Early in December 2017, we highlighted a proposed visit by the Televangelist Franklin Graham to Blackpool in September 2018 where he is listed to speak at the Lancashire Festival of Hope. Blackpool Council have formally responded to complaints against Graham speaking, with this statement.

Cllr Maria Kirkland, Blackpool Council’s Cabinet Member for Third Sector Engagement and Leisure Services, said:

“In March 2017 Blackpool’s Winter Gardens received an enquiry from The Unity Church Organisation for a three day event scheduled for Friday 21st to Sunday 23rd September 2018.

“Since the enquiry was received, the Council has been made aware of a number of alleged comments and opinions on topics including gender, sexuality, race and immigration by Franklin Graham, the main speaker at this event.

“The 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. 

“Therefore, the issues, representations from individuals and organisations and potential Equality Impacts, have been explored very carefully and seriously and we have investigated the options open to us.

“Decisions in Law, over the nature of Franklin Graham’s reported comments and whether or not they constitute Incitement to Hate, a criminal act in the UK, are entirely matters for the Home Office.  The Council will be forwarding all the material that has been given to us and we would encourage other interested parties to do the same.

“We will have a contractual obligation to The Billy Graham Evangelistic organisation, over their booking at the Winter Gardens.  Furthermore, we equally accept the crucial democratic principles of free speech and associated rights of religious expression under the Human Rights Act.

“We shall make The Bill Graham Evangelistic organisation aware, that the booking conditions include (explicit or implicit) acknowledgement of compliance with all UK law.  As will all large events that are hosted at the Winter Gardens, the organisers will be invited to attend the Safety Advisory Group at which Lancashire Police will be consulted in relation to any potential Public Disorder at the Event.

“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.”

A formal response from Tell MAMA is listed below:

“Given the previous statements that we highlighted in detail last year, we are concerned about the visit to the UK and the impacts on the social cohesion of our country. We believe that given the previous statements made by Graham, there will be significant opposition to him attending and speaking in the UK”.

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