Franklin Graham: Legal action claims over Glasgow cancellation

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Franklin GrahamImage source, Getty Images

A US evangelist group has claimed to have taken legal action against a Glasgow venue over the cancellation of a Franklin Graham event.

The preacher's Hydro appearance was scrapped by the Scottish Event Campus (SEC) following pressure from the council and religious groups.

Venue staff said the move was prompted by "recent adverse publicity" surrounding the tour.

Mr Graham has been criticised for his belief that homosexuality is a "sin".

His visit to Glasgow was part of an eight-city tour of the UK - similar events in Liverpool and Sheffield were also called off.

By the first week in February, every other UK venue had dropped his event - a venue was not secured for the London date.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Franklin Graham (pictured right with President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump) is a prominent Christian leader in the US

Mr Graham is the eldest son of late preacher Billy Graham and president of his father's religious organisation - which booked the tour.

The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) now claims it has taken their case to Glasgow Sheriff Court, as originally reported in the Glasgow Times.

It said the court had "recognised the importance" of resolving the "dispute" with the SEC.

A statement on the BGEA's website claimed the SEC must explain to the court why it cancelled the event within seven days.

Mr Graham said: "I want to encourage the Scottish Event Campus to meet with us and discuss options for a way forward. Let's work toward a resolution.

"This is ultimately about whether the Scottish Event Campus will discriminate against the religious beliefs of Christians.

"More than 330 churches in the Glasgow area alone support this evangelistic outreach and their voices are being silenced. This case has wide-reaching ramifications for religious freedom and democracy in the UK and Europe."

'Remain impartial'

Mr Graham has been criticised for claiming that marriage should be between a man and woman, as well as his comments about followers of Islam.

Last month the SEC said it had "reviewed the event" with partners and shareholders - Glasgow City Council is the organisation's majority shareholder.

An SEC spokesperson said: "The booking for this event was processed in the same way we would for any religious concert of this nature and as a business we remain impartial to the individual beliefs of both our clients and visitors.

"Following a request from our principal shareholder the matter has been considered and a decision made that we should not host this event."

On Friday, a string of church leaders in Scotland urged Glasgow City Council "to recommend an immediate reversal of the exclusion and re-instatement of the venue booking", in a letter published in The Herald.

At the time, council leader Susan Aitken told the Glasgow Times. she hoped the SEC could accept that "it would not be appropriate" for the event to go ahead.

She said: "The reporting of the ways in which Mr Graham expresses his views makes clear that this is not simply about offence or disagreement. Neither is it a debate about free speech.

"How he expresses his views could, I believe, fundamentally breach the council's statutory equalities duties."

Reverend Bryan Kerr, a Church of Scotland minister in Lanark, launched a petition to pressure the SEC to rethink Mr Graham's appearance.

Backed by Glasgow's LGBT+ Interfaith Network, it said Mr Graham's views were "not mainstream" and did not "sit comfortably with many Christians in Scotland".

A previous petition to prevent Mr Graham from entering the UK was signed by 8,000 people.