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Photo Credit: Mark Barber
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Mark Barber
UK News

'Victory for freedom of religion': Scottish court rules Franklin Graham and BGEA were discriminated against after venue cancelled booking over LGBT outcry

by Tola Mbakwe

US evangelist Franklin Graham has thanked God after a Scottish Court stood up for freedom of speech and religion in the UK. 

It comes after the court ruled that he and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) were wrongfully discriminated against when the Scottish Event Campus (SEC) cancelled the organisation's contract to hold an evangelistic outreach at the SSE Hydro in 2020.

The exhibition centre cancelled after pressure from LGBT activists who insisted that Graham was homophobic and should not be given a platform in the UK. 

However, a judge ruled that those concerns actually stemmed from having an issue with Graham's Christian beliefs. 

Sheriff John McCormick said in a ruling on Monday: "The concern is expressed that there is the potential for Mr Graham to make homophobic and Islamophobic comments. I found no evidence to that effect." 

He added: "The defender's true problem with the pursuer arises as a result of the religious views of Franklin Graham, which it has sought to categorise by wrenching selected comments made in the past whilst conveniently ignoring contrary comments also made by Franklin Graham."

Sheriff McCormick called this a "thinly veiled exercise in virtue signaling" by the SEC and said the exhibition centre "bowed to public pressure, spurred on and whipped up by political leaders online."
He ruled the SEC violated the Equality Act 2010 when it favoured the opinions of the people who were protesting BGEA's event and silenced those who supported it.

The sheriff wrote in his 280-page opinion: "The law cannot endorse an outcome whereby a mainstream Christian religious gathering cannot be held because some members of the community, however vehemently, disagree with religiously based beliefs to which they take objection.

 "Such objectors in a democratic society undoubtedly have a right to freedom of expression and of assembly to protest against other's religious views. What they do not have is a right to silence them or to stop religious assemblies from being held and from making welcome all who would come and hear the Good News preached by Franklin Graham at the Glasgow SSE Hydro Event."

Sheriff McCormick awarded BGEA damages totalling £97,325. An additional hearing on expenses has been scheduled for 18th January 2023.

In response to the ruling, Franklin Graham, president and CEO of BGEA said: "I am grateful to God for this decision-it is a clear victory for freedom of speech and religion in the UK. 

"This case was never about financial remedies-it was about the preservation of religious freedom in the UK-particularly the right for Christians to share the Gospel in the public square. I want to thank Sheriff John McCormick for upholding the law and affirming that Christians must be treated fairly and equally. 

"This ruling will be a great encouragement for Christians and people of all faiths across the UK and many other parts of the world."

The Glasgow ruling stems from a series of Christian outreach events BGEA planned for 2020. The God Loves You tour was postponed after several venues cancelled their legally-binding contracts with BGEA. 

To date, five of those cases have been resolved in BGEA's favour. Legal disputes with venues in Birmingham and Newcastle still remain. 

The rescheduled God Loves You Tour took place in May and July this year, with stops in Liverpool, South Wales, Sheffield, and London. 

Christians from more than 2,000 churches across the UK partnered with the tour, and nearly 20,000 people attended the events across all four cities.

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