'Important Moment for Religious Freedom in the UK': Blackpool Admits It Discriminated Against Franklin Graham
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The Billy Graham Association will receive a financial settlement and has already received a public apology in an important case for religious freedom in the United Kingdom.
As CBN News reported in April, Manchester County Court Judge Claire Evans ruled that the 2018 Lancashire Festival of Hope with Franklin Graham was discriminated against when ads promoting the event were pulled from buses in Blackpool, England in an effort to ban him from preaching the gospel.
In September 2018, the Blackpool Borough Council and Blackpool Transport Services Limited removed bus advertisements displaying the words "Time for Hope," citing that members of the community complained about Graham's association with the festival.
The transportation company said they received feedback from members of the community who were concerned over the evangelist's religious beliefs on marriage and sexuality.
According to the court documents, complaints referenced Graham's biblical views about LGBTQ matters like same-sex marriage. Some falsely accused him of "preaching hate" or being "racist."
However, the court concluded that the ads themselves were inoffensive and the transportation company had actually violated the UK's Equality Act 2010. The law forbids discrimination against anyone because of religion or belief.
Judge Evans ruled "overwhelmingly in favor" of the Lancashire Festival of Hope, pointing out that Blackpool "had a wholesale disregard" for the Festival's right to freedom of speech. At the same time, it prioritized the rights and opinions of members of the LGBT community.
Last week, Blackpool accepted the court's ruling and agreed to a settlement. Both Blackpool Borough Council and Blackpool Transport Services Limited issued a public apology.
"On 10 July 2018 Blackpool Council and Blackpool Transport Services Limited made a joint decision to remove advertisements promoting the Lancashire Festival of Hope, due to be held at the Winter Gardens between 21st & 23rd September 2018, from BTSL's buses and trams. This followed complaints from some members of the public about certain religious beliefs, in particular concerning same-sex relationships and same-sex marriage, expressed (or believed to have been expressed) on previous occasions by the main speaker, Franklin Graham.
"We accept that the advertisements were not in themselves offensive. We further accept that in removing the advertisements we did not take into account the fact that this might cause offense to other members of the public and suggest that some voices should not be heard. We also regret that we did not consult with the organizers prior to taking our decision," the statement read.
"We accept the findings of the Court that we discriminated against Lancashire Festival of Hope because of the religious beliefs of Franklin Graham and in doing so interfered with Lancashire Festival of Hope's right to freedom of speech.
"We sincerely apologize to the organizers of the event for the upset and inconvenience caused," the statement continued.
Both organizations said they have learned from the experience and have introduced clear and transparent policies to make sure it doesn't happen again.
In addition, the Billy Graham Association will receive a financial award totaling £109,000 or $150,300 in U.S. dollars, to cover legal costs incurred by the Festival. This amount includes an award of almost $34,000 of additional damages Blackpool must pay.
"This is an important moment for religious freedom in the UK. We're grateful to God for the final outcome of this case, and for what it will mean for churches and Christians across the UK in the years ahead. The Good News of Jesus Christ must be proclaimed. My prayer is that this case will encourage Christians to stand firm," Graham, president, and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association said in a statement.
Since the settlement can't be appealed, both the award and the ruling can serve as a precedent in other cases.
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