Defending Franklin Graham’s Speech

I’ve been to Liverpool only twice, and both times the city was hospitable. The next time? I’m not so sure.

In 1965, my family was returning to Canada after several years living in Plymouth, England. We were booked on the Cunard Line’s RMS Carinthia to sail from Liverpool, so we arrived in the city a day or two before departure. I was five years old, and I remember Liverpool mostly for only one wonderful thing: I saw my first motion picture there and promptly fell in love with Julie Andrews in Mary Poppins.

Thirty-plus years later, Dr. Gerald Pillay, Vice-Chancellor of Liverpool Hope University, invited me and three other scholars to address an international conference of presidents of Christian universities. Leaders from Madras, Nairobi, Krakow, and San Francisco attended, among a couple dozen others. The proceedings were crowned with a sumptuous dinner in the great dining room of City Hall, hosted by the Lord Mayor himself bedecked in his gorgeous chain of office. And it fell to me to offer the toast of thanks on behalf of the conferees to our gracious host.

I’m not confident the current Liverpool mayor would want to hear anything I have to say. He certainly doesn’t want to hear what fellow Christian Franklin Graham has to say.

According to the BBC, ACC Liverpool, the main convention centre in that city, recently cancelled Franklin Graham’s scheduled evangelistic event. A spokesperson said that the venue had been “made aware of a number of statements which we consider to be incompatible with our values.”

Not specifying what set of values a conference centre might be expected to have, nor whether they have been articulated anywhere for the scrutiny of the public that helped pay for it, the spokesperson continued, “In light of this, we can no longer reconcile the balance between freedom of speech and the divisive impact this event is having in our city.”

Mayor Joe Anderson then tweeted his support. The cancellation was the “right” decision because “our city is a diverse city and proud of our LGBTQ+ community and always will be.”

Now Glasgow has done the same, not citing any clear and present danger from Graham’s event (the usual standard for curtailing free speech) but merely the concern of some that Graham will say things with which some people will strongly disagree. (I’m not soft-pedalling the objection: See the BBC’s coverage here.)

Readers of this space know that I am no fan of Franklin Graham’s public utterances on a range of controversial issues. But to my knowledge none of them have descended to meet any serious standard of “hate speech.” And one notes that neither ACC Liverpool nor the Scottish Event Campus accuses him of that—merely of saying things that the people who run them don’t like.

Apparently, in some British cities nowadays, diversity is restricted to a single opinion about sexual minorities, which doesn’t strike the observer as being diverse at all.

Meanwhile, at the farthest reach of the Commonwealth, tennis greats John McEnroe and Martina Navratilova recently decided to breach protocol to promote their view of diversity. They unfurled a banner at centre court to assert that because Australia’s greatest player, Margaret Court, has continued to speak her thoughts about homosexuality diversely from McEnroe and Navratilova, she should have her name removed from the arena in which some of Australia’s best tennis is played.

That doesn’t sound very diversity-loving, either.

[For the rest, please click HERE.]

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