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UK News

New controversy over evangelist Franklin Graham's bus adverts for UK tour

by Alex Collett

US evangelist Franklin Graham has received criticism from the Mayor of Liverpool, after advertisements for his UK tour, were placed on the side of the city's buses.

Steve Rotherham has called for the ads to be removed and called Mr Graham a "known hate preacher" due to his opposition to gay marriage and radical Islam.

The ads feature information about the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association's God Loves You tour which begins on May 14 at the Liverpool Exhibition Centre.

The ads also ask readers if they are "looking for something more."

Speaking to the BBC, Mr Rotherham said: "To say that I'm angry that the views of a known hate preacher, who has an appalling track record of homophobic and Islamophobic views are being displayed anywhere in our city region would be an understatement."

The promotions have been seen on buses in Liverpool belonging to Stagecoach and Arriva lines.

The mayor has written to both companies to get the ads removed.

In 2020, Mr Graham's tour was originally cancelled in controversial circumstances. Despite booking numerous arenas across the UK, every one of them cancelled him after concerns were raised over past comments he'd made about Islam and homosexuality.

After claiming he wasn't going to preach against anyone and instead preach the message of God's love, he took legal action claiming he had been discriminated against.

With those victories, he's now set to hold evangelistic events in Liverpool, South Wales, Sheffield and London and is expecting large amounts of people to come to listen to his message.

The criticism of the bus adverts comes several years after Blackpool Council removed bus adverts for a Franklin Graham's event at the town's Winter Gardens venue following complaints.

After legal action was brought, the Council issued an apology and paid compensation to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

A spokesman for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association said: “It is deeply concerning that certain public officials are attempting to interfere with our contracted advertising in the Liverpool area based on opposition to our religious beliefs.

"The content of our adverts consists of the question “looking for something more?” along with Rev. Franklin Graham’s picture, and information about the God Loves You Tour event taking place at 7:00 PM on 14 May at the Liverpool Exhibition Centre.

"There is nothing offensive in these adverts. The objection is to Rev. Franklin Graham and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association based on our Christian beliefs. Unfortunately, this opposition is familiar and predictable.

 "We certainly respect the rights of others to disagree with us on matters of religious belief. It is disappointing, however, that public officials who are elected to represent their entire community would describe the traditional views of Christians as ‘hate speech’ and actually use their office to discriminate against them and interfere with the expression of their beliefs.

"This is particularly troubling in view of a clear ruling in 2021 stemming from very similar circumstances in Blackpool. The bus adverts for Rev. Graham’s evangelistic event in Blackpool were confirmed by the court to be inoffensive and the judge observed that the approach taken by the Blackpool Borough Council was ‘the antithesis of how a public authority should behave in a democratic society.’

"What’s more—the judge ruled that Christians who hold traditional Biblical views, including Rev. Graham and the organizers of the evangelistic outreach, are not extremists and must be treated fairly. Our hope and expectation is that public officials would take note of this case and execute their public duties reasonably and impartially and welcome people of all religious beliefs. 

"Despite efforts to mischaracterise Rev. Graham as a ‘hate preacher’ he has made it clear that he is coming to the UK with one purpose—to share a message of God’s love for all people. This is why the tour has been named the God Loves You Tour. We welcome everyone to come hear this message of Good News.”

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