Several LGBT advocacy groups are accusing Rev. Franklin Graham of bigotry in the lead-up to the Christian preacher’s Festival of Hope rally to be held in Lancashire, England, this September.
One gay British Christian activist, Jayne Ozanne, said the upcoming festival will “provide a platform for espousing bigotry and hate in Christ’s name.”
“It seems particularly unfortunate that this is occurring during a time when many of us are trying to build bridges of understanding between groups who hold widely opposing views,” she said.
Another leader of the LGBT community denounced Graham for his views on homosexuality and for “praying” for gays.
“LGBT+ people have been hurt, humiliated, silenced, abused and ‘prayed for’ in the past,” said Tracey Byrne, the chief executive of the gay Christian organization OneBodyOneFaith in an email to the HuffPost.
Graham’s “underlying theology is one which does grave damage to LGBT people, in the name of God,” Byrne said, urging that this theology be “called out in the strongest possible terms.”
Byrne praised a recent decision by the Blackpool Transport company to ban advertisements for Graham’s three-day festival from the sides of its buses, saying it was “absolutely” the right thing to do.
Blackpool Transport had posted ads for the festival on a number of its buses but pulled them all down under pressure from activists who object to Graham’s biblical morality.
“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,” said the company’s managing director, Jane Cole, in a statement.
“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.”
Organizers of the Lancashire Festival of Hope, which will take place at the Winter Gardens Blackpool between September 21 and September 23, 2018, called the company’s decision to remove the bus ads a “travesty” and noted that the sole purpose of the event is to “share the hope of Jesus Christ.”
“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 toward Christians,” organizers said.
The Blackpool Council, which owns the Winter Gardens venue where the festival is taking place, has warned festival organizers that the rally must comply with U.K. laws against inciting hatred.
“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 council said in a statement last year.
In a response on Facebook, Rev. Graham said he was coming to England to preach about “hope for today, hope for tomorrow, and hope for eternity.”
“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,” he said.
“Sex, drugs, money, even religion—none of these are the answer,” he added. “I’m coming to share with everyone in Blackpool, Lancashire, and across North West England that there is One who can give you hope. Hope for today, hope for tomorrow, and hope for eternity.”
“His name is Jesus Christ!” he said.
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