US preacher could take legal action after Scottish venue axes event over homophobia concerns

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A controversial US preacher has threatened legal action against the SSE Hydro after a prayer meeting was cancelled due to homophobia and hate speech concerns.

Franklin Graham, son of the evangelical preacher Reverend Billy Graham, was due to come to Glasgow in May as part of an eight day tour of the UK.

But bosses at the 14,000 capacity arena scrapped the event after Glasgow City Council - the venue's majority shareholder - called for it to be abandoned following accusations of homophobia.

READ MORE: Over 20% of Scots 'not open-minded or accepting of LGBT people'
Council leader Susan Aitken said allowing the gathering to go ahead could breach strict equality laws due to Graham's "views".

It's understood the administration also expressed fears about the event damaging the city's reputation.

'Perverts' claim

Franklin Graham is one of America's most prominent Christian preachers. Picture: Cornstalker / Wikimedia Commons

Franklin Graham is one of America's most prominent Christian preachers. Picture: Cornstalker / Wikimedia Commons

In 2016, Graham accused LGBT activists of "trying to cram down America's throat the lie that homosexuality is OK", and said anti-discrimination laws in the US would mean that "your children, and your grandchildren will be at risk to sexual predators and perverts".

The Hydro is now the third arena to cancel a booking by the evangelical preacher.

Sheffield Arena and the ACC Liverpool had already scrapped the event following protests.

Ms Aitken said: "The reporting of the ways in which Mr Graham expresses his views makes clear that this is not simply about offence or disagreement.

"Neither is it a debate about free speech.

"How he expresses his views could, I believe, fundamentally breach the council's statutory equalities duties."

'Adverse publicity'

A spokesman for the Hydro said: "The booking for this event was processed in the same way we would for any religious concert of this nature and as a business we remain impartial to the individual beliefs of both our clients and visitors.

"However, we are aware of the recent adverse publicity surrounding this tour and have reviewed this with our partners and stakeholders.

"Following a request from our principal shareholder the matter has been considered and a decision made that we should not host this event."

Graham said he would still be coming to Glasgow, and urged the Hydro to reconsider or find themselves in court.

'Discriminating against Christians'

He also claimed that council and venue bosses were "discriminating against Christians".

Much of the anger towards Graham, son of the Rev. Billy Graham, comes from past comments about gay rights, Islam, and his support for Donald Trump.

Graham said the cancellation was "unfortunate because it's based on heresy and false accusations by just a very small group of people."

He added: "I don't preach hate speech. We're not coming to speak against anybody, everybody is invited to our meetings - we're inclusive.

"Though this venue may be cancelled we have not pulled out of Glasgow - we're coming "We do have options legally.

"We'll certainly pursue those options. We would rather not do that. We don't like having to do that.

"We would hope that the people of the SSE Hydro would reconsider because we do have a contract and we've done nothing or have said nothing that would cause them to breach that contract.

"We just need to pray that God will intervene and that we'll be able to move forward."

The preacher said there was "no question" that the council and the Hydro were discriminating against Christians.

No platforming

Graham also hit out at protesters who had campaigned against the event.

He said: "The other side talk about how tolerant they are and how inclusive they are, but they are the least tolerant, the least inclusive people in the UK."

Green MSP Patrick Harvie - who campaigned against the event - said he was delighted that the venue had "come to the only responsible decision and acknowledged that it would be unacceptable to give this hate speech a platform in Glasgow".

Mr Harvie, who became the first openly bisexual MSP in 2003, added: "As a diverse and inclusive city, these decisions should not be hard to make."