An American evangelical preacher has hit back after a venue on his UK tour decided to cancel his show following a string of complaints from the LGBT community.
But the ACC Liverpool conference centre has decided to cancel the 67-year-old’s show after branding his views ‘incompatible’ with their values.
Graham, who is a vocal supporter of Donald Trump and the son of the late evangelist Billy Graham, has previously described gay marriage as a ‘sin’ and has advocated against bids to ban ‘gay conversion therapy’.
Members of the LGBT community in several of the cities he was due to visit petitioned venues and local political leaders to stop him from speaking.
But in an open letter to the ‘UK LGBTQ community’, Graham has said ‘we are all sinners’ and denied he was bringing hate speech to Britain.
He wrote on Facebook yesterday: ‘A letter to the LGBTQ community in the UK –
‘It is said by some that I 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.’
He continued by saying he thinks the ‘rub’ is over ‘whether God defines homosexuality as a sin’.
The preacher continued: ‘The answer is yes. But God goes even further than that, to say that we are all sinners, myself included.
‘The Bible says that every human being is guilty of sin and in need of forgiveness and cleansing.’
He later added: ‘My message to all people is that they can be forgiven and they can have a right relationship with God.’
‘The Gospel is inclusive. I’m not coming out of hate. I’m coming out of love.’
The preacher than invited all members of the community to attend his tour dates.
Graham is currently on a tour of Florida, which has attracted protests from thousands of other Christians.
He also reportedly described Islam an ‘evil and very wicked religion’ during political rallies in the US last year and is a prominent ally of Donald Trump.
Graham was due to visit Liverpool Exhibition Centre on June 12 as part of his tour.
The ACC Liverpool said it had been made aware of a ‘number of statements’ which Graham has made which they ‘consider to be incompatible’ with their ethical values.
A venue spokesman said: ‘The Graham Tour UK event which was originally planned to take place at ACC Liverpool in June 2020 will no longer be going ahead.
‘Over the past few days we have been made aware of a number of statements which we consider to be incompatible with our values.
‘In light of this 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.’
The decision to cancel the show came after a petition was started by the Liverpool Labour LGBT Network.
It read: ‘We are writing for support from our locally elected council representatives in response to the platforming of homophobic hate preacher Franklin Graham on the 12th of June 2020.’
‘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.
‘We ask the council to stand with our community in counter mobilisation, including refusing to host Graham’s roadshow at venues where the local authority has a stake.’
A protest against the preacher’s visit was also held on Saturday in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, where he was also due to speak in June.
Sheffield Mayor Dan Jarvis has criticised the preacher, and said in a statement: ‘Sheffield is a city of sanctuary.
‘We welcome people from all backgrounds, irrespective of race, religion, belief or their sexuality.
‘As a city and as a region, we are proud to stand for equality, diversity, respect and compassion.
‘I believe in free speech and of the right to freedom of expression, within the parameters of the law.
‘But I also believe in people’s rights to disagree with extreme beliefs such as those preached by Franklin Graham. Intolerance cannot be welcomed here in South Yorkshire.’
The Sheffield LGBT community has also taken aim at Graham in a letter to the Sheffield venue, which is run by the Sheffield City Trust.
Representative Heather Paterson, said: ‘Franklin Graham has repeatedly publicly promoted his homophobic beliefs, including but not limited to branding homosexuality a sin.
‘We believe that these statements far exceed freedom of speech and are direct hate speech and incitement to violence against LGBTQ+ communities and individuals, which should not be welcomed in our city or anywhere else.’
There was further uproar in Glasgow when residents heard he is due to speak there this summer.
Kelvin Holdsworth, Provost of Glasgow Cathedral, said on Twitter: ‘Have just heard that Franklin Graham is coming to the SSE Hydro in Glasgow next year. Very surprised to hear that @SSE would want to be associated with him. #homophobia’
Trans Activist Anna Nicholson, said: ‘Apparently anti-LGBT hate-preacher and Trump supporter Franklin Graham is following in his vile father’s footsteps and doing a UK tour this year.’
Peter Nimmo, Church of Scotland Minister in Inverness, fumed: ‘Franklin Graham tour includes Glasgow. I trust Scottish churches give him the cold shoulder, too.’
The evangelical preacher took aim at US presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg for being a self-described gay Christian in April last year.
In tweets, Graham criticised Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and said that the Bible defines homosexuality as ‘something to be repentant of, not something to be flaunted, praised or politicized.’
One tweet said: ‘Mayor Buttigieg says he’s a gay Christian.
‘As a Christian I believe the Bible which defines homosexuality as sin, something to be repentant of, not something to be flaunted, praised or politicized. The Bible says marriage is between a man & a woman – not two men, not two women.’
Representatives of Mr Graham have been contacted for comment.
SOURCE: Daily Mail, Lara Keay