Hate preacher Franklin Graham launches string of lawsuits against UK venues for refusing to host his anti-LGBT+ events

Franklin Graham talks with President Donald Trump

Hate preacher Franklin Graham has taken legal action against a series of UK entertainment venues that cancelled his rallies due to his extreme homophobic views.

Graham’s eight-day evangelist tour of the UK was left in tatters when every single venue pulled out amid protests over his anti-LGBT+ comments, which include stating that same-sex marriage was orchestrated by Satan and queer people are to blame for a “moral 9/11”.

Claiming he was “denied [a platform] because of religious beliefs”, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) has launched two lawsuits in retaliation – one against venues in Manchester and Birmingham, and the other against venues in Sheffield and Wales.

The legal challenges have reportedly sparked serious concern among observers, who fear it could set new precedents for US-style “religious liberty” arguments to overrule anti-discrimination policies in Europe.

“BGEA is not just asserting its religious freedom, it is in fact demanding religious impunity for their hate-filled words,” Neil Datta of the European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual and Reproductive Rights told openDemocracy.

“Thankfully, no such right to impunity exists and they should be judged by the words their leaders speak while others may have the right to decide whether the BGEA is welcome in their community.”

British LGBT+ activist Peter Tatchell also expressed alarm at “Christian imperialism” encroaching from the US.

“US evangelicals, funded by secret donors, are exporting homophobia around the world,” he warned. “This Christian imperialism is menacing the well-being and human rights of millions of LGBT+ people.”

The court cases were highlighted by openDemocracy as part of an investigation that uncovered evidence of millions of dollars spent by the BGEA and other organisations on the US Christian right since 2007 to further their agenda in Europe and elsewhere in the world.

The independent investigation found that the BGEA spent a whopping $20m (£15m) in Europe between 2007 and 2014, the last year for which the organisation’s filings were available.

The BGEA refused to answer openDemocracy’s questions about its spending since 2014, but if it continued to spend at the same rate as before, Franklin Graham and his organisation would have poured at least $50 million into the region by 2020.