'Opposition to Our Religious Beliefs': UK Mayor Wants Franklin Graham's 'God Loves You' Tour Ads Off of City Buses
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Franklin Graham is receiving pushback once again from an official in the United Kingdom who has taken issue with the evangelist's religious beliefs on marriage and sexuality.
Graham, who is the president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) and the Samaritan's Purse humanitarian ministry, is embarking on his "God Loves You" tour this month and plans to visit Liverpool, South Wales, Sheffield, and London.
According to the BBC, Liverpool Mayor Steve Rotheram said ads promoting the upcoming event should not be displayed on buses throughout the city and referred to Graham as a "hate preacher."
In a statement to CBN News, the BGEA noted that signs supporting the event do not contain hate speech, rather they encourage people to find fulfillment through a relationship with our Lord and Savior.
"It is deeply concerning that certain public officials are attempting to interfere with our contracted advertising in the Liverpool area based on opposition to our religious beliefs," the BGEA told CBN News. "The content of our advertisements consists of the question 'looking for something more?' along with Rev. Franklin Graham's picture, and information about the God Loves You Tour event taking place at 7:00 pm on May 14 at the Liverpool Exhibition Centre.
"There is nothing offensive in these advertisements. The objection is to Rev. Franklin Graham and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association based on our Christian beliefs. Unfortunately, this opposition is familiar and predictable," the statement said.
Promotions for the tour were displayed on buses belonging to Stagecoach and Arriva. Rotheram has written to both bus firms, calling for immediate removal of the signs, the BBC reports.
"To say that I'm angry that the views of a known hate preacher - who has an appalling track record of homophobic and Islamophobic views - are being displayed anywhere in our city region would be an understatement," Rotheram said.
He argued that advertising Graham's Christian beliefs on buses, which are used by people who "belong to the very communities that Mr. Graham directs his bigotry and bile towards," was "inexcusable."
But, this is not the first time the long-time evangelist has come under fire in the U.K. for advertisements highlighting his religious events.
CBN News previously reported that signs displayed on buses in Blackpool during Sept. 2018 caused an uproar. Ads promoted the Lancashire Festival of Hope where Rev. Graham was scheduled to speak.
The Blackpool Borough Council and Blackpool Transport Services Limited took the signs down, which simply said, "Time for Hope," citing that members of the community complained about Graham's association with the festival.
In April 2021, a judge ruled that Graham was discriminated against when ads promoting the event were pulled from the buses. The court recognized that Blackpool's Council cared more about not displeasing the LGBTQ community by banning Graham from preaching the gospel.
Even with the removal of the ads, the Lancashire Festival of Hope with Graham brought 9,000 people together in Blackpool, garnered more than 50,000 online views worldwide, and saw more than 400 people commit their lives to Christ.
"We certainly respect the rights of others to disagree with us on matters of religious belief. It is disappointing, however, that public officials who are elected to represent their entire community would describe the traditional views of Christians as 'hate speech' and actually use their office to discriminate against them and interfere with the expression of their beliefs," BGEA told CBN News at the time.
"Despite efforts to mischaracterize Rev. Graham as a 'hate preacher,' he has made it clear that he is coming to the U.K. with one purpose - to share a message of God's love for all people," the BGEA stated. "This is why the tour has been named the God Loves You Tour. We welcome everyone to come hear this message of Good News."
Graham's battle for religious freedom is far from over in the United Kingdom. Before the pandemic began in 2020, numerous venues in the U.K. had discriminated against Graham, breaking their contracts with him and refusing to allow him to hold any evangelistic festivals because of his biblical beliefs on sexuality.
The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association continues to fight this religious discrimination in the U.K. courts.
To find out more about the God Loves You tour, click here.
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