US evangelist Rev Franklin Graham has warned that the United Kingdom is becoming increasingly hostile towards the gospel, calling those who resist his message "truthophobic."
Graham's upcoming eight-date UK preaching tour has been left in tatters after LGBTQ activists lobbied the host venues and managed to get every one of Graham's bookings cancelled.
Those who seek to silence Rev Graham are insistent that he preaches hate, citing past remarks on homosexuality and Islam. Graham, however, believes that he is simply preaching the truth and that hostility should be expected.
"Opposition to the Gospel shouldn't really surprise us. Jesus warned that it would come," the preacher wrote on Facebook at the weekend, as the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) tries to find new venues for the tour. "As you may know, my eight-city evangelistic tour across the UK has been met with resistance by LGBTQ activists who inaccurately claim that I am homophobic, Islamophobic, and say that I speak hate.
"Anyone who knows me or has heard me speak knows that this really isn't true - but, I DO preach the TRUTH of the Gospel. Could it be, rather, that these folks are truthophobic or free-speech-ophobic?"
Despite Graham describing the situation as a "headache," BGEA insists that the tour will still go ahead. "We are still finalising where the Graham Tour will be held, but we want to be clear that the initiative and all associated training courses will take place on the same dates as originally planned," the organisation said in a recent statement.
"We are continuing to consider sites for the main event and when we have determined where the meetings will take place, we will post updates. All Christian Life and Witness courses are proceeding as scheduled."
The controversy has sparked a wider debate about the state of free speech in the United Kingdom. Addressing the House of Commons last week, Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg warned that the host venues must not discriminate against Rev Graham on account of his faith.
"No-platforming is a particularly disagreeable modern trend," he said.
"Although venues are allowed to take their own decisions about whether or not to host Franklin Graham during his upcoming visit, they must, like all service providers, be careful not to discriminate unlawfully on grounds of religion and belief.
"The UK has robust protections for freedom of speech and freedom of religion, and the price of living in a free, plural society is tolerating views and beliefs that we disagree with or are even offended by.
"That is fundamentally important. It is a sad truth that many people who tout themselves as being liberal are liberal only about what they like and are very intolerant of the views with which they disagree."
Speaking to Premier Christian News, Graham said he would consider taking legal action against the venues for failing to fulfil their contractual obligations. His intention behind this, he said, was to solidify a legal precedent for those who may find themselves in a similar situation in the future.
He explained: "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.
"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."
A petition fighting back on behalf of Rev Graham and calling for an investigation into his opponents has garnered over 13,000 signatures.