In September 2018, Franklin Graham, 65, the son of famed American evangelist Billy Graham is scheduled to speak at the Lancashire Festival of Hope in Blackpool, England. The event is being sponsored by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) and a number of local churches.
With a population of 150,000, Blackpool is located on the Northwest coast of England.
Shortly after the announcement, some left-leaning MPs began petitioning the government to ban Franklin Graham from attending the rally.
This included Labour MP Afzal Khan who stated in an interview with The Guardian that Franklin Graham’s “views are not welcome.” He along with a couple other MPs including one Cabinet Minister wrote letters to England’s home secretary Amber Rudd asking her to not issue a visa to Graham preventing him from entering the country.
Franklin Graham has publicly opposed Islamic extremism and gay marriage and expressed concerns about immigration. Graham also supported Donald Trump in his campaign for the American presidency and stated that God had a hand in Trump’s victory.
Though Graham’s criticisms are considered free speech in America, critics want his statements declared hate speech in England. This is part of a campaign by those on the left to redefine hate speech to be anything that disagrees with their opinions on issues.
- RELATED: U.K. warns against copying U.S. on free speech: WND
Opponents have even started a petition on Change.org calling on the government to bar Franklin from entering the country. So far only 7,300 people have signed the petition. There is also a petition opposing Franklin speaking at a rally in Vancouver, Canada. That petition has 2,300 signers.
Predictably pastors among Blackpool’s shrinking liberal churches came out against the rally with a couple expressing concerns that it might harm interfaith (Christian/Muslim) unity efforts.
The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association responded to the criticism stating, “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.”
Though there is vocal opposition to the rally, this is not necessarily a bad thing.
It is not the first time Franklin has run into problems internationally. In September 2013, he was speaking at an event in Reykjavik, Iceland sponsored by the BGEA and 41 Icelandic churches.
Because of Graham’s position on gay marriage, gay activists aggressively opposed the evangelistic crusade. Iceland legalized gay marriage in 2010.
Though there was no charge for attending the rally, because of limited seating people were required to book seats in advance (a maximum of four per person). Gay activists took to Facebook and Twitter encouraging people to reserve tickets, thus preventing others from attending. One person boasted he had booked over 500 tickets.
City officials even painted rainbows on the sidewalks around the stadium in the lead up to the rally.
In the end, all the protests did was promote the rally, that ended up with 3,000 people attending services each night. Considering Iceland only has a population of 320,000, this was the equivalent of three million people attending a similar rally in the US.
- RELATED: Graham’s Iceland Festival of Hope Well Attended (icelandreview.com)