Several German churches have pledged their support for preacher Franklin Graham ahead of his June preaching appearances, despite calls for him to be de-platformed. An increased level of opposition to Graham's tour arose after a member of the German Bundestag in Cologne, Sven Lehmann, penned an open letter to the venue calling for it "not to stage the hate preacher".
"Graham has repeatedly been against homosexuals," the letter read. "In 2015 he called for a boycott of an LGBTI-friendly company and explained a year later that Homosexuals are 'enemies' of Christians provided that they do not 'regret' their sexual orientation."
Lehmann went on to request that, as a result of Graham's so-called "hatred of homosexuals," the event be "called off".
In response to the letter, several evangelical congregations have come out in support of the prominent evangelist.
According to idea.de, the Evangelical Free Church of Cologne said in a statement that the allegations against Graham were "defamatory".
The church went on to urge that Graham's goal for the tour was simply to invite people to his presentation of the gospel - a transformation message which they said "resists radicalism and racism and works for justice and peace all over the world".
The director of the Bible Seminary in Bonn (Bornheim), Heinrich Derksen, added that Graham was not stirring up hate against gay people and insisted that he “would never call for human rights to be restricted for homosexuals".
In opposition, the Cologne Lesbian and Gay Day (KLUST) argued that Graham has "homosexuality as sin" and deem this as "the breeding ground on which violence against lesbians and gays thrives".
Graham is due to speak at the Cologne Lanxess Arena on June 20.
Speaking to Premier last month, the son of the late Billy Graham reaffirmed his belief that marriage should always be solely "between a man and a woman".
"This is what the Bible teaches and that's what I believe," he said.
In an open letter to the LGBT community posted to his Facebook page in January, Graham stated that he was not seeking to preach "against anybody".
"I’m coming to speak for everybody," he wrote. "The Gospel is inclusive. I'm not coming out of hate, I'm coming out of love."
Announcing the "Festival of Hope" event in Köln (Cologne), The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association said: "Franklin Graham’s father, Billy Graham, launched his first meetings in Germany in 1954, which led to nearly four decades of ministry in Germany and reached more than 3 million people with the message of God’s love.
"Franklin Graham believes, as his father did, that what Germany and the rest of the world needs is spiritual change."
Franklin Graham added: “I’m coming to Germany to share the same powerful message that my father preached here for nearly 40 years.
“My father loved Germany and visited the country 17 times to preach.
"Just like my father, I’m looking forward to sharing with the people of Köln that God loves them and has a purpose for their lives.”