Hats off to three cities in the United Kingdom — first Liverpool, and now London and Sheffield — that have officially disinvited prominent American Christian evangelist Franklin Graham from spreading his Bible-based “homophobic” doctrines in their communities.
LGBT+ leaders in each city protested Graham’s planned speeches and launched petition drives demanding they be cancelled, Barry Duke’s The Freethinker blog reported Wednesday. Graham, the son of late evangelical icon Billy Graham, contends that the Bible condemns homosexuality as sinful and that gay marriage is also a sin.
(View the embedded video below to see Graham giving a more fulsome explanation of his dismissive views on this topic.)
Graham the younger was expected to speak at Sheffield Arena on June 6 but the venue operator said it did “not endorse” his views, the British BBC news service reported.
Julie Dore, leader of the Sheffield City Council, said of the decision to bar Graham:
“All my life I have worked hard to fight discrimination and have worked with communities, especially in my time as leader, to make sure we have an inclusive, tolerant and cohesive city that embraces diversity. Franklin Graham, who has demonstrated his intent on creating divisions with his discriminatory and repulsive views, could affect the long-established values that we all hold so dear in Sheffield.”
A spokesman for London explained to BBC magazine why Graham’s upcoming presentation was cancelled at the city’s O2 arena:
“In light of [his homophobic messages], we can no longer reconcile the balance between freedom of speech and the divisive impact this event is having in our city,” the spokesperson said in a statement, adding: “We have informed the organizers of the event that the booking will no longer be fulfilled.”
Despite free-speech implications of the decision, homophobia is clearly an ideology of hate and divisiveness, no matter it’s source. And it should be viewed as deeply problematic to use ideas proposed in ancient unsubstantiated texts, laboring under many moot translations over eons, to discriminate against people today for their natural sexuality.
Similar push-back is also occurring in the United States from members of the emboldened LGBT+ community, whose right to not be discriminated against have been codified by the U.S. Supreme Court.
It is long past time to stop basing policy anywhere on ancient religious magical thinking, and the whole-cloth inventions and biases of early scribes of various religious traditions. Policy and public accommodation should be based on practical, realistic considerations, not imaginary dogma.
For his part, Graham disingenuously tries to argue that he doesn’t peddle hateful ideas but is all about Christian love.
“My speech doesn’t hurt anybody,” he told BBC. “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. … I’m coming to the UK to speak about God’s love through His Son Jesus Christ.“
Well, in Graham’s understanding, God’s “love” requires shaming homosexuals, condemning their sexuality as “sinful” and scaring them to change by promising an eternity in hell if they don’t.
“It is said by some that I am coming to the UK to bring hateful speech to your community. This is just not true,” Graham wrote in a Facebook message to the LGBTQ community, Fox News reported. “I am coming to share the Gospel … The rub, I think, comes in whether God defines homosexuality as sin. The answer is yes. But God goes even further than that, to say that we are all sinners – myself included. The Bible says that every human being is guilty of sin and in need of forgiveness and cleansing. The penalty of sin is spiritual death – separation from God for eternity.”
Graham added in his Facebook message that although homosexuality “is a sin … if we’re willing to accept [God] by faith and turn away from our sins, He will forgive and give us new life — eternal life — in Him.”
No doubt British homosexuals feel better not by reading Graham’s rationalizations but rather by knowing he now won’t be able to assault three of their cities with such a hateful, condemning message while simultaneously misrepresenting it as one of religious love.
Unless other cities on Graham’s UK tour this summer decide to bar him, he will likely speak as scheduled in Glasgow, Newcastle, Milton Keynes, Cardiff, Birmingham.
Let’s hope three isn’t the final number of naysayers.
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