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'I'm Not Coming to Preach Hate': Franklin Graham Responds to UK Festival Backlash

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Franklin Graham is fighting back against those who are trying to ban him from coming to the UK to preach the gospel.

Graham is scheduled to speak at the Lancashire Festival of Hope in Blackpool this September, but thousands of people are petitioning against him, calling him a "hate speech preacher." The petition argues that Graham's criticism of Islam, support for Biblical marriage, and endorsement of U.S. President Donald Trump is grounds to forbid him from speaking in that country. Even parliament members, including Labor MP Gordon Marsden, told the BBC that Graham's beliefs on these matters are "incompatible with what Jesus said in the Bible".

Despite the backlash, Graham told Premier he is coming to the UK to do one thing: share the gospel.

"I'm not coming to preach hate, I'm here to preach about a savior - Jesus Christ who can make a difference in our lives if we put our faith and trust in him," said Graham. "I don't think I've been to any country where everybody was supportive - there's always churches or groups who don't like my theology or that we associate with this group or that group."

Graham extended an invitation to his critics.

"I'm not coming to speak against anyone; I'm not there to speak against Islam or against gays," he said. "I want to invite the Muslims to come, I want Christians to come, I want the gays to come and to listen what God has to say. It's an open invitation."

While Graham said he respects those who disagree with his views, he argued that even Jesus said offensive statements.

"He offended many people and still offends people today when he says 'I am the way, and I am the truth, and I am the light and there's no man comes to the Father but by me,'" he said.

UK church leaders invited Graham to speak because they say the country needs the gospel now more than ever. 

"There is a strong Christian heritage in our country but in recent years there has been a move towards secular liberalism as well," Rev. Steve Haskett, pastor of Blackpool St. John's Church, told CBN News. "There's never been a greater need for the life-changing news that Jesus Christ can bring healing and restoration. Something significant needs to happen to change the hearts of the people in this area."

According to a recent British Social Attitudes survey, more than half of the country's population say they have no religious affiliation. The survey says 53% of all adults describe themselves as having no religious affiliation, which is the highest they've ever been. 

Rev. Haskett says many secularists view basic Christian values as "intolerant," but despite the critics, he's happy Franklin Graham will minister to his community this year. 

"We want to share a message of hope. We are very confident Franklin can do that. Nobody in the world can share the message in such a clear way," Rev. Haskett said

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