Harriet Sherwood reports in the Guardian: Muslim group calls for preacher linked to Trump to be denied UK visa:
Britain’s leading Muslim organisation has called on the Home Office to refuse a UK visa to a prominent US evangelical preacher with links to Donald Trump and a track record of Islamophobic and homophobic statements.
Franklin Graham, the son of the evangelist Billy Graham, has been invited to preach at a Christian festival in Blackpool this month.
The preacher, who said Trump’s election victory was evidence that “God’s hand” was at work, has called Islam “evil” and “wicked”, claimed Barack Obama’s “problem is that he was born a Muslim” and said Satan was the architect of same-sex marriage and LGBT rights.
The Muslim Council of Britain has joined three MPs, including a government whip, in demanding the Home Office apply its criteria on hate speech to Graham’s visa request…
Meanwhile, other Christians in Blackpool have issued this press release.
INCLUSIVE CHRISTIANS TO RESIST FRANKLIN GRAHAM
Christians in Blackpool are planning a series of inclusive services to protest against the visit of a controversial preacher.
Coinciding with the Festival of Hope at which American evangelist Franklin Graham will be principal speaker, the Rainbow Weekend aims to stand in solidarity with LGBT people of faith and resist what they believe to be a message of intolerance.
Mr Graham has previously courted controversy for his views on Islam, transgender people, women’s rights, and same-sex relationships – claiming Satan is behind same-sex marriage. He is also an outspoken defender of Donald Trump.
Mr Graham’s visit has led to local MPs Gordon Marsden and Paul Maynard expressing concerns about the Festival of Hope, with Mr Marsden suggesting Mr Graham’s views constituted hate speech and were “incompatible with what Jesus said in the Bible”. A petition asking that Mr Graham is not granted a visa gained more than 8,000 signatures.
The Rainbow Weekend, a series of inclusive services and a prayer meeting on 22nd and 23rd September, is a collaboration between inclusive churches in the town and Open Table, a network of LGBT-affirming churches across England and Wales. During the weekend ‘Big Jesus’, a 4-metre high representation of Jesus wearing a rainbow sash, will be on walkabout in the town centre with a message of Jesus’ love for all people including LGBT people. ‘Big Jesus’ has walked in Pride parades throughout the UK from Brighton to Glasgow with the message that Jesus always spent time with marginalised people and would welcome and embrace the LGBT community.
In addition to affirming LGBT people, the Rainbow Weekend will also represent a Christian act of solidarity with Lancashire’s Muslim communities in the face of Mr Graham’s dangerous anti-Islamic prejudice.
Andrew Page, an elder in the United Reformed Church and one of the organisers, said: “Inevitably there have been calls for Mr Graham not to be allowed to preach in Blackpool. No doubt there will be people loudly protesting Franklin Graham and the Festival of Hope. Some of us as Christians wanted to send out a positive message that Mr Graham does not speak in our name. We are countering Mr Graham’s toxic rhetoric by welcoming and affirming LGBT people and others excluded by his version of Christianity.
“And so we have the Rainbow Weekend. We’re welcoming and including those who Mr Graham would marginalise. It’s going to be a great time of faith, celebration and affirmation.”
Nina Parker, the pastor of Blackpool’s Liberty Church, said: “As a Christian and as a leader of a church that particularly welcomes LGBT people, I’m horrified that other local churches are inviting someone with this record of hate speech.” She added that Mr Graham’s presence would be “extremely destructive in the area” especially in relation to interfaith relationships.
The disappointment with local churches was echoed by Claire Fox, a Christian who lives in Blackpool. She explained: “The disappointment for me isn’t that Franklin Graham is coming to Blackpool but that churches in Blackpool have invited him. They have not withdrawn their invitation despite knowing what damage they are doing. Much work was done to build bridges, and it seems that the organisers of the Festival of Hope have treated all these efforts with contempt.”
Tracy Charnock, the vicar of Holy Trinity South Shore, said: “I would like to make known my deep disappoint in local Christians and senior leaders of the Church, who have shown support (often through their silence) towards a man who has, on many occasions, preached hate. I rejoice in the diversity of this town of Blackpool and I hold the utmost respect for peoples of any faith or no faith. It’s also wonderful to celebrate the strong LGBT presence in Blackpool that makes this town so vibrant. I thank God that he has created us and loves us for who we are. I pray that this will be the resounding message of the Rainbow Weekend.”
Andrew Sage, the vicar of St Stephen’s on the Cliffs, added: “We are so nervous about this visit and the damage it will do. We cannot stay silent in the face of such dangerous and outspoken prejudice. To be clear. we are not against the Mission, but we are opposed to Franklin Graham leading it. To our minds, remaining silent is not to remain neutral, and is not an option. We wish to make it clear that the invitation to Franklin Graham to come to Blackpool is ‘Not in our name.’ How else would we be able to look our Muslim and LGBT brothers and sisters in the eye?”
Kieran Bohan, one of the co-ordinator of the Open Table network, said: “We are happy to support this and see such good partnership in solidarity against a divisive message from the mis-named Festival of Hope. We believe that the affirming celebration of the Rainbow Weekend is a perfect act of non-violent resistance.”
The Rainbow Weekend will begin on Saturday 22nd September with an inclusive communion service at Holy Trinity Church in South Shore (at 5pm), followed by an evening prayer meeting at North Shore Methodist Church (from 7pm). Sunday 23rd September sees a Songs of Praise event hosted by St Stephen’s on the Cliffs Church, including a thanksgiving service for people working in theatre and entertainment (at 3pm). The weekend culminates with a celebration service of informal, contemporary worship at Liberty Church (on Sunday at 6.30pm).
Blackpool Tower will fly the Rainbow Flag and be lit in rainbow colours throughout the weekend to show support for the LGBT community. The Rainbow Weekend organisers are delighted the Council have clearly demonstrated their support on one of Blackpool’s busiest Illuminations weekends, when thousands of people will come to the resort for the World Fireworks Championships on the Friday evening.