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Religious leader banned from religious expression

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Franklin Graham, evangelist son of the late Billy Graham, has had confirmed venues for his UK tour pull out because he has called gay marriage “a sin”.

Liverpool ACC, Glasgow Hydro, Arena Birmingham, Sheffield Arena, Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes, Utilita Arena in Newcastle and ICC Wales in Cardiff have all cancelled events in the American preacher’s eight-city summer 2020 UK tour.

Leader of Glasgow City Council Susan Aitken said the event could “fundamentally breach the council’s statutory equalities duties” and thus break the law.

Similarly, the leader of Sheffield City Council, Julie Dore, said Mr Graham’s “discriminatory and repulsive views, could affect the long-established values that we all hold so dear in Sheffield”. The chairman of Sheffield City Trust, David Grey, which operates the Arena, said the event had to be pulled because Mr Graham does not promote “equality and freedom from hatred and abuse”.

The decision followed an open letter from ‘Sheffield’s LGBT+ Communities’ stating that Franklin Graham’s “homophobic beliefs” “far exceed freedom of speech and are direct hate speech and incitement to violence against LGBT+ communities and individuals which should not be welcomed in our city, or anywhere else”.

Mr Graham said he had not been given a clear reason for the cancellation and sounded a warning for freedom of speech:

It’s not true that I’ve come to divide the community. There’s no evidence of me preaching hatred or inciting violence.

I’m just coming to tell them what the Bible has to say. We welcome the LGBT+ community to our event.

If they oppose me, who’s next? Who are they going to silence?

Franklin Graham’s Sheffield visit axed after calls by LGBT+ groups; BBC

The latest eruption of cancel culture – in which defenders of traditional marriage and other unfashionable views are ‘no platformed’ – came in the same week that the Church of England issued a statement reaffirming its belief in traditional marriage. Does this mean that the Church of England’s stance conflicts with ‘statutory equalities duties’?

The important issue here is not that Graham is being opposed: people should oppose views they dislike. What is important is the right to have our views heard, regardless of who we are or what our views. The merits (or otherwise) of views can then be openly and honestly discussed, without driving ever greater numbers of honest people into underground movements where alternate views never have a chance to be heard.

Clearly there are those who believe that no disagreement with same-sex marriage is acceptable. In crushing dissent they are deluded into thinking the law is on their side. But the Ashers Baking Company and Felix Ngole cases show that they couldn’t be more wrong. Just because same-sex marriage is legal doesn’t mean everybody has to agree with it.

Not everyone agrees with those who disagree, of course. But if one person’s voice can be cancelled out, how can our society hope to improve? If the supporters of gay marriage had been no-platformed at a time when most people were against it, it could never have come about. Whatever our views, we need to support the right have other people’s views heard. It is Franklin Graham today, will it be your turn tomorrow to be silenced?

As a retired Scots Calvinist blogs:

Reporting from Vietnam, the war correspondent Peter Arnett quoted an American major saying, ‘It became necessary to destroy the town to save it’. Today’s liberals are as ludicrous as those they poured scorn on yesterday.

The Bible makes clear that we should watch our words even as we guard our hearts. Under no circumstances should Christians use any expression that would be theologically defined as hateful speech. Today, however, a traditional defence of biblical Christianity can be defined by secularists as hate speech and, as is the case now in Switzerland, as a criminal act.

Christians must understand that this directly impacts what the church teaches and preaches on the basis of the Word of God. Our experience in Britain shows that it will lead very quickly to efforts to silence individual Christians in the public square, especially in corporate life, all branches of education and areas of public service, from speaking on the basis of that citizen’s own Christian convictions.

Religious liberty eroded in Switzerland
Vandalized statues of Calvin, Farel, Bèze and Knox in Geneva, 15 July 2019

Parts of this post are based on a press release by the Coalition For Marriage

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