People are not happy
LGBT+ groups have demanded that a controversial Christian preacher who has called the LGBT+ community a "moral 9/11" be banned from speaking in Sheffield.
Franklin Graham is set to speak in June at the city's FlyDSA Arena, home to Sheffield varsity ice hockey, as part of his many ‘’Christian revival tours’’, sparking uproar among campaigners.
The American pastor, son of the late preacher Billy Graham, has branded gay marriage a "sin" and is known for his shameless homophobia.
But 22 LGBT+ campaigners in Sheffield moved to stop the speech from going ahead today, penning an open letter to Sheffield City Trust claiming that his views "far exceed freedom of speech".
They accuse him of "hate speech and incitement to violence against LGBT+ communities and individuals which should not be welcomed in our city, or anywhere else".
They urged Sheffield City Trust and Sheffield International Venues (SIV), the company that own the arena, to "not cause further harm to LGBT+ individuals and communities and reconsider their position and cancel the Graham Franklin event".
Graham, who spoke at Donald Trump’s inauguration, has claimed that the LGBT+ community is a "moral 9/11" and that gay people are dangerous, not to be allowed in Christian homes.
He has previously praised Vladimir Putin’s anti-gay laws and in 2015 said: “I very much appreciate that President Putin is protecting Russian young people against homosexual propaganda. If only to give them the opportunity to grow up and make a decision for themselves.”
FlyDSA Arena plays host to Varsity ice hockey
MPs tried to ban after Franklin’s appearance in Blackpool in 2018, which attracted a crowd of 10,000 people. Councillors in Sheffield wrote a cross-party letter to organisers earlier this month warning of protests at the event.
Sheffield City Council said it had "just become aware" of the booking and that it was not connected to them.
Residents of Sheffield are outraged at his return. Pete Wilcox, a Sheffield bishop, said: “Mr Graham’s rhetoric is repeatedly and unnecessarily inflammatory, and in my opinion, represents a risk to the social cohesion of our city.”
The tour website states the preacher aims to "share the hope of Jesus Christ’’ through Britain, but whether he will be transforming their hearts through gospel or hate speech is still unclear.
He will also be visiting arenas in seven other major UK cities, including Newcastle, Liverpool, Cardiff and Glasgow, finishing his tour in London.
Graham, president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, told The Tab Sheffield in a statement: "The Gospel is inclusive. God invites everyone to put their faith and trust in His Son, Jesus Christ. I’m coming to FlyDSA Arena in Sheffield on June 6 to share this good news from the Bible: ‘God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.’
"I’m not coming to Sheffield to preach against anyone—I’m coming to tell everyone about a God who loves them. The Gospel’s life-saving truth and power applies to everyone in this great city. The most important decision anyone will make in their lifetime is what they will do with Jesus Christ. I hope everyone will come and hear this good news for themselves—all are welcome."