Cheers to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA), which settled with The Robertson Trust (TRT), in Stirling, Scotland, after TRT cancelled bookings of its conference center facilities for Franklin Graham’s “God Loves You Tour” in 2020.
TRT, Scotland’s largest independent grant-making charity, published an apology to both the BGEA and Stirling Free Church (SFC), and it will pay the organizations £20,000 (about $26,550) towards expenses.
Graham, president and CEO of the BGEA, responded to the news, “The positive resolution of cases in Scotland, England and Wales sends a clear message – religious freedom isn’t dead.”
According to the Christian Institute, the United Kingdom legal group that represented BGEA, this is the fifth legal victory against U.K. venues that cancelled bookings. The cancellations were largely due to Graham’s beliefs about marriage, sexuality and sin.
In the apology statement, TRT Chairman of the Board of Trustees Mark Batho said, “The Robertson Trust is committed to advancing equality and diversity for everyone living in Scotland.”
He explained that their funding policy states “that we do not fund or support the promotion of any particular religious or political beliefs.” When TRT applied that policy to the facilities rental and cancelled the agreement with the BGEA and SFC, “We inadvertently breached the Equality Act 2010,” he said.
The U.K.’s Equality Act forbids discrimination on the basis of “age; gender reassignment; being married or in a civil partnership; being pregnant or on maternity leave; disability; race including colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin; religion or belief; sex [or] sexual orientation (my emphasis).”
In a statement from The Christian Institute, Iain Macaskill, minister of SFC, said,
It has been a long time coming but finally justice has been done. Our legal action was never about financial compensation. It was about the principle. It is against the law to advertise a venue as being available to all-comers but then cancel the contract simply because the booking is for a religious event. Christians have the same legal rights as everyone else and the outcome of this case affirms that.
In addition to cancelling the venue, TRT had fired its former CEO, Kenneth Ferguson, who served from 2011 to 2020. TRT Board Chair Shonaig Macpherson grew angry with Ferguson after she learned he was an elder at SFC and that the church believed, as Jesus taught and most people have believed throughout history, that marriage is the union of a man and a woman.
According to The Christian Institute,
Macpherson disagreed with the church’s views on same-sex marriage. The Tribunal found Macpherson was ‘appalled’ that the church had been allowed to meet on Trust premises and was so angry that her voice was shaking. She made repeated negative reference to the church’s views on same-sex marriage in communications with staff and other trustees.
Earlier this year, an employment tribunal ruled that Ferguson had been discriminated against and unjustly fired.
LGBT activists and their allies had pressured venues across the U.K. to cancel their contracts with the BGEA, as Graham planned an “an eight-venue tour across Britain to speak about the good news of Jesus Christ” in 2021. Activists took exception to Graham’s positions on marriage, sexuality and sin, The Christian Institute reported.
One activist said it was “homophobic” to brand homosexual relationships a sin and that Graham’s comments on sexuality and marriage were “direct hate speech and incitement to violence against LGBTQ+ communities and individuals.”
Graham’s original 2020 tour was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The BGEA has rescheduled the “God Loves You Tour” for May and July 2022, in Liverpool, South Wales, Sheffield and London.
Photo from Facebook.