A Scottish court has fast-tracked a legal case lodged by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) in relation to the recent cancellation of an event set to feature Christian preacher and evangelist, Franklin Graham. Glasgow's Scottish Event Campus terminated its booking contract with BGEA after pressure from LGBT activists who insisted that Graham was homophobic and should not be given a platform in the UK.
Since the court ordered an expedited treatment of the case, the SEC is legally-bound to explain the reasons for why it cancelled the contract. The venue has seven days to provide an answer to the court, or else face more serious action.
“I want to encourage the Scottish Event Campus to meet with us and discuss options for a way forward. Let’s work toward a resolution,” said Rev. Franklin Graham in response to the news. “This is ultimately about whether the Scottish Event Campus will discriminate against the religious beliefs of Christians. More than 330 churches in the Glasgow area alone support this evangelistic outreach and their voices are being silenced. This case has wide-reaching ramifications for religious freedom and democracy in the UK and Europe.”
Since activists started highlighting his previous remarks in relation to homosexuality and Islam, all eight venues Graham was due to speak at in the spring have pulled his bookings. Still, despite Graham himself describing the setbacks as a "headache," BGEA insists that the preaching tour is still enjoying wide-ranging support from the UK church, with some 2,000 congregations of various denominations now collaborating with the efforts.
"We've certainly talked to other venues and many of them have indicated it wouldn't be an issue with them," Rev Graham noted in a recent interview with Premier. "Some of the venues that we will probably book will be actually larger venues than we had previously. Give it a few more weeks and we should be in a position to name those venues."
This is not the first time that Franklin Graham - a prominent evangelical figure in the United States - has courted controversy while attempting to minister in the UK. Ahead of a scheduled appearance in Blackpool for his "Festival of Hope" event two years ago, organisers attempted to buy advertising space on the side of local buses. Despite the text simply reading "Time for Hope," the ads were summarily pulled after pressure from LGBT activists.
In a statement at the time, Jane Cole, Managing Director at Blackpool Transport explained: "The removal of these adverts is as a result of us listening and acting on customer and public feedback which we aim to do at all times.
"Blackpool Transport is a proud ongoing supporter of the Pride and LGBT+ communities and in no way did we intend to cause any distress or upset."
Now, a legal case regarding that decision is headed to Manchester County Court, with a three-day hearing commencing on 30th March.