While the General Synod of the Church of England was repenting of its ‘white privilege‘ and committing to ‘net zero’ carbon omissions by 2030, the Rt Hon Jacob Rees-Mogg MP has been robustly defending freedom of religion. During Business Questions in the House of Commons, he was asked:
Fiona Bruce (Congleton) (Con)
The Prime Minister said in his Christmas message: “We stand with Christians everywhere, in solidarity, and will defend your right to practise your faith.” Plainly, that was meant to include the UK, so may we have a statement on whether we can really call ourselves a tolerant, inclusive and diverse society that respects freedom of speech, whatever one’s religion or beliefs, if we deny the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association a platform in this country?
To which he responded:
No-platforming is a particularly disagreeable modern trend. Although venues are allowed to take their own decisions about whether or not to host Franklin Graham during his upcoming visit, they must, like all service providers, be careful not to discriminate unlawfully on grounds of religion and belief. The UK has robust protections for freedom of speech and freedom of religion, and the price of living in a free, plural society is tolerating views and beliefs that we disagree with or are even offended by. That is fundamentally important. It is a sad truth that many people who tout themselves as being liberal are liberal only about what they like and are very intolerant of the views with which they disagree.
Franklin Graham, son of the legendary evangelist the late Billy Graham and now President and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, had been invited to the UK to preach the gospel in Glasgow, Newcastle, Milton Keynes, Sheffield, Liverpool, Cardiff, Birmingham and London. A number of large venues had been hired to accommodate the throngs who might want to hear the call to repentance and salvation, as they did with his father in the 1950, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, where he spoke of “life and death, heaven and hell, repentance, society in decay, souls in misery, the love of God, the Cross of Christ. He majored in the gospel in a way simple and clear, relied on Scripture alone for his authority—repeating “the Bible says” without apology—and pursued the listener’s heart and will from beginning to end”.
Billy Graham was even invited to meet the Queen.
But Franklin Graham has been banned. He has not been banned from visiting the UK, as some media reports unhelpfully claim. Nor has he been banned from preaching the gospel, as some churches unhelpfully claim. He has simply been banned from preaching in those secular venues which had previously been booked to accommodate the anticipted throngs, which include Sheffield Arena and the ACC Liverpool. Contracts had been signed, arrangements were being made, but there were objections from certain LGBT groups, and now, according to Pink News, Graham’s tour “lies in tatters”.
The ban has even received the support of the Bishop of Sheffield, the Rt Rev’d Dr Pete Wilcox, who writes:
I’m afraid I cannot support the Graham Tour mission event at the FlyDSA Arena on 6 June next year, at which Franklin Graham is due to speak, and so will not be encouraging parishes in the Diocese of Sheffield to support it either. Mr Graham’s rhetoric is repeatedly and unnecessarily inflammatory and in my opinion represents a risk to the social cohesion of our city. I gladly took part in Billy Graham’s Mission England in 1984 as a candidate for ordained ministry, and in his LiveLink Mission in 1989 as a curate. But to my sadness I detect a tailing off of humility and generosity in the Graham organisation since those days.
Franklin Graham happens to believe that marriage is between a man and a woman, and that homosexual acts are a sin. This is, of course, ‘homophobic’ and ‘hateful’. And so the venues which originally contracted with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association have now cancelled the bookings on the basis that his values do not reflect theirs, in particular those relating to diversity, inclusion and tolerance. One has said that hosting the preacher might even be against the law relating to statutory equality duties.
These venues are in effect imposing a secular sharia Test Act: in order to hire them, you must comply with their beliefs on marriage, sex, gender and sexuality.
Not since 1559 has there been an Act of Uniformity requiring everyone to assent to a particular worldview, and it took more than 300 years to eradicate that. But now gender (/sex) and sexual orientation equality are elevated to a quasi-religious status which trumps any religious worldview that dares oppose it. It is secular pluralism by statute law which is reducing Christian orthodoxy to ‘bigotry’ and ‘hate’. “Socially conservative moral views are now teetering on the edge of criminality,” observed Charles Moore a few years ago.
There is a solution, of course. Franklin Graham should proceed with his evangelistic mission to the UK, and instead of booking nervy secular council-run venues (against whom he ought to take legal action for breach of contract and religious discrimination) he might perhaps consider a few large church venues. Doesn’t the Church of England believe that marriage is “a faithful, committed, permanent and legally sanctioned relationship between a man and a woman”? Doesn’t it believe that homosexual acts “fall short of God’s purpose for human beings”? Church House can hold up to 600…