Evangelist Franklin Graham on Thursday won a two-year court battle with a town in England that yanked his crusade ads off buses because of his “anti-LGBTQ” remarks.
Blackpool, a resort town along the Irish Sea, and a transit company “discriminated” against Graham “on the ground of religion,” Judge Claire Evans ruled, according to a copy of her 35-page decision.
In a statement to The Charlotte Observer, Graham said he thanked God for the ruling “because it is a win for every Christian in the UK.”
Graham has a right to freedom of expression, Evans wrote, “and the role of the court is not to enquire into the validity of differing religious views, or to give preference to some over others.
“All religions and beliefs are characteristics protected by law,” according to the judge. “The domestic courts and the European Court of Human Rights have consistently affirmed that a pluralistic tolerant society allows for the expression of many different and sometimes diametrically opposed beliefs.”
LGBTQ complaints against Franklin Graham
In removing the ads, Blackpool Transport cited “heightened tension” over Graham’s remarks critical of the LGBTQ community, the Observer previously reported.
The company said it acted in response to complaints from British LGBTQ leaders.
Graham shot back on Facebook at the time, saying his planned 2018 “Crusade of Hope” was designed to “transform hearts and lives.”
“I’m sorry,” Graham posted, “that some see hope as offensive, but I can assure you that tens of thousands of people in Blackpool and across the United Kingdom are searching for hope. Sex, drugs, money, even religion — none of these are the answer.”
The LGBTQ group Blackpool Pride canceled its two-day festival booking at the Winter Gardens in England that year to protest Graham’s appearance, The (Blackpool) Gazette reported.
Two members of Parliament urged the British government to investigate whether Graham should have been denied a visa, according to The Gazette.
Graham’s critics in Great Britain cited his 2001 comments calling Islam “a very evil and wicked religion.” They also quoted Graham approving Russian President Vladimir Putin’s crackdown of LGBTQ people in that country.
‘Significant day’ for religious freedom
Graham is president and CEO of the Charlotte-based Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
James Barrett, chairman of the association board, called the judge’s ruling “one of the most comprehensive judicial rebukes of cancel culture in the UK.”
“It is a significant day for religious liberty and freedom of speech,” Barrett said in a statement. “The Court clearly affirmed that Christians and other people of faith who publicly express traditional religious views about marriage and human sexuality are protected by law.”
The Blackpool Borough Council, Barrett said, “cared more about not displeasing the LGBTQ community than upholding the rights of local churches to advertise a Christian festival of hope,” Barrett said.
The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association expects a “remedies hearing” soon where the judge would determine financial damages and any other measures against Blackpool and the transit company, association spokesman Mark Barber said.