Protests over Franklin Graham Blackpool visit build as hundreds sign petition
Hundreds of people are signing a petition to block Franklin Graham, son of famous evangelist Billy Graham, from speaking at an event in Blackpool next year.
Graham, who is an outspoken supporter of Donald Trump and vociferously opposes gay marriage and Islam, is due to speak at the town's Winter Gardens venue which has hosted the likes of the Beatles as well as many political party conferences.
He was invited by a number of local churches including St John's Church in Blackpool, St Mark's Church in Layton, and All Hallows Church in Bispham for the rally next September.
But another local church, Liberty Church Blackpool, is opposing the move and pastor Nina Parker launched the petition to block the invite.
'It's horrendous really,' she told the Blackpool Gazette. 'I cannot understand what has got into these churches. This is not what we stand for in Blackpool. We don't need somebody preaching hate.'
More than 600 people had signed the petition by Friday. Parker accused Graham of engaging in 'hate speech against minorities' and pointed to examples where Graham said gay people were 'dangerous' and backed Trump's ban on Muslims entering the US.
'Speech likely to promote prejudice and hatred is grounds for the government to refuse a visa,' the petition reads. 'Help us stop this man getting a visa to come here to spread his hatred.'
It is not the first time a Franklin Graham visit has attracted controversy.
Before a rally in Vancouver earlier this year the city's mayor Gregor Robertson joined Catholic, evangelical and other mainstream Protestant figures to voice concerns about Graham's provocative comments about Muslims, gay people, Democrats and atheists.
'Franklin Graham's recent public comments compromise Jesus's mission of justice and love for all,' a petition from Christian leaders at the time read. 'For instance, he has said that all Muslims should be banned from the United States because Islam is a 'very evil and wicked religion' at war with the Christian West.
'He dehumanises the LGBTQ+ community, urging that gays not be allowed to enter churches or even come as guests into Christian homes.'