Court rebukes English city for banning Christian ad
Religious Liberty | U.K. judge sides with Franklin Graham-led event organizers
by Steve West
Posted 4/06/21, 11:34 am
A U.K. court on Thursday sided with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, finding an English city unlawfully discriminated against festival organizers in 2018 when the town council and local bus company pulled festival ads from city buses.
Lancashire Festival of Hope organizers contracted with the city of Blackpool’s transit company to run an ad for one of several Franklin Graham-led rallies throughout England and Scotland in 2018. The advertisements read “Lancashire Festival of Hope with Franklin Graham—Time for Hope” and gave the date and venue of the Festival and a URL.
Following the announcement of the event, town council members received a barrage of vitriolic emails from LGBT individuals and others. Most were focused on Franklin Graham’s support for a historic and Biblical view of marriage and sexuality, casting him as a hateful, homophobic, “bile spewing preacher.”
In the ruling, Judge Claire Evans rejected city council claims that removing the ads was justified in order to avoid causing offense and prevent vandalism of city buses. “Should a hotelier be able to refuse a double room to a same-sex couple not because he objects to their sexual orientation but because all of the other guests in his hotel object to it and find it offensive?” Evans wrote, concluding adopting such a view would “give free rein to discrimination.”
Evans also disagreed a religious belief that marriage is limited to one man and one woman is extreme, noting many religions hold such beliefs: “They may be offensive to some people, but they cannot properly be characterised as ‘extremist.’”
She criticized the town council for giving preference to the rights and opinions of one part of the community without regard for the rights of event organizers or those who shared their beliefs.
“This ruling confirms that all Christians in the U.K. have the right to share their beliefs in the public square without being discriminated against or interfered with by public officials and other groups that want to silence them,” said James Barrett, chairman of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association UK’s board of directors.
Festival organizers ran into similar opposition in early 2020, as many venues reneged on contracts to host other events with Graham. COVID-19 lockdowns left matters unresolved. A ministry spokesperson said the tour has been postponed.
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Steve is a legal correspondent for WORLD. He is a graduate of World Journalism Institute, Wake Forest University School of Law, and N.C. State University. He worked for 34 years as a federal prosecutor and is now an attorney in private practice. Steve resides with his wife in Raleigh, N.C. Follow him on Twitter @slntplanet.