Liverpool Mayor fails to learn from Blackpool Council’s discrimination against Franklin Graham

Liverpool’s Metro Mayor has demanded the removal of bus adverts for evangelist Franklin Graham’s ‘God Loves You’ event, claiming they would leave passengers feeling “uncomfortable” and “unsafe”.

Labour’s Steve Rotheram branded Billy Graham’s son a “hate preacher” for his biblical views on marriage and sexuality.

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.

‘Hate preacher’

Following the appearance of the Liverpool advertisements, which display the slogan ‘Looking for something more?’, Rotheram wrote to Stagecoach and Arriva insisting they be scrapped.

In his letter, Rotheram said it was “inexcusable” for the companies to promote “the views of a known hate preacher”.

He claimed that the appearance of posters on public transport advertising Mr Graham’s event at the ACC Liverpool on 14 May exposed passengers to “bigotry and bile”.

this opposition is familiar and predictable

He added: “There is no place for discrimination of any form in a civil society – and that should include your buses. I would ask that you remove these advertisements with immediate effect.”

‘Predictable opposition’

In response to the accusations, Mr Graham said: “There is nothing offensive in these adverts. The objection is to Reverend Franklin Graham and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association based on our Christian beliefs.

“Unfortunately, this opposition is familiar and predictable.”

He also described it as “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”.

Unlawful discrimination

In 2018, adverts for Lancashire Festival of Hope were controversially removed from local buses by Blackpool Council over guest speaker Franklin Graham’s preaching and teaching on sexual ethics.

Last year, Manchester County Court ruled “overwhelmingly” in favour of Festival organisers, stating the Council had shown “wholesale disregard for the right to freedom of expression”.

After being ordered by the Court to apologise, the Leader of Blackpool Council admitted the decision to ban the adverts – which displayed the slogan ‘Time for Hope!’ – unlawfully discriminated against Christians.

The judge also said that the Council had misrepresented the reasons for the ban, wrongly characterised Franklin Graham’s belief in marriage between one man and one woman as “extremist”, and had acted in breach of the Equality Act.

Unlawful discrimination

It was one of a series of successful legal actions taken by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) in recent years.

Last 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.

In November 2021, it settled legal claims with three venues that had tried to block its evangelistic rallies.

The venues, including the Exhibition Centre in  Liverpool, tried to pull out of their contracts but subsequently agreed to host the BGEA tour.

Also see:

Franklin Graham attacked by council over biblical views on sexuality

Govt raises free speech concerns over Franklin Graham ‘no-platforming’

Cancelling Franklin Graham ‘antithetical to free speech’, say church leaders

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