Franklin Graham, an influential voice among homophobic evangelicals, will face a display of queer Pride when he arrives in Blackpool, England, this weekend.
The Blackpool Tower, an iconic tourist attraction since 1894, will be lit up in rainbow lights and draped with a rainbow flag.
The goal is to show solidarity with the LGBTQ community as Graham, son of the late Billy Graham, comes to the seaside town to deliver an address at the three-day Festival of Hope, which begins Friday at the Winter Gardens.
Graham has said Satan was behind LGBTQ rights and same-sex marriage, and that gay people will suffer “the flames of hell.” He even backed Russia’s ban on “gay propaganda,” saying, “Isn’t it sad, though, that America’s own morality has fallen so far that on this issue — protecting children from any homosexual agenda or propaganda — Russia’s standard is higher than our own? In my opinion, Putin is right on these issues.”
Donald Trump called Franklin Graham’s involvement in his 2016 presidential campaign “instrumental.” Most recently Graham claimed accusations of sexual assault against Brett Kavanaugh “not relevant” to his Supreme Court nomination.
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The Christian gathering was organized by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and is supported by a variety of local churches. But LGBTQ groups and allies from other churches are protesting his presence by holding special inclusive services and parading a 13-foot-tall effigy of Jesus wearing a rainbow sash through the town square.
Blackpool MP Gordon Marsden has asked Home Secretary Sajid Javid to revoke Graham’s visa.
“[I’ve received a] wide number of representations from constituents, including local clergy and faith leaders, who were alarmed and appalled by the derogatory and inflammatory views that Franklin Graham has consistently expressed towards Muslims, members of the LGBT community and others,” Javid says.
Nina Parker of Blackpool’s Liberty Church condemned Graham’s “derogatory and inflammatory” comments about marginalized groups. “He seems committed to condemnation, discrimination, walls and prejudice in a way that Jesus never was,” she tells The Guardian. “He seems to have a faith understanding that majors on condemnation and prejudice against minorities.”
Blackpool’s city council did not address the controversy directly, but according to a spokesperson, “The council is a strong supporter of all equalities issues and we use the rainbow flag and its derivatives on a regular basis to demonstrate that support across the whole year.”