The Muslim Council of Britain wants the United Kingdom government to refuse a visa to Christian evangelist Franklin Graham over what the group called his "hatred for Muslims and other minorities," The Guardian reported.
“In the past the government has banned individuals whom they claim are ‘not conducive to the public good,’" the group stated, according to the outlet, adding that it wants the country's Home Office — which is responsible for immigration and security — to "apply its criteria" on hate speech to Graham’s visa request.
“If it does not, it will send a clear message that it is not consistent in challenging all forms of bigotry,” the Muslim Council added, according to The Guardian.
What's the background?
Graham, son of the late evangelist Billy Graham, is slated to preach at a Christian festival in Blackpool — the “Crusade of Hope” — later in September. His scheduled appearance previously drew ire, as a British transit company in July pulled crusade ads from its buses after receiving complaints related to Graham's opposition to the LGBTQ lifestyle.
But Graham didn't back down from the outrage, announcing in a Facebook post that he's "sorry that some see hope as offensive, but I can assure you that tens of thousands of people in Blackpool and across the United Kingdom are searching for hope. Sex, drugs, money, even religion — none of these are the answer.”
He continued: “I’m coming to share with everyone in Blackpool, Lancashire, and across North West England that there is One who can give you hope. Hope for today, hope for tomorrow, and hope for eternity. His name is Jesus Christ! Will you pray with me for this event in September and for God to work in a mighty way to transform hearts and lives across this region?”
Last year, Graham said although he loves those in the LGBT community, he won’t be coerced into accepting the LGBT lifestyle.
“The LGBT community continues to target Christians to try to get us to accept their lifestyle," he said. "It ain’t gonna happen. God calls homosexuality sin — take it up with Him if you don’t like it. He is the one who defines sin, not me.”
What else are Graham detractors saying?
Fiyaz Mughal, the founder of Tell Mama, which monitors UK Islamophobia, told The Guardian it's shocking that Graham is receiving a platform as his views are “regressive and need to be challenged."
Gordon Marsden, a Blackpool South official, added to the paper that this week he'll write to Sajid Javid, the home secretary, to call for the denial of Graham's visa. The secretary has the power to exclude individuals from entry, the paper said.
“It’s perfectly possible for the government not to admit someone whose presence is not conducive to the public good,” Marsden added to The Guardian. “Graham’s visit to Blackpool is likely to cause considerable offense.”
Nina Parker — pastor of Liberty church, which welcomes LGBT worshipers — told the paper Graham's planned visit is “extremely destructive” and has been “causing division between churches and within churches."
The Blackpool Methodist Circuit added to The Guardian that it “cannot support any preaching or teaching which promotes homophobia or is likely to be damaging to interfaith dialogue" and won't support the festival over various Graham comments.
“I believe Franklin Graham will come to teach the gospel, but many people are upset by his comments, and I cannot stand by those comments,” Ron Farrington, pastor of independent evangelical Crossgate Church in Preston, told the paper.
Is there more opposition?
Three Blackpool churches are planning to hold services specifically welcoming LGBT worshipers over the weekend of Franklin’s visit, The Guardian said — and a 13-foot tall carnival model of Jesus adorned with a rainbow sash will be paraded through the town center.
“The [Blackpool] council’s position on these matters is robust and clear. We want to tackle discrimination, promote equality and increase respect and understanding between people regardless of their race, religion or sexual orientation or any such matter that can be subject to prejudice in our society,” councillor Maria Kirkland told the paper in reference to Graham's visit. "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."
The Home Office declined to comment on Graham’s visa application, The Guardian said, adding that the crusade didn't respond to a request for comment.