A United Kingdom court ruled in April that the city of Blackpool, England violated the American evangelist Franklin Graham’s human rights when it banned his advertisements on their municipal public transportation.
This week, Graham’s organization celebrated the precedent-setting settlement and were issued an apology from the city which a judge determined had discriminated against it.
The celebrated evangelist had planned an at the Blackpool Winter Gardens in 2018. His travel to the U.K, however, was met with protests by many who took issue with his comments on same-sex marriage.
Blackpool Borough Council and Blackpool Transport Service initially approved, and then later removed advertisements for the event, which read “Lancashire Festival of Hope with Franklin Graham – Time for Hope.”
The son of the late evangelist Billy Graham, Franklin Graham is, of course, a devout Christian who holds biblical views that many disagree with. He had planned the Blackpool event to bring the hope of the gospel to the local community.
At the time, the BBC asked him his views on same-sex marriage, to which he had replied that “marriage is for a man and a woman and that is what the Bible teaches us” and that same-sex marriage was a “sin”.
“If we don’t repent and turn from our sins then we are doomed,” he said, summarizing the gospel.
Judge Claire Evans of the Manchester County Court ruled that the decision to pull the advertisements disregarded “the right to freedom of expression,” as the BBC reported.
“It gave preference to the rights and opinions of one part of the community without any regard for the rights of the claimant or those who shared its religious beliefs,” she determined.
“This is the antithesis of the manner in which a public authority should behave in a democratic society,” the judge added.
The Blackpool Borough Council and Blackpool Transport Services Limited issued a public apology and accepted a court settlement last week.
“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 offense 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 organizers prior to taking our decision,” the statement read, also agreeing they had discriminated against Graham.
“We sincerely apologize to the organizers of the event for the upset and inconvenience caused,” the statement read.
CBN News notes that the Billy Graham Association will be awarded a total of £109,000, or $150,300 USD, to cover legal costs the Festival has incurred.
Graham celebrated the ruling as an important religious freedom moment; as the decision cannot be appealed, the ruling can now serve as a precedent in other cases.
“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,” he said in a statement.
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