In a landmark case for religious liberty in Britain, Blackpool Council and Blackpool Transport have agreed to issue a public apology and to pay out £109,000 ($150,000) to Reverend Franklin Graham’s evangelical organisation in compensation for banning advertisements for a religious festival in 2018.
Franklin Graham, the eldest son of famed American evangelist Billy Graham and the CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, took the Blackpool government to court after they removed advertisements for the 2018 Lancashire Festival of Hope from busses after complaints were made about the preacher’s views on same-sex marriage.
On Monday, judges ruled that the council and transport services must pay £25,000 ($34,400) in “just satisfaction” damages and an additional £84,000 ($115,600) to cover the legal costs for the festival organisers, the local Blackpool Gazette newspaper reported.
In response to the ruling, Reverend Graham said: “This is an important moment for religious freedom in the UK.
“We’re grateful to God for the final outcome of this case, and for what it will mean for churches and Christians across the UK in the years ahead. The Good News of Jesus Christ must be proclaimed.
“My prayer is that this case will encourage Christians to stand firm.”
“For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.” (Psalm 100:5)
— Franklin Graham (@Franklin_Graham) July 19, 2021
In a joint public apology, Blackpool Council and Blackpool Transport stated: “We accept that the advertisements were not in themselves offensive.
“We further accept that in removing the advertisements we did not take into account the fact that this might cause offence to other members of the public and suggest that some voices should not be heard.
“We also regret that we did not consult with the organisers prior to taking our decision.
“We accept the findings of the court that we discriminated against Lancashire Festival of Hope because of the religious beliefs of Franklin Graham and in doing so interfered with Lancashire Festival of Hope’s right to freedom of speech.”
“We sincerely apologise to the organisers of the event for the upset and inconvenience caused.”
The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association is still currently in legal action across the UK, however, after every venue on his planned tour cancelled and refused to host the evangelical preacher last year over his views on LGBT issues.
Reverend Graham told The Guardian in February 2020 that he was “denied [a platform] because of religious beliefs” and in October announced he would be launching lawsuits against the venues in Manchester and Birmingham and a separate suit against the venues in Sheffield and Wales.
Following the cancellations, Graham said: “As Americans, we should be concerned about the rise of secularism and the potential suppression of religious freedom and freedom of speech in the UK.”
Franklin Graham: LGBTQ Activists ‘Intolerant of Traditional Christianity’ https://t.co/fsGf2ViRRp
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) February 17, 2020
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