Franklin Graham is yet again facing opposition to his plans to minister in the United Kingdom this year. So far, eight venues (seven of which had a contractual agreement with Graham’s ministry) have dropped the American evangelist. Graham’s critics include an LGBTQ group, opponents of President Trump, and even other Christian ministers. However, Graham maintains he is not crossing the pond to spread any kind of hate speech or political agenda. Rather, he simply seeks to spread the good news of Christ. Graham even compares the push back he’s receiving to the opposition his father, Billy Graham, faced in 1954 when he came to the UK.
“This is something that we’ve never run into in any other place in the world,” Graham said in an interview with the BBC. Graham calls the venue cancellations a “freedom of speech issue.”
Despite the opposition, though, Graham is determined to press forward with the tour. Speaking to Religion News Service, Graham goes so far as to say the negative press is helping him. “We’ve seen a real rally of churches behind this event because of this negative publicity,” Graham said. “I think it’s helping. We have strong support from churches. We will go forward. I believe God has even a better plan.” Speaking to the BBC, Graham reiterated that there are “over like 1800 churches supporting us.”
BBC Reporter Asks Graham About His Controversial Views
Edward Stourton of BBC Radio asked Graham about a handful of issues for which his critics in the United Kingdom fault him. The first issue was a statement Graham made 20 years ago calling Islam “evil.” Graham explained he made the comment after 9/11 and hasn’t “said it since.” He attempted to clarify his position on Muslims by saying: “I respect them, but I believe that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life.”
Stourton pushed back on Graham’s comments, saying “Lots of people believe that without saying Islam is evil. Can you see why that is such an inflammatory thing?”
There are “millions and millions of Muslims who are wonderful people,” Graham tells Stourton, and he distinguishes those people from radical Islam. However, given the chance to apologize for his remarks from 20 years ago, Graham doesn’t take the opportunity.
Next, Stourton brought up Graham’s stance on homosexuality. Graham has been criticized for saying that same-sex marriage is the work Satan and also denouncing democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg for being gay. Graham told Stourton he won’t be addressing Islam or “gay, lesbian issues” in his crusade and that everyone is welcome to attend the events he has planned.
Additionally, Graham made a point to say he wouldn’t be talking about Donald Trump, either. Stourton, bringing up Franklin’s father, Billy, asked Graham if he didn’t worry about being closely associated with Trump, who is a “pretty partisan figure”, in light of the fact that Billy Graham so famously served as a spiritual advisor to presidents of “both stripes.”
“I don’t think I’m as closely associated as most people think,” Graham stated. “I see him maybe once or twice a year. I prayed at his inauguration, along with eight other ministers.”
Continuing, he said “He’s my president and I’m going to do all that I can to help him succeed. And when the next president comes along, I’ll do whatever I can to help him succeed.” Graham also defended the U.S. President, positing that Trump has helped the cause of Christianity by standing up for religious issues. “More than any president has done that in my lifetime,” he emphasized.
Conservative MPs Defend Graham’s Crusade
On his Facebook account, Graham posted a video clip of two conservative members of Parliament, Fiona Bruce and Jacob Rees-Mogg, defending the evangelist’s right to book venues and hold his crusade in the UK.
Graham originally planned to bring the “Graham Tour” to eight cities in the UK starting in late May. Graham will have to find new venues to host the events, and has indicated he will be filing lawsuits against seven of the eight venues that cancelled their agreements with him.