Franklin Graham’s UK tour contiues to be hit as yet more venues pull the plug on the US preacher amid outcry from the LGBT community.
The prominent evangelist, who is set to commence a series of preaching events across the UK in late May, has now been dropped by all but one of the eight venues he was due to speak at.
The only booking still intact - Newcastle’s Utilita Arena on 3rd June - is also looking shaky, with City Council leader Nick Forbes exerting pressure on the venue to strike Graham from its schedule. “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,” he told Pride Radio..
Those opposed to Graham’s visit have argued that he is “anti-gay” because of remarks made by the prominent preacher in relation to homosexuality being classed as “sin” - a position that he solidified in a Facebook post responding to the cancellations last week.
“The rub, I think, comes in whether God defines homosexuality as sin,” Graham wrote. “The answer is yes.”
So far, Glasgow, Sheffield, Milton Keynes, Liverpool, Newport (listed as Cardiff on the "Graham Tour" website), Birmingham and London have all been axed.
Jayne Bryant, Assembly Member for Newport West, insists that Graham has "a long record of preaching hate, prejudice and intolerance” -- a sentiment echoed by many other council officials involved in sabotaging the preacher’s bookings.
The ICC Wales venue told PinkNews that while its policy was “to remain impartial to the individual beliefs of both our clients and visitor,” they had been made aware of “a number of views held and comments made by the Graham organisation” which they deemed “incompatible” with their values of “equality, diversity and inclusivity.”
Last week, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association told Premier that they were unfazed by the negative press. "No matter what the media says, we are confident that the tour is going ahead,” said spokesman Reuben Morley. “We've been speaking to many church leaders on the ground and they are excited for what's to come.”
Speaking to The Scotsman in response to the controversy, Graham himself insisted that his gospel message was “inclusive”.
“I don’t preach hate speech. We’re not coming to speak against anybody, everybody is invited to our meetings,” he urged.
The preacher, known for his support of US President Donald Trump and staunchly conservative policy positions, also hinted at bringing legal action against the venues that have failed to fulfill their contractual obligations.
“Though this venue may be cancelled we have not pulled out of Glasgow – we’re coming. We do have options legally. We’ll certainly pursue those options. We would rather not do that. We don’t like having to do that,” Graham said.
“We would hope that the people of the SSE Hydro would reconsider because we do have a contract and we’ve done nothing or have said nothing that would cause them to breach that contract. We just need to pray that God will intervene and that we’ll be able to move forward.”