Furious metro mayor demands removal of Franklin Graham ‘hate preacher’ adverts on Liverpool buses

In a similar incident in 2018, a judge ruled against Blackpool Council after they removed posters featuring Franklin from buses

Metro mayor Steve Rotheram is furious that ‘hate speech’ adverts promoting US evangelist Franklin Graham have appeared on the side of some buses in the Liverpool City Region and has demanded their immediate removal.

The mayor has contacted bus operators Stagecoach and Arriva urging them to take action, saying: “We will never give in to those who seek to divide us.”

Reverend Graham, the son of US preacher Billy Graham and a close friend of former president Donald Trump, has previously described same-sex marriage as a sin and promoted Islamophobic views.

Franklin Graham advert on a bus in Liverpool. Image: Liverpool Against Hate Preachers @ToDealers/twitter

Rev Graham is due to appear at Liverpool’s Arena and Convention Centre on May 14 to kick-off his God Loves You Tour UK.

In his letter, mayor Rotheram said: “To say that I’m angry that the views of a known hate preacher – who has an appalling track record of homophobic and Islamophobic views – are being displayed anywhere in our city region would be an understatement.

“But for them to be displayed in public view on our buses – which are used by thousands of people every day, many of whom belong to the very communities that Mr Graham directs his bigotry and bile towards – is inexcusable.

Liverpool City Region mayor, Steve Rotheram

“No one in our city region should ever feel unsafe or uncomfortable travelling by public transport. I would urge you to prioritise the interests and safety of your passengers that give you their hard-earned money every day – over promoting the work of a hate preacher.”

Court ruling goes against Blackpool in similar case

In a similar incident from 2018, Blackpool Council and Blackpool Transport were taken to court by the organisers of the three-day Lancashire Festival of Hope event after removing posters featuring Rev Graham from buses in the seaside town.

The decision to take them down was made following a string of complaints.

The Blackpool Gazette reported in July last year that a judge ruled the council and bus firm violated the Equality Act and the Human Rights Act by banning the adverts and ordered the pair to pay £109,000 and issue a public apology.

The Franklin Graham bus adverts which caused the controversy in Blackpool. Image: Blackpool Gazette

The bus adverts did not specifically mention Rev Graham’s views and judge Claire Evans ruled that the defendants had ‘discriminated on the ground of religion against the claimant’.

Franklin Graham controversy in Liverpool

The American evangelist came under fire from Liverpool cabinet member for culture Harry Doyle in November last year when he called for him to apologise for “historical comments and statements made regarding the LGBTQ+ community”.

Councillor Doyle, who describes himself as an LGBTQ+ Christian, released a statement expressing disappointment that the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) UK Tour would be going ahead at the ACC Liverpool.

LiverpoolWorld contacted Rev Graham at the time but he did not offer an apology.

In a statement to LiverpoolWorld, he said: “Throughout our 71 years of evangelistic outreach ministry, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association has worked with hundreds of venues in cities all over the world, and with thousands of pastors, business and civic leaders who share a deep sense of responsibility for their communities.

“We understand that balancing various community interests, particularly in today’s diverse society, can present complex challenges, and we are grateful to God for this renewed opportunity to share the Good News of Jesus Christ in Liverpool.”

Who is Franklin Graham and what is the God Loves You Tour UK?

Franklin Graham is the son of famous American evangelist Billy Graham who passed away in 2018, aged 99.

Graham Snr was known for holding huge evangelistic rallies and was spiritual adviser to 12 presidents from Harry S. Truman to Barack Obama.

Rev. Franklin Graham, son of the late evangelical Christian leader Billy Graham, is a supporter of Donald Trump. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Franklin Graham has been an outspoken supporter of former US President Donald Trump. His critics, including some church leaders in the UK, have questioned Rev Graham’s views.

LGBTQ+ campaigners in Sheffield stated last year that he has “repeatedly promoted homophobic beliefs”.

What has ACC Liverpool said?

The ACC was the scene of large-scale protests in October 2021 following the decision to go ahead with a controversial arms fair in the city and the venue has been in talks with the BGEA.

In 2020, ACC Liverpool was one of a number of venues across the UK which tried to stop the eight-city tour and cancel bookings due to Rev Graham’s views.

However, BGEA successfully launched a challenge against the cancellation of the event and an agreement between the two sides was reached, allowing the event rescheduled to May 2022.

An ACC Liverpool Group spokesperson said: “Subsequent to confirming a booking with the BGEA to host one date of its planned Graham Tour UK 2020, we were made aware of a number of statements made by the intended keynote speaker for the event - the Reverend Franklin Graham - which we do not support or condone and which various groups and individuals have taken issue with.

“This led us to take the decision to challenge the original event taking place in the format proposed by BGEA. Since that time we have been in conversation with BGEA regarding our respective concerns and how best to reach a resolution, to ensure the rights and interests of all communities, groups and individuals are respected.”

“We have continued to work with BGEA to come to an agreement to host a date of ‘The God Loves You Tour UK’ at Exhibition Centre Liverpool on 14 May 2022.”

The spokesperson added that they had received “satisfactory assurances” from BGEA that Rev Graham’s message at the event would not be “discriminatory, disrespectful or negative towards any particular communities, groups or individuals”.

Liverpool City Council’s stance

Joanne Anderson, the Mayor of Liverpool, has been working to develop an ethical charter for the city.

A motion passed last year saw Liverpool City Council request that the ACC develop and adopt an Ethical Charter as company policy and update their risk register to include risk embarrassment and negative association for Liverpool City Council.

This is to ensure that future events like this coming are considered in line with the fundamental values of Liverpool City Council before being accepted.