Evangelical preacher wins £97,000 payout for religious discrimination

Billy Graham’s US evangelical preacher son has won a £97,000 payout after his arena tour in Glasgow was cancelled due to his anti-LGBT views – after a sheriff ruled he was the victim of religious discrimination.

Franklin Graham, 70, had been due to appear at the Hydro arena in on May 30, 2020 as part of a wider UK tour.

The event was cancelled in January 2020 following substantial public backlash, with the Scottish Event Campus citing security risks.

Graham, a vocal supporter of former US President , describes homosexuality as a ‘sin’ and is in favour of ‘gay conversion therapy’.

The preacher son of late US evangelist Billy Graham, who died in 2018 aged 99, argued any decision to cancel his shows were ‘a freedom of religion issue and also a free speech issue’. 

Franklin Graham, 70, had been due to appear at the Hydro arena in Glasgow on May 30, 2020 as part of a wider UK tour

Franklin Graham, 70, had been due to appear at the Hydro arena in Glasgow on May 30, 2020 as part of a wider UK tour

The event was cancelled in January 2020 following substantial backlash over the tour, with the Scottish Event Campus citing security risks. Pictured: The Hydro arena lit up with the colours of the Pride flag during the LGBT History month

The event was cancelled in January 2020 following substantial backlash over the tour, with the Scottish Event Campus citing security risks.Pictured: The Hydro arena lit up with the colours of the Pride flag during the LGBT History month

The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) sued the SEC and claimed they breached Equality Act by not letting Graham perform.

Preparations were made to cancel the Glasgow event on January 28, 2020 with head of PR for SEC telling Glasgow City Council: ‘We have made a decision not to go ahead with this.’

The next day, a meeting took place in which the Glasgow City Council ‘conveyed to all present in unambiguous terms the event should be cancelled,’ Sheriff John McCormick said during the civil hearing at Glasgow Sheriff Court. 

Minutes from the meeting show some of the concerns centered on ‘the message that was being preached…is darker than seen before’.

While some raised concerns about breaching the contract already in place, others said ‘it’s about ”doing the right thing” notwithstanding the contractual position’.

BGEA paid SEC a £6,000 deposit for the hire of the city’s Hydro arena which would have cost £50,000. 

The ‘private’ event was to be non-ticketed where members of the public could enter free of charge.

Graham, a vocal supporter of former US President Donald Trump, describes homosexuality as a 'sin' and is in favour of 'gay conversion therapy'

Graham, rulet siteleri a vocal supporter of former US President Donald Trump, describes homosexuality as a ‘sin’ and is in favour of ‘gay conversion therapy’

The event was described as ‘an evangelistic outreach event to profess and promote religion or philosophical belief’.

Sheriff McCormick determined the ‘intended audience was the general public, irrespective of any religious belief or none and irrespective of sexuality’. 

‘The event was cancelled because of the religious or philosophical beliefs of BGEA and Franklin Graham as viewed by the SEC’s reaction by others to the religious or philosophical beliefs professed by BGEA and/or Franklin Graham,’ he said.

‘By terminating the agreement, SEC directly discriminated against BGEA in that it treated them less favourably than it would have treated others.

‘SEC had hosted other religious events but here it terminated its agreement because of a protected characteristic, namely, the religious or philosophical beliefs of BGEA and Franklin Graham.

‘It acted under pressure from others.’

Throughout the proceedings, it was also revealed the Hydro’s principal sponsor did not want to be associated with the event.

Billy Graham (right) with Christian singer Cliff Richard at Crystal Palace athletics stadium in south London in 1989

Billy Graham met Margaret Thatcher at 10 Downing Street in 1989

Franklin Graham’s evangelical preacher father Billy Graham visited the UK several times and during his ‘crusades’ of Britain. Christian singer Cliff Richard was a fan (pictured left with Graham at Crystal Palace athletics stadium in south London in 1989) and he also met Margaret Thatcher at 10 Downing Street in 1989 (right)

Billy Graham, who died in 2018, visited the UK several times. He is pictured here in 1954 addressing football fans at Stamford Bridge, London, during half-time at the match between Chelsea and Newcastle United

Billy Graham, who died in 2018, visited the UK several times.He is pictured here in 1954 addressing football fans at Stamford Bridge, London, during half-time at the match between Chelsea and Newcastle United

There were fears artists may refuse to play the arena as a result of the event. 

Glasgow City Council, as the venue’s majority shareholder, contacted SEC requesting the event be cancelled.

The letter made no mention of security concerns.No security concerns were raised with BGEA, the police, or G4S at the time. The termination letter to BGEA also failed to mention security concerns.

It mentioned ‘adverse publicity’ which was ‘reviewed with our partners and stakeholders.’

The organisation initially chased £200,000 in compensation or have Graham perform as per the July 2019 contract.

BGEA lost a total of £97,325.32 as a result of the event’s cancellation which Sheriff McCormick ordered SEC repay.

BGEA lost a total of £97,325.32 as a result of the event's cancellation which Sheriff McCormick ordered SEC repay

BGEA lost a total of £97,325.32 as a result of the event’s cancellation which Sheriff McCormick ordered SEC repay 

Billy Graham packed Wembley Stadium in 1955 when 120,000 people went to hear him speak

Billy Graham packed Wembley Stadium in 1955 when 120,000 people went to hear him speak

He said: ‘The Equality Act applies to all, equally.It is an Act designed to protect cornerstone rights and freedoms within a pluralist society.

‘It applies to the LGBTQ+ community as it does to those of religion (including Christianity) and rulet siteleri none. It follows that in relation to a protected characteristic (religion or rulet siteleri philosophical belief) no section of society can discriminate against those with whom he, she or they disagree.

‘Whether others agree with, disagree with, find abhorrent the opinions of the pursuer or Franklin Graham is not relevant for the purposes of this decision.

‘This applies even where, as I heard evidence, members within the Christian community may not agree with the pursuer.The court does not adjudicate on the validity of religious or philosophical beliefs.’

The SEC became aware of opposition to the event in November 2019 through press, social media and emails.

Mr Graham also became aware of the backlash posting on Facebook: ‘It is said by some that I am coming to the UK to bring hateful speech to your community.This is just not true’.

He added that he invited ‘everyone in the LGBTQ community’ to the event. He concluded ‘You are absolutely welcome’.

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