Franklin Graham, son of legendary evangelist Billy Graham, won't be allowed entry into the United Kingdom for an event next year if several UK government officials have their way. They accuse Graham of speech crimes that would be covered by the First Amendment in the United States.
What's going on?
According to the Asheville Citizen Times, several government officials have asked the UK home secretary, Amber Rudd, to consider refusing Graham entry into the country next year when he is slated to be a featured speaker at a September festival. Ironically, the event is being organized by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association U.K., of which Graham is the president and CEO.
The officials have accused Graham of "hate speech," citing his rhetoric against Islam, Muslims and the LGBT community. As the Guardian noted, Graham has said Islam is "an evil and very wicked religion."
Graham's critics even began a Change.org petition calling for the evangelist to be barred entry into the U.K. for the event. So far, the petition has 7,300 signatures.
What do Graham's critics say?
The Change.org petition reads in part:
Unlike his father, Billy Graham, Franklin Graham engages in outspoken bigotry targeting refugees, Muslims and LGBT people. His father promoted unity and respect in communities but Franklin Graham’s extreme views promote prejudice and division.
Speech likely to promote prejudice and hatred is grounds for the government to refuse a visa. Help us stop this man getting a visa to come here to spread his hatred.
Meanwhile, Afzal Khan, a British member of parliament, told the Guardian that Graham's "views are not welcome."
Gordon Marsden, another MP, told the BBC: "I think frankly the evidence is piling up that his visit to the UK...would not be a good thing and not probably in my view a very Christian thing." He added that Graham views are "incompatible with what Jesus said in the Bible."
An official for the town where the event is scheduled to take place said recently about Graham: "If matters are brought to our attention that could constitute incitement to hatred, we will forward these to the relevant public authorities and should this be proved we will not hesitate to terminate this booking."
How did Graham at the BGEA respond?
The BGEA told the Guardian the event in question is partnering with local churches to spread the Gospel.
"It will be a positive and encouraging event with music and also a message from Franklin Graham about the hope that can be found through a relationship with Jesus Christ. It will be free and everyone is invited to attend," the group said.