The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) has been awarded £97,325.32 in damages after a Glasgow venue shut down its evangelistic rally.
OVO Hydro, operated by Scottish Event Campus Ltd (SEC), was among five venues that the BGEA took legal action against in 2020 for breach of contract and discrimination under the Equality Act 2010, after its gospel events were cancelled because of Franklin Graham’s mainstream Christian beliefs on marriage and sexuality.
But a Glasgow Sheriff Court has now found that SEC directly discriminated against the BGEA, by treating it “less favourably than it would have treated others because of a protected characteristic, namely, the religious or philosophical beliefs of the [BGEA] and Franklin Graham”.
Sheriff John McCormick stated that the SEC had “acted under pressure” from Glasgow City Council, its principal shareholder, to cancel the event.
During the court hearing, the SEC claimed that it terminated BGEA’s contract because of safety concerns over possible protests, but the Sheriff found that this was not the organisation’s key reason.
Glasgow City Council’s representatives made clear at a board meeting that they disagreed with Graham’s views and asked for the event to be cancelled. SEC did so within 24 hours.
Security concerns were not mentioned in the letter from Glasgow City Council, nor in the termination letter issued to BGEA.
Sheriff McCormick ruled: “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.”
The Sheriff also said: “The Equality Act applies to all, equally. It is an Act designed to protect cornerstone rights and freedoms within a pluralist society.
“It applies to the LGBTQ+ community as it does to those of religion (including Christianity) and none.”
The Institute’s Simon Calvert commented: “You don’t have to agree with evangelicalism to know that banning Christian events over their biblical beliefs on sexual ethics is wrong. It’s also illegal.
“Any venue which cancels bookings by Christian groups over their beliefs can expect to lose in court. This is bad news for cancel culture but good news for the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
The case is one of a series of successful legal actions taken by the BGEA in recent years.
Last year, Blackpool Council was ordered to pay out over £100,000 for discriminating against Christians, after it removed bus adverts for Lancashire Festival of Hope at which Mr Graham was speaking.
In December, in a case backed by The Christian Institute, Scotland’s largest grant-making trust formally apologised to the BGEA for unlawfully discriminating against it, and paid a substantial contribution towards legal costs.
And in November, the BGEA settled legal claims with three other venues that had tried to block its evangelistic rallies. Earlier this year, Billy Graham’s son was able to preach at BGEA’s ‘God Loves You Tour UK’ in venues which had previously cancelled him, including Sheffield Arena and Exhibition Centre Liverpool.