The Mayor of Vancouver has called on Christian festival organisers to remove headline speaker Franklin Graham from their platform due to comments about Muslims and gay people many regard as inflammatory.
The prominent Trump supporter is currently set to speak at the Christian gathering Festival of Hope in March, but Mayor Gregor Robertson has asked the event organisers to drop his billing, according to The Globe and Mail.
So far, the festival has declined the mayor's request. A meeting took place on Wednesday between the mayor, other city staff members and the Festival of Hope organisers, where concerns were shared but no changes have been announced.
On Wednesday Jeff Adams, a spokesman for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association of Canada, confirmed that Graham would be in Vancouver next week.
Local councillor Tim Stevenson said the concerns over Graham's appearance were due to the 'extraordinarily derogative' comments he has made, particularly following the devastating attack on a Quebec City mosque in January.
'Why would they have invited this person in the first place, knowing that he's said these things about Muslims, knowing that he's said these things about the LGBTQ community?' Stevenson said.
'Why would they not invite a different evangelist, one that isn't controversial?'
Franklin Graham, the son of revered evangelical icon Billy Graham, has become increasingly prominent following his support of Donald Trump during his election campaign and as president. He has made several particularly provocative remarks about Muslims and the LGBTQ+ community.
Graham called transgender people 'wierdos' and defended his words by saying: 'Jesus wasn't real loving sometimes. He called the Pharisees vipers, snakes, whitewashed tombs.'
He has supported Trump's Muslim travel ban, having suggested one already in 2015, and previously called Islam 'a very wicked and evil religion' and 'a danger to our security'.
The Festival of Hope rally is expected to draw more than 25,000 people from March 3-5, but has already drawn significant criticism. A petition from Christian leaders in Vancouver protested against Graham's visit, saying 'Franklin Graham's recent public comments compromise Jesus's mission of justice and love for all.'
The executive leader of the festival, Rev Giulio Gabeli, says he believes criticisms of Graham 'have generated a fear and concern that have been exaggerated'. He added that there was still significant support for Graham in the city, and emphasised the Graham's priority is to 'present a message of hope'.
'We understand some of the concern, and we understand where they are coming from, but we disagree with their concerns and fears about Franklin Graham,' he said. 'He is not coming to incite hate; he is coming to proclaim a message of peace.'
Addressing the controversy, Graham said in a statement issued on Monday: 'Politics, policies, economics and commerce are significant matters, but for these three days, we will come together in Vancouver to focus on the most important thing of all: God's love for each and every one of us.'