Blackpool Council to pay out £109k over axed Franklin Graham festival adverts

Adverts for the Lancashire Festival of Hope were withdrawn from buses because of Franklin Graham's views on marriage.(Photo: Facebook/Franklin Graham)

The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association is to receive £109,000 from Blackpool Council over cancelled adverts for an evangelistic event featuring its CEO, Franklin Graham.

Adverts for the 2018 Lancashire Festival of Hope ran on local buses but were removed because of Graham's traditional views on marriage. It followed a social media campaign by local LGBT activists.

But the council has admitted it was in the wrong and agreed to pay the festival's legal costs, totalling £84,000, and another £25,000 in damages.

The settlement was reached after an April ruling from Manchester County Court that, in removing the ads, Blackpool Council and Blackpool Transport Services violated the Equality Act and the Human Rights Act. 

After reaching the settlement, Cllr Lynn Williams, Leader of Blackpool Council, issued an apology in which she said lessons had been learned.

"We accept that the advertisements were not in themselves offensive. We further accept that in removing the advertisements we did not take into account the fact that this might cause offence to other members of the public and suggest that some voices should not be heard. We also regret that we did not consult with the organisers prior to taking our decision," she said. 

"We accept the findings of the court that we discriminated against Lancashire Festival of Hope because of the religious beliefs of Franklin Graham and in doing so interfered with Lancashire Festival of Hope's right to freedom of speech.

"We sincerely apologise to the organisers of the event for the upset and inconvenience caused.

"We have learnt from this experience. We are committed to ensuring equality of access and opportunity for the population of Blackpool and providing and improving quality services for all. We have now introduced clear and transparent policies that will ensure no repeat of events such as these."

Franklin Graham, president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, welcomed the settlement.

"This is an important moment for religious freedom in the UK," he said.

"We're grateful to God for the final outcome of this case, and for what it will mean for churches and Christians across the UK in the years ahead.

"The Good News of Jesus Christ must be proclaimed. My prayer is that this case will encourage Christians to stand firm."