A government minister has called on the owners of venues who cancelled the booking of Franklin Graham to ensure they are not unlawfully discriminating on grounds of religion and belief. The leader of the House of Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg, was speaking after the US evangelist’s UK tour was thrown into chaos after all eight venues previously booked cancelled, citing the division Graham’s appearance would have on their cities. Graham was due to preach in large arenas in eight different cities this summer. Despite the cancellations, he said last week the tour will go ahead.
The opposition to his events stem from his comments about homosexuality. LGBT groups have accused him of being a hate preacher. Tory MP Fiona Bruce raised her concerns in Parliament. She said: “The Prime Minister said in his Christmas message, ‘We stand with Christians everywhere and will defend your right to practise your faith’. “That was meant to include the UK, so may we have a statement on whether we can really call ourselves a tolerant, inclusive society that respects freedom of speech, if we deny Franklin Graham a platform in this country?” Responding on behalf of the government, Jacob Rees-Mogg said: “No platforming is a particularly disagreeable modern trend.
Rees-Mogg went on “Although venues may take their own decisions about whether or not to host Franklin Graham’s visit, they must be careful not to discriminate unlawfully on grounds of religion and belief. “The UK has robust protections for freedom of speech and religion, and the price of living in a free, plural society is tolerating views and beliefs that we disagree with or are even offended by. “That is fundamentally important. “It is a sad truth that many self-declared liberals are liberal only about what they like and are very intolerant of views with which they disagree.” Franklin Graham said he’s hoping the venues will reconsider but is considering legal action if they don’t.
He said: “This is a religious freedom issue and a free speech issue. It doesn’t just affect me. There are churches that meet in public arenas for Sunday services; schools and so forth. If a small group of people can force a cancellation of an event where thousands of Christians are participating, I think there is no question about the danger to others in the future. “We had a contract signed with these venues and they have breached that contract. I haven’t broken any laws. We just have to look at what our options are but even though we can assign other venues, which we will do, I’m thinking of the church in the future.” Graham’s tour is due to begin in Glasgow in May and finishes in London.
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