Editor’s note: Since ChurchLeaders first reported on this story, ACC Liverpool has become the first of seven venues to either cancel or refuse to sign contracts ahead of the upcoming Franklin Graham tour in the U.K. According to Christian Headlines, the Utilita Arena in Newcastle is the only venue that has not yet cancelled Graham’s event due to pressure from LGBTQ activists. The Chronicle Live reports that a spokesperson for the Utilita Arena has said, “We are aware of the concerns raised regarding the Franklin Graham event scheduled at the Utilita Arena in June. We are currently talking with our partners and relevant stakeholders in order to come to a measured and fair conclusion.”
Despite the backlash, Graham and his team are determined to move forward with the tour, observing that Graham’s father, Billy Graham, also faced opposition in the U.K. when he first visited in 1954. Franklin Graham is currently in London giving media interviews in order to promote the tour.
A venue has canceled an event that is part of an upcoming Franklin Graham tour in the U.K., citing “a number of statements which we consider to be incompatible with our values.” Saying they have recently become aware of some of Graham’s opinions, ACC Liverpool posted a statement on January 24, announcing,
We can no longer reconcile the balance between freedom of speech and the divisive impact this event is having in our city. We have informed the organisers of the event that the booking will no longer be fulfilled. We are proud to represent all communities and will continue to move forward with our aim as a business to drive profile, major events and economic impact for Liverpool City Region.
Resistance to the Franklin Graham Tour in the U.K.
Graham was scheduled to speak at ACC Liverpool on June 12 as part of a tour he is doing on behalf of the the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA), of which Graham is the president and CEO. The tour will take place from the end of May to the beginning of October, and in addition to Liverpool, he will be stopping in the following cities: Glasgow, Newcastle, Sheffield, Milton Keynes, Cardiff, Birmingham, and London.
The BGEA has posted an article addressing the antagonism Graham is facing across the pond, saying that what he specifically will be doing is “holding one-day evangelistic rallies to share a message of God’s love.”
The primary reason why some people do not want Graham to come to their cities is because of comments he has made about homosexuality being a sin. On January 24, the LCR Pride Foundation sent a letter to ACC Liverpool and city leaders, requesting that they oppose and cancel the event. The letter states that Graham has been outspoken about “promoting hate of LGBT+ people as more important than education and openly supporting conversion therapy and the vicious attacks on our community in Russia amongst many other poisonous views.”
Hate is not welcome in our city, not on our streets or in our world-class venues.
— LCR Pride Foundation (@LCRPride) January 24, 2020
The Labour Party LGBT+ Network tweeted a petition for people to sign protesting Graham’s event, stating, “We fear that with such a high profile event gaining traction, Graham’s appearance may incite hateful mobilisation and risk the security of our LGBTQ+ community.”
Petition by our Liverpool Branch members who are asking for support from their locally elected council representatives in response to the platforming of homophobic hate preacher Franklin Graham at the M&S Arena on the 12th of June 2020https://t.co/Xo1VXB80sK
— Labour Party LGBT+ Network (@LPLGBTNetwork) January 24, 2020
Among the various comments Graham’s opponents are citing as hate speech are that he has called Islam “an evil and very wicked religion” and has said that Satan is behind same-sex marriage.
According to the Liverpool Echo, ACC Liverpool’s original response was to say that because of freedom of speech, the venue was not going to cancel Graham’s event: “We do not discriminate against any individuals or organisations who wish to hire our venue based on their religious beliefs.” However, venue organizers soon changed their minds.
Thank you @ACCLiverpool for listening to us and understanding that hate and division is not, and will never be welcome in Liverpool
— Labour Party LGBT+ Network (@LPLGBTNetwork) January 26, 2020
Franklin Graham has responded on Facebook by posting an open letter to the U.K.’s LGBTQ community, saying, “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.”