Major British conference venues have cancelled bookings for Franklin Graham’s gospel events because of opposition to his views on homosexuality, but he says he is coming with a message of love.
Glasgow, Sheffield and Liverpool have all dropped the preacher, with some LGBT groups claiming his mainstream Christian stance on issues like same-sex marriage will prompt violence against gay people.
In response, the son of the late Billy Graham said: “I’m not coming to the UK to speak against anybody, I’m coming to speak for everybody.”
Franklin Graham has planned an eight-venue tour across Britain to speak about the good news of Jesus Christ between May and October.
Graham has stated: “The Bible says marriage is between a man & a woman – not two men, not two women”.
He has also expressed the mainstream Christian view that homosexual sex is sinful and that ‘all have sinned’.
LGBT activists took exception to his comments.
Heather Paterson, from Sheffield, said his statements are “direct hate speech and incitement to violence against LGBTQ+ communities and individuals”.
Paterson added that his “homophobic beliefs” included “branding homosexuality a sin”.
In the UK as well as in the United States, we have religious freedom and freedom of speech.
The Liverpool Labour LGBT Network said Graham’s appearance “may incite hateful mobilisation and risk the security of our LGBTQ+ community”.
The proposed venue in Glasgow said following pressure from its principal shareholder – the City Council – it had cancelled the booking.
The Sheffield Arena venue also faced pressure from the council as it barred the US preacher.
The city’s mayor claimed to “believe in free speech and of the right to freedom of expression” but said that did not extend to Graham.
In Liverpool, the venue said the preacher’s statements were “incompatible with our values”. “In light of this we can no longer reconcile the balance between freedom of speech and the divisive impact this event is having in our city.”
Responding to the backlash, Graham wrote that he was not coming to “bring hateful speech”.
“A letter to the LGBTQ community in the UK—
“It is said by some that I am coming to the UK to bring hateful speech to your community. This is just not true.
“I am coming to share the Gospel, which is the Good News that God loves the people of the UK, and that Jesus Christ came to this earth to save us from our sins.
“The rub, I think, comes in whether God defines homosexuality as sin. The answer is yes. But God goes even further than that, to say that we are all sinners—myself included.
I invite everyone in the LGBTQ community to come and hear for yourselves the Gospel messages
“The Bible says that every human being is guilty of sin and in need of forgiveness and cleansing. The penalty of sin is spiritual death—separation from God for eternity.
“That’s why Jesus Christ came. He became sin for us. He didn’t come to condemn the world, He came to save the world by giving His life on the Cross as a sacrifice for our sins.
“And if we’re willing to accept Him by faith and turn away from our sins, He will forgive us and give us new life—eternal life—in Him.
“My message to all people is that they can be forgiven and they can have a right relationship with God. That’s Good News.
“That is the hope people on every continent around the world are searching for. In the UK as well as in the United States, we have religious freedom and freedom of speech.
“I’m not coming to the UK to speak against anybody, I’m coming to speak for everybody. The Gospel is inclusive. I’m not coming out of hate, I’m coming out of love.
“I invite everyone in the LGBTQ community to come and hear for yourselves the Gospel messages that I will be bringing from God’s Word, the Bible.
“You are absolutely welcome.”