THE Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) is suing venues in Manchester, Birmingham, Sheffield and Wales for breach of contract after they cancelled events due to be led by Franklin Graham, above.
The venues felt that the preacher was likely to use them to further his anti-gay and Islamophobic agenda.
News of the planned lawsuits was carried by The Guardian, which also pointed out that the BGEA spent $20m (£15m) in Europe between 2007 and 2014 to promote its loathsome conservative Christian views.
Referring to an openDemocracy report, The Guardian revealed that the BGEA was one of a number of American evangelical groups who have poured “dark money” into countries around the word to restrict abortion, LGBT rights and adoption by same-sex couples.
An openDemocracy probe says that 28 right-wing Christian organisations have spent at least $270m worldwide, often on legal interventions
At least $88m has been spent in Europe, more than anywhere else outside the US. For example, court briefs have been drawn up in support of the Polish government’s draconian abortion restrictions, including a landmark ruling last week outlawing abortion in the case of foetal abnormality.
Franklin Graham, the repugnant President of the BGEA and a staunch Trump ally – had planned an eight-city tour of the UK in May and June this year. But after protests from LGBT-rights campaigners the venues cancelled his bookings, saying statements Graham had made in the past were incompatible with their values.
OpenDemocracy pointed out that it was not just gay rights activists that put pressure on the venues to cancel Graham’s events
Evangelicals from across the UK also wrote an open letter saying: “At this time when the political polarisation in the UK is intense … we fear that [Franklin Graham’s] activities in the UK will widen divides in churches and communities.”
In March, following the cancellations, Graham said:
As Americans, we should be concerned about the rise of secularism and the potential suppression of religious freedom and freedom of speech in the UK.
The 67-year-old preacher has said that gay people are “the enemy” and responsible for a “moral implosion”, and that Islam is “an evil and very wicked religion”.
In a letter to supporters last week, ahead of the US election, Graham said:
Religious liberty, freedom of speech, the definition of family and gender, and the protection of the unborn are up for grabs with this election cycle. These are key moral issues that are directed by God Himself and are not up to the court of human opinion. Let’s take a stand for God’s truth and vote according to the scriptures.
After eight venues tore up BGEA’s contracts, the outfit said in statement:
BGEA’s position remains that in nearly 70 years of public evangelistic outreach ministry, there is no evidence whatsoever that any BGEA event involving Franklin Graham has ever caused a danger to public safety or incited public disorder.
The actions taken by these venues and those responsible for them to publicly repudiate these contracts are clear efforts to distance the decision-makers from BGEA, Franklin Graham and other Christians who hold similar beliefs.
There is no question that this was done under pressure from those with opposing views who have demonstrated a relatively predictable pattern of harassment and bullying of those doing business with BGEA.
Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell told openDemocracy:
US evangelicals, funded by secret donors, are exporting homophobia around the world … When they say they are defending religious freedom, what they are really defending is the right of religious people to discriminate against LGBTs.
According to openDemocracy, another Christian right organisation, the Alliance Defending Freedom, has intervened in at least half a dozen cases at European courts. They include a case involving the Christian owners of a Belfast bakery who refused to make a cake promoting same-sex marriage, citing their religious beliefs.