Despite the fact that almost 7,500 people have signed a petition calling for Graham to be barred from entering the UK, he will be in the country in September to lead a ‘Festival of Hope’ evangelical extravaganza in the northern seaside resort of Blackpool.
But, according to this report, he has been warned by local councillors that his little shindig will be cancelled if it is found to incite hatred.
The petition says:
Unlike his father, Billy Graham, Franklin Graham engages in outspoken bigotry targeting refugees, Muslims and LGBT people. His father promoted unity and respect in communities but Franklin Graham’s extreme views promote prejudice and division.
Councillor Maria Kirkland, said:
We shall make the Billy Graham Evangelistic organisation aware that the booking conditions include (explicit or implicit) acknowledgement of compliance with all UK law … the organisers will be invited to attend the Safety Advisory Group at which Lancashire Police will be consulted in relation to any potential Public Disorder at the Event.
If matters are brought to our attention that could constitute incitement to hatred, we will forward these to the relevant public authorities and should this be proved we will not hesitate to terminate this booking.
The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, of which Franklin Graham is the CEO, is joining Lancashire churches in holding the event at the Blackpool Winter Gardens between Friday 21 and Sunday 23 September.
Blackpool Council said concerns raised about the event have been “explored very carefully” and the authority’s opposition to discrimination is “robust and clear”.
The authority also said it was forwarding concerns about Franklin Graham to the Home Office, which would be in the position to decide whether his conduct contravenes UK law.
Explaining the council’s current plan to honour the venue booking, Maria Kirkland added:
We will have a contractual obligation to The Billy Graham Evangelistic organisation over their booking at the Winter Gardens. Furthermore, we equally accept the crucial democratic principles of free speech and associated rights of religious expression under the Human Rights Act.
The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association said last month:
It will be a positive and encouraging event with music and also a message from Franklin Graham about the hope that can be found through a relationship with Jesus Christ. It will be free and everyone is invited to attend.
In response to the council’s comments, Tell MAMA – a charity which monitors anti-Muslim incidents in the UK – said:
Given the previous statements that we highlighted in detail last year, we are concerned about the visit to the UK and the impacts on the social cohesion of our country.We believe that given the previous statements made by Graham, there will be significant opposition to him attending and speaking in the UK.
Tell Mama reported last month (December) the petition was launched by Nina Parker, a pastor at the inclusive Liberty Church in Blackpool who told the Guardian that she was “horrified” that churches would invite a man with “this record of hate speech”. Back in June, she told the Blackpool Gazette:
This is not what we stand for in Blackpool. We don’t need somebody preaching hate.