American anti-LGBT+ preacher Franklin Graham wins £100,000 payout from English town

Evangelical anti-LGBT preacher Franklin Graham

American anti-LGBT+ preacher Franklin Graham has won a £109,000 payout from an English council and local bus firm in a landmark religious discrimination case.

Blackpool Borough Council and Blackpool Transport Services must pay £25,000 in “just satisfaction” damages plus £84,000 in legal costs to The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, in a settlement reached on Monday (19 July).

It ends a two-year legal battle waged by Graham after adverts for his 2018 Lancashire Festival of Hope were removed from Blackpool buses following a wave of complaints regarding his ‘extremist’ views.

The preacher, who believes gay people are “the enemy” of civilisation, claimed he’d been discriminated against on the basis of his religious beliefs and dragged the council to court.

Franklin Graham has also stated that same-sex marriage was orchestrated by Satan and that LGBT+ people are to blame for a “moral 9/11”.

In January 2020, Franklin Graham posted a “letter” to the LGBT+ community in the UK insisting that homosexuality is indeed a sin and inviting them to be “forgiven by God”.

A judge ruled in April that the council and bus firm had indeed violated the Equality Act and the Human Rights Act by banning the adverts.

Judge Clare Evans said that while Franklin Graham’s specific views on same-sex marriage were offensive to some people, they could not be categorised as ‘extreme’ and they are held by many religions, Christian or otherwise.

In addition to paying the hefty damages, Blackpool Council were also forced to issue a public statement of apology conceding that they discriminated against Franklin Graham’s festival and his “right to freedom of speech”.

“We accept that the advertisements were not in themselves offensive,” the statement reads.

“We further accept that in removing the advertisements we did not take into account the fact that this might cause offence 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 organisers prior to taking our decision.

“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.”

The council “sincerely apologises” to the festival organisers and added that lessons have been learned from the experience.

In response, Graham, the son of the late televangelist Billy Graham, said: “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.”

Franklin Graham launches lawsuits across UK

The settlement is the latest in a string of lawsuits Graham is fighting across the UK after he was dropped by every single venue on his tragically unsuccessful evangelist tour of the country.

One by one, stadiums in Newcastle, Birmingham, Newport, Glasgow, Milton Keynes, Sheffield and Liverpool all cancelled the preacher’s events amid an outpour of criticism over his extreme anti-LGBT+ views. A London date, also planned, never secured a venue.

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

Franklin Graham later announced a separate lawsuit seeking £200,000 in damages from the Glasgow SSE Hydro arena to address the “injured feelings” of his staff and associates.

He hit a stumbling block in February when the Glasgow sheriff partially dismissed his case, pointing out that Graham’s complaints of breach of contract were “irrelevant” in light of COVID, which would’ve forced the event to cancel regardless of his anti-LGBT+ views.