Manchester County Court Judge Claire Evans ruled March 31 “overwhelmingly in favor” of the Lancashire Festival of Hope with Franklin Graham, delivering one of the most comprehensive judicial rebukes of cancel culture in recent memory.
“We thank God for this ruling because it is a win for every Christian in the U.K.,” Franklin said.
In July 2018, promotional bus adverts for the Lancashire Festival of Hope with Franklin Graham in Blackpool, England, were pulled by Blackpool Borough Council and Blackpool Transport Services Limited because they claimed the ads “resulted in heightened tension.”
The decision had been in response to what the transportation company said was “customer and public feedback” expressing disapproval of Franklin Graham’s Biblical views about marriage and sexuality.
Yet the court found that the ads themselves were inoffensive—simply reading “Lancashire Festival of Hope with Franklin Graham–Time for Hope,” along with the date, venue and website for the event. Judge Evans wrote that the transportation company had a “wholesale disregard” for the Lancashire Festival of Hope’s right to freedom of expression, and had in fact violated the Equality Act 2010, which makes it unlawful to discriminate against someone because of religion or belief.
Evans noted that sincerely held traditional religious beliefs about marriage, which are characteristic of Christians and other religions, does not make the individuals or organizations who hold them “extremist.”
“It is a significant day for religious liberty and freedom of speech,” said James Barrett, chairman of the board of directors for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association UK. “… The court in this case recognized that Blackpool’s Council cared more about not displeasing the LGBTQ community than upholding the rights of local churches to advertise a Christian festival of hope. The evidence presented during the trial clearly showed Blackpool Council and Blackpool Transport Services Limited deliberately favored one group over another while seeking to maintain that they were being neutral. In doing so, the council failed in its duty to advance equal opportunities in the public sector to all of its residents. The judge summarized it best in her ruling when she said, ‘This is the antithesis of the manner in which a public authority should behave in a democratic society.’
“I am grateful the courts have once again reiterated that the freedom to speak only what is not offensive is not freedom of speech at all,” he added.
Despite the ad removals, the Lancashire Festival of Hope with Franklin Graham drew more than 9,000 people from across North West England Sept. 21-23, 2018, with more than 400 people making commitments for Christ.