(The Charlotte Observer) - Evangelist Franklin Graham has been banned from appearing in a Liverpool, England, arena on his upcoming summer tour of the United Kingdom because of his opposition to gay rights, according to the city’s mayor.
“Our City is a diverse City and proud of our LGBTQ+ community and always will be,” Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson tweeted Sunday.
“We can not allow hatred and intolerance to go unchallenged by anyone including by religious groups or sects. It’s right we have banned from the M&S Arena Franklin Graham. #Love conquers hatred always.”
In response, Graham on Monday penned “a letter to the LGBTQ community in the UK” and posted it to Facebook. He said he did not intend “to bring hateful speech to your community. This is just not true.”
Graham maintained in the letter his stance that “God defines homosexuality as sin.”
“But God goes even further than that, to say that we are all sinners — myself included,” he wrote.
This week’s news is not the first time Graham has encountered resistance in the U.K.
In 2018, a transit company in England yanked ads from the sides of its double-decker buses promoting Graham’s planned “Crusade of Hope” in the seaside resort town of Blackpool, The Charlotte Observer reported at the time. Blackpool Transport cited “heightened tension” over Graham’s remarks critical of the LGBTQ community.
Liverpool is ranked among the top 10 most LGBT-friendly cities in the UK by travel site Ampersand.
The North Carolina preacher posted that he intends on his eight-city tour only “to share the Gospel, which is the Good News that God loves the people of the UK, and that Jesus Christ came to this earth to save us from our sins.”
Graham told his 8.2 million Facebook followers that he considers himself a sinner, too.
“My message to all people is that they can be forgiven and they can have a right relationship with God,” he posted on Monday. “That’s Good News.”
He said he invites “everyone in the LGBTQ community to come and hear for yourselves the Gospel messages that I will be bringing from God’s Word, the Bible. You are absolutely welcome.”
Graham, 67, is the son of the late Billy Graham, who lived in Charlotte, and who is chairman of the Billy Graham Evangelist Association.
This week, some U.K. residents criticized Liverpool’s mayor, saying a liberty guaranteed to all was at stake.
“I may not like what they say but this is supposed to be a country of free speech,” one person wrote to Anderson on Twitter. “A very slippery path. McCarthyism.”
Others praised the decision.
“Bigotry and hate aren’t welcome here,” one person responded to the mayor’s announcement.
“Thank You for stopping this vile character,” said another.