billy Graham spent six weeks in Scotland during his historic ‘All-Scotland Crusade,’ reaching over 2.5 million people in stadiums, halls, and even on the streets throughout the country. Approximately 50,000 Scots came forward at his meetings to show that they had newly accepted Christ.”
Birmingham was next to cancel Graham’s appearance, according to a spokesperson from Arena Birmingham. Speaking with Pink News, the representative said: “Following a review of The Graham Tour, Arena Birmingham has made the decision to no longer hold the scheduled event at the venue.”
The ICC Wales venue in Newport also confirmed that it has dropped Graham’s planned event in the city. A spokesperson told Pink News: “As a venue, our policy is to remain impartial to the individual beliefs of both our clients and visitors but, over the past week, we have been made aware of a number of views held and comments made by the Graham organisation which are incompatible with our own values of equality, diversity and inclusivity.
“Opposition to this event has come from numerous sources, and from across the country. As a result of this, we can no longer reconcile the balance between freedom of speech and the divisive impact this event is having in our community. We have informed the organisers of the event that the booking will no longer be fulfilled.”
At the same time, Graham’s event which was to be held at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes was also cancelled out of concerns Graham’s Gospel message would lead to a breach of the peace.
“The Marshall Arena has taken the decision to cancel the event due to be held at the Arena on June 10,” a statement from the arena said. “This decision has been taken due to our concerns that the event may lead to a breach of the peace, which we believe would have a disruptive effect on our staff, our neighbours at Stadium MK and the inclusive Milton Keynes community.”
According to Pink News, of Graham’s original eight planned tour dates, just one currently has a venue in Newcastle’s Utilita Arena. Newcastle Council leader Nick Forbes has called on the arena to cancel the event, saying “I don’t think there’s any room for him in our city… that kind of act does not match the values of our city.”
This is not the first time Graham has experienced opposition in the UK. In 2018, a transit company in England scrapped adverts promoting a Christian festival featuring Graham, after backlash from LGBTQ activists. While over six thousand Britons, including some parliamentarians, signed a petition in an attempt to bar the evangelical preacher from entering the UK.
Josh Williamson, pastor of Newquay Reformed Baptist Church said, “While private businesses have the freedom to determine who they do business with, it is concerning that local government, some within the LGBT community and religious groups are all seeking to silence the preaching of Rev. Graham.
“While there are no doubt many comments which Mr Graham has made which would be disagreeable, we should strive to protect his freedom to say it. At its core, the issue of banning Rev. Graham is religious in nature, with the majority of media reports rightly reflecting the fact that Graham has been banned due to his position on homosexuality.
“The view that Mr Graham has set forth is the historic biblical teaching, namely that homosexuality is sinful and that marriage is only to be between a man and a woman. For these views, which would have been accepted by the majority only a few years ago, Rev. Graham is being run out of town.
Williamson went on to say, “One cannot help but wonder if Mr Graham is the canary in the mine, with his demise being an early warning of the coming death of religious liberty in the UK.”