US preacher with 'abhorrent' views on homosexuality and Islam set to appear at Sheffield's FlyDSA Arena
A controversial evangelist who branded homosexuality a ‘sin’, spoke out against plans to ban gay conversion therapy and reportedly called Islam an ‘evil and very wicked religion’ is listed to appear at Sheffield’s FlyDSA Arena.
Franklin Graham, son of the famous US pastor Billy Graham, is scheduled to take to the stage for a free event at the 13,600-capacity venue on June 6 next year, according to promoters of the eight-date Graham Tour UK.
But an LGBTQ+ rights group says his ‘hateful’, ‘abhorrent’ and ‘divisive’ views are the ‘very antithesis of what this city stands for’ and has urged political leaders to speak out.
Open Sheffield, which describes itself as a non-denominational group of LGBTQ+ Christians and allies, has penned an open letter to Sheffield's council leader Julie Dore, lord mayor Tony Downing and Sheffield City Region mayor Dan Jarvis.
“If the views of Franklin Graham are not your views – and if, like us, you believe those views are abhorrent and the very antithesis of what the City of Sheffield stands for – what will you do to promote the true values of the City of Sheffield on June 6, 2020?” it states.
Referring in 2017 to plans to ban conversion therapy in the US, Mr Graham wrote that Democrats who were proposing the bill were ‘very misled’ to say LGBTQ+ people were ‘born perfect’.
Earlier this year, he called homosexuality a ‘sin’ and ‘something to be repentant of, not something to be flaunted, praised or politicised’.
The Christian missionary has also reportedly called Islam ‘evil and very wicked’ and the ‘religion of war’, leading the Muslim Council for Britain to call for him to be refused entry into the UK.
Publicity for the planned tour describes how Mr Graham will be ‘sharing the hope of Jesus Christ... amongst a nation searching for answers’ and says the event will feature a ‘powerful presentation of the Gospel’ plus live music.
Open Sheffield described how in response to Mr Graham’s previous ‘Festival of Hope’ in Lancashire, adverts were withdrawn from buses in the area, Blackpool Tower was lit up in rainbow colours, a rainbow flag was flown by Blackpool Council and various church leaders withdrew their support in light of the preacher’s comments.
Challenging leaders in Sheffield to take a similar stand, its letter states: “Are Franklin Graham’s views your views? If not, then to stay silent, or to do nothing in the face of his 2020 planned visit, risks the inference that the city is content to have those views promoted here without challenge – and that is not something any of us could be proud of.”
James Henderson, Sheffield Council’s director of policy and performance said: “Sheffield is a diverse, inclusive and welcoming city. As an organisation, we are committed to promoting equality, fairness and inclusion, and ensuring that people from different backgrounds are fully able to participate in the life of the city and do not suffer discrimination and harassment.
“We have only just become aware of the booking of Franklin Graham for an event in June and this was not a decision made by Sheffield City Council.”
The Star has also contacted SIV, which runs the arena; and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, which is organising the tour, neither of which has yet responded.