Preacher Franklin Graham who branded homosexuality a ‘sin’ and reportedly called Islam an ‘evil and very wicked religion’ to appear at Sheffield's Utilita Arena

Controversial preacher Franklin Graham will host a concert in Sheffield after taking legal action and overturning a Sheffield Council ban.

Friday, 5th November 2021, 5:45 pm

Christian evangelist Mr Graham was due to preach at the Arena in June 2020 but his extreme views prompted a backlash from community groups, religious leaders and politicians.

Sheffield Council held discussions with Sheffield City Trust trustees, the board that oversees the Arena, about cancelling the event which was part of a UK tour.

The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association filed a legal claim for breaking the terms of a contract and it was revealed the dispute has been settled and the concert will go ahead.

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NEW ORLEANS - MARCH 11: Franklin Graham speaks during the Celebration of Hope at the New Orleans Arena on March 11, 2006 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Celebration of Hope is Evangelistic festival led by Franklin and Billy Graham, whose Samaritan's Purse ministry has raised, reportedly, more than $36 million for victims of Hurricane Katrina. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Sheffield Council said: “The parties are content that the dispute has been resolved and are content with the confidential terms agreed.

“As part of that settlement, BGEA are entitled to hold their event in the Sheffield Arena and this event has been scheduled for May 25, 2022.”

When asked if a financial settlement was part of the action, Sheffield Council said: “The parties have, with no admission of liability, agreed confidential terms for the settlement of the dispute.”

Why did the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association take legal action?

The BGEA had previously issued a statement on its website saying: “BGEA has filed claims against parties in Sheffield that it believes were responsible for cancelling its legally binding contracts.

“The case in Sheffield involves FlyDSA Arena, Sheffield Council and Sheffield City Trust.

“BGEA’s position remains that in nearly 70 years of public evangelistic outreach ministry, there is no evidence whatsoever that any event involving Franklin Graham has ever caused a danger to public safety or incited public disorder.

“The actions taken by these venues and those responsible for them to publicly repudiate these contracts are clear efforts to distance the decision-makers from BGEA, Franklin Graham and other Christians who hold similar beliefs. There is no question that this was done under pressure from those with opposing views.

“This disregard for principles of good faith and fair dealing, based on the mere suggestion that a person’s sincerely held religious views or statements are “hateful” or would result in public disorder, should be very alarming to anyone who is genuinely concerned about diversity, inclusion and tolerance, let alone free speech and the free exercise of religious beliefs.”

Why was the Franklin Graham concert controversial?

Sheffield Council said it was committed to the values of equality, diversity and inclusion.

“We believe wholeheartedly that everyone has a right to enjoy and feel safe and supported in Sheffield without discrimination or harassment.

“We recognise that the law around freedom of expression allows for a plurality of views including those with which the council vehemently disagrees.”

There were protests against the concert because Mr Graham has branded homosexuality a ‘sin’, spoken out against plans to ban gay conversion therapy and reportedly called Islam an ‘evil and very wicked religion’.

The Bishop of Sheffield Pete Wilcox said the concert was a “risk to the social cohesion of our city” and Sheffield City Region Mayor Dan Jarvis said “intolerance was not welcome” in South Yorkshire.

Back in 1985, the preacher’s father Billy preached for seven consecutive nights at Sheffield United’s Bramall Lane stadium, sending out his message to more than 300,000 people during the week-long stint.