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Freedom of speech

Franklin Graham’s Festival of Hope ads banned in UK local buses

Blackpool Transport removed promotions for the event, after social media pressure from LGBT groups. “I am not coming to preach hate, I’m here to preach about Jesus”, Graham said.

SOURCES Premier AUTHOR Evangelical Focus BLACKPOOL (UK) 18 JULY 2018 09:11 h GMT+1
Blackpool Transport has banned Festival of Hope ads. / Blackpool Gazette

Franklin Graham's Lancashire Festival of Hope will take place at the Winter Gardens Blackpool on September 21-23.

The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) “is working in partnership with local churches to hold this event in Blackpool”.

“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”, the organisers pointed out.



However, many people have signed an online petition calling on the government to ban Graham's entry to the UK, arguing he has homophobic and Islamophobic views and is “likely to promote prejudice and hatred”.

A number of MPs have also raised concern about his visit. Speaking to local television BBC Lancashire, Labour MP Gordon Marsden said some of his previous comments were “incompatible with what Jesus said in the Bible”.


The Festival of Hope will take place at the Winter Gardens Blackpool on September 21-23. / Wikimedia Commons.



In January, Councillor Maria Kirkland said the Town Council had “explored very carefully the concerns raised about the Festival of Hope, forwarding them to the Home Office, which would be the one to decide whether his conduct contravenes UK law”.

The Council confirmed they “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”, she added.



As a result of all this, Blackpool Transport, which oversees the local buses, has decided to remove promotions for the event, which were placed on the side of the town's buses.

“The removal of these adverts is as a result of us listening and acting on customer and public feedback which we aim to do at all times. We will reimburse any income back to the advertising company”, explained Jane Cole, Managing Director at Blackpool Transport .

Blackpool Transport is “a proud ongoing supporter of the Pride and LGBT communities and in no way did we intend to cause any distress or upset. All buses carrying the advert will remain off the road until they have been removed”, she said.



Church leaders in Blackpool wrote a letter stating that “because the Christian community is also a customer, we hope Blackpool Transport will listen to our public feedback as well, and not show what appears to be a potential bias against Christians”.

“While we pursue a fair and open dialogue with Blackpool Transport, we urge all supporters of the Festival to refrain from contacting Blackpool Transport directly, or engaging in comment via social media, about this matter”, they said.


Franklin Graham.



“I'm sorry that some see hope as offensive, but I can assure you that tens of thousands of people in Blackpool and across the United Kingdom are searching for hope”, Graham wrote on Facebook and Twitter.

He urged his followers to “pray with me for this event in September and for God to work in a mighty way to transform hearts and lives across that region”.

Graham also responded to the controversy in an interview with British faith news outlet Premier earlier this year .

“I'm not coming to preach hate, I'm here to preach about a Saviour, Jesus Christ who can make a difference in our lives if we put our faith and trust in Him […] We're not here to preach against anyone, we're here to talk about God”, Graham declared.



The American preacher recalled that his father was rejected in the UK too: “They tried to stop him coming. He was due off a boat into Southampton and there were petitions to stop him coming, and members of parliament speaking against him”.

Even Jesus himself offended many people, and the gospel still offends people today”, he added.




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Opinions expressed are those of their respective contributors and do not necessarily represent the views of Evangelical Focus.