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Festival of Hope bus ads banner.png
OmarKuddus/Twitter
Festival of Hope bus ads.png
OmarKuddus/Twitter
UK News

Manchester court to hear case of banned bus adverts for Franklin Graham's last UK event

by Marcus Jones

While Franklin Graham attempts to get his UK tour back on track, a date has been set to settle a legal dispute from his last visit to the country.

Back in 2018, the US evangelist visited Blackpool for the Festival of Hope.

Thousands listened to him preach in the Winter Gardens theatre while hundreds made commitments to follow Christ over the 3 day gathering.

The event, like this summer's tour, was met with opposition; a number of MPs called for him to be denied entry to the country while LGBT protesters petitioned against him.

Just months before the event, organisers attempted to buy advertising space on buses in Blackpool.

Despite the ads simply stating 'Time for Hope', they were refused over concerns that Graham would incite hatred upon his visit.

The concern was linked to past comments he'd made about Islam and homosexuality.

In a statement at the time, Jane Cole, Managing Director at Blackpool Transport said: "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."

Almost two years on, Premier has learnt the situation is headed to Manchester County Court.

Organisers of the Festival of Hope are taking action based around equality and human rights laws.

A three day hearing is due to begin on 30th March where two local church leaders will give evidence.

One judge will consider the verdict which could set a precedent and possibly affect Graham's 2020 tour.

Franklin, the son of legendary evangelist Billy Graham, is due to visit eight UK cities this summer but all eight venues have cancelled his booking citing the potential division that his appearance would cause.

Speaking to Premier last week, Graham suggested the cancellations wouldn't be a problem, and the tour will be going ahead.

"There are other venues," he said. "It's a little bit of a headache. We've certainly talked to other venues and many of them have indicated it wouldn't be an issue with them. 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."

Graham also stated that he's considering legal action against those who cancelled his bookings.

"We did have a contract signed with these venues and they have breached that contract. I haven't broken any laws and I'm not guilty of anything. We just have to look at what our options are but even though we can assign other venues, which we will do, I'm thinking of the church in the future."

"This is a religious freedom issue and it's also a free speech issue. It doesn't just affect me. There are churches that meet in public arenas for Sunday services; schools and so forth. If a small group of people can force a cancellation of an event where thousands of Christians are participating, I think there is no question about the danger in the future to others."

Franklin Graham is not expected in Manchester next month for the bus adverts hearing where the Festival of Hope team will be represented by Aidan O'Neill who successfully defended Ashers Bakery in the Supreme Court case on the right to refuse to make a cake celebrating same sex marriage.

Premier has spoken with the Festival of Hope team who say no comment will be made until after the hearing.

Premier has contacted Blackpool Transport, who refused the bus adverts, and is waiting for a response.

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