Welsh First Minister 'regrets' that Franklin Graham is coming to Wales

Franklin Graham on stage in Liverpool on the first night of his God Loves You UK tour.(Photo: Billy Graham Evangelistic Association)

Franklin Graham has called on public officials to welcome people of all religions after Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford expressed his "regret" over the American evangelist's upcoming visit to Wales. 

Graham will be taking his free God Loves You Tour to Newport, south Wales, on Saturday. 

He has been branded a "known hate preacher" in recent weeks over his views on same-sex marriage and Islam. 

In the Senedd on Tuesday, Drakeford was quizzed by Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price on why the Welsh government was allowing the event to go ahead at Newport's International Convention Centre when it has a 50 per cent stake in the venue. 

Price said that Graham's event would "send out the wrong message from Wales and one that says homophobia and hate are somehow still acceptable". 

Drakeford replied: "I regret the fact that the event to which Adam Price referred is going ahead but the decision is not one for the Welsh Government.

"We do not run that centre and it's for those who are responsible for it to make those decisions.

"I'm sorry to see a person of those views given a platform to express them here in Wales and they absolutely do not reflect any that the Welsh Government would be prepared to endorse or sanction."

Graham said Drakeford's comments were "particularly troubling" in view of his 2021 court win against Blackpool Borough Council.

The council made a formal apology and was ordered to pay over £100,000 in legal costs and damages after removing adverts for Graham's evangelistic event from local buses.

The judge ruled that Graham's views were not extremist and that the council's actions were "the antithesis of how a public authority should behave in a democratic society".

Graham told Wales Online, "While I certainly respect the rights of others to disagree with our religious beliefs, it is deeply concerning that public officials who are elected to represent their entire community would describe the traditional views that Christians have held for over a thousand years in Wales as 'hate' and actually use their office to speak against us and discriminate against our religious beliefs.

He added, "I would hope and expect that public officials in Wales will take note of this case [in Blackpool] and do their jobs reasonably and impartially 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."

After Newport, the next God Loves You event will take place at the Sheffield Arena on 25 May. A demonstration is being planned by the Sheffield Against Hate group. 

Sheffield Cathedral has also announced that it will hold an "Affirming Prayer Vigil" at the same time as Graham's event. 

The cathedral said it would be "a quiet service of prayer and reflection affirming all that God has created us to be". 

"On this day and at this time it is important to remind everyone, especially those who are LGBTQ+ that we believe God loves every person, and delights in them wholeheartedly whatever their gender identity, expression, sexual orientation, race, age or role in society," it said.