An American evangelist who was previously barred from preaching in Wales has insisted he does not preach hatred and even accused the Welsh government of “discriminating against religious beliefs”.
Franklin Graham is due to appear at the International Convention Center (ICC) in Newport on Saturday evening (May 21). Labeled a “preacher of hate”, Franklin was due to appear at the center in 2020 but was prevented from doing so after concerns were raised about his views and beliefs which the venue said were “inconsistent with our own values of equality, diversity, and inclusiveness”.
Preacher Graham has previously said that gay people “stand against God” and that same-sex marriage is a “sin”, prompting widespread condemnation from many people, including LGBTQ+ groups. Now, just four days before his Newport appearance, Mr Graham has told Wales Online he is not preaching hate and is in fact delivering a message of hope. To get the latestWalesOnline newsletters sent directly to you by e-mail for free, click here.
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“Those who falsely accuse me of sharing hatred have obviously never heard me preach,” he said. “I am not coming to Wales to speak against anyone, I am coming to share a message of love from God. Jesus Christ did not come to condemn the world, He came to save the world. This is the good news that I will proclaim from the Word of God to the people of Wales. We invite all to come and hear this message of hope.
Mr Graham, 69, was speaking after Prime Minister Mark Drakeford said he regretted the evangelist had to preach to people in Wales. Mr Drakeford was quizzed in the Senedd on Tuesday by Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price – ‘doesn’t that send the wrong message from Wales and the one that homophobia and hate is in somehow still acceptable?”. The Welsh government holds a 50% stake in the ICC.
The Prime Minister’s response was: “I regret that the event to which Adam Price referred is continuing, but the decision is not for the Welsh Government. We do not manage this center (the International Convention Center) and it is up to those who are in charge of it to make these decisions. I am sorry to see someone of these views given a platform to express them here in Wales and they reflect absolutely none that the Welsh Government would be willing to endorse or sanction.
In response, Mr Graham said: ‘While I certainly respect the right of others to disagree with our religious beliefs, it is deeply concerning that officials elected to represent their entire community are outlining the opinions traditions that Christians have had for over a thousand years in Wales as ‘hate’ and in fact use their office to speak against us and discriminate against our religious beliefs.
“This is particularly troubling given a clear decision in 2021 arising from similar circumstances in Blackpool where councilors discriminated against another of our evangelistic events. A judge observed that the approach taken by Blackpool Borough Council was “the antithesis of how a public authority should behave in a democratic society”. Additionally, the judge ruled that Christians who hold traditional biblical views are not extremists and should be treated fairly.”
In this case, Blackpool Borough Council had taken down posters promoting a religious event called Lancashire Festival of Hope with Franklin Graham – Time for Hope, following a social media campaign over Ms. Franklin on same-sex marriage. A court later ruled that the removal of the posters was a human rights violation.
Mr Graham added: “I hope and expect that officials in Wales will take note of this matter and do their job in a reasonable and impartial manner and welcome people of all religious beliefs. The God Loves You Tour is supported by Christians from 375 churches across Wales, and we have the same rights as everyone else to freely express our long-held religious beliefs.
Mr. Graham is the chief executive of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA), which was started in 1950 by his father. According to a website promoting Mr Graham’s God Loves You tour, which has dates in Sheffield and London in the weeks following the Newport event: “Franklin continues his father’s lifelong work, who had a deep appreciation and respect for the United Kingdom, and preached here more than any other place in the world outside the U.S. Just like his father, Franklin works with local churches to share with the people of UK that God loves them and has a purpose for their lives.
“The Lord placed a burden on Franklin’s heart to proclaim the name of Jesus Christ throughout the United Kingdom, and that sense of purpose and gospel passion has continued to grow over the years. As well as being President and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Franklin also directs the international Christian relief and evangelistic organization Samaritan’s Purse, which helps meet the needs of refugees, victims of war and natural disasters, sick, poor and suffering in more than 100 countries around the world.
In addition to his criticism of homosexuality, Graham has also been mired in other controversies over the years. He criticized Islam in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks in New York and spoke out in favor of the war in Iraq that followed. In 2017, he criticized a bill that pledged to ban conversion therapy – a practice intended to change a person’s sexual orientation from gay to heterosexual – in the United States. He is also known to be a friend of former US President Donald Trump and has previously spoken publicly in support of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s views on homosexuality.
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