Franklin Graham accuses politicians of ‘religious discrimination’ as UK ‘hate’ tour met with fury

Anti-LGBTQ+ televangelist Franklin Graham has kicked off his UK tour amid criticism from politicians.

Graham, who has previously claimed that LGBTQ+ people are to blame for a “moral 9/11” and is an outspoken supporter of conversion therapy, began his “God Loves You” tour in Liverpool on 15 May.

The televangelist was due to tour the UK in 2020, but his views led to every single venue cancelling.

A legal battle ensued, with Graham launching a string of lawsuits against those responsible for the cancellations.

This eventually resulted in announcement of fresh dates for the “God Loves You” tour, which will arrive in Wales on Saturday (21 March).

Franklin will speak at International Conference Centre in Newport, which is partly-owned by the Welsh government.

Adam Price, leader of Plaid Cymru, raised the topic in the Senedd (Welsh Parliament).

“The Wales International Convention Centre is this month hosting the televangelist Franklin Graham who has called gay men and women ‘the enemy’ who are here to ‘devour our nation’, who has even praised Vladimir Putin for his homophobic policies,” he said.

 “Now Mr Graham is entitled to his beliefs, but he is not surely entitled to be provided with a stage to air them at a convention centre that is 50 per cent owned by the Welsh Government?

“Does that not send out the wrong message from Wales – not of peace and good will – but one that says that homophobia and hate are somehow still acceptable?”

 Wales’ first minister, Mark Drakeford, responded by saying that the decision to allow the event to happen was not the Welsh government’s. He said that he “regret[s]” that it will be going ahead.

 “We do not run that centre, and it’s for those who are responsible for it to make those decisions,” Drakeford said.

“I’m sorry to see a person of those views being given a platform to express them here in Wales, and they absolutely do not reflect anything that the Welsh government would be prepared to endorse or sanction.”

Graham denies preaching hate, and accused the Welsh government of “discriminating against religious beliefs”.

“While I certainly respect the rights of others to disagree with our religious beliefs, it is deeply concerning that public officials who are elected to represent their entire community would describe the traditional views that Christians have held for over a thousand years in Wales as ‘hate’ and actually use their office to speak against us and discriminate against our religious beliefs,” he said.

Ahead of Franklin Graham’s Liverpool appearance, the city’s Reclaim Pride group staged a protest.

“Franklin Graham and his hateful, divisive, homophobic and racist rhetoric will never be welcomed in our proudly diverse city,” it wrote on Twitter.

The organisation behind Franklin Graham’s tour, the Billy Graham Evangelical Association (BGEA), has previously been named in a list of US groups reportedly involved in pushing to overturn Roe v Wade, rolling back reproductive rights across the country.