Franklin Graham's Sheffield visit axed after calls by LGBT+ groups

image captionFranklin Graham, who is due to tour the UK in May and June, said his speech "doesn't hurt anybody"

A forthcoming appearance by a US evangelist in Sheffield has been cancelled after calls by LGBT+ leaders said he promoted homophobic views.

Franklin Graham, the son of preacher Billy Graham, has said he believes gay marriage is a sin.

He was due to speak at Sheffield Arena on 6 June but the venue operator said it did "not endorse" his views.

Mr Graham denied he was preaching hatred or inciting violence and said: "My speech doesn't hurt anybody."

In a statement the authority said his visit had been cancelled after discussions with arena operators Sheffield City Trust.

'Repulsive views'

Leader of Sheffield City Council Julie Dore said: "All my life I have worked hard to fight discrimination and have worked with communities, especially in my time as leader, to make sure we have an inclusive, tolerant and cohesive city that embraces diversity.

"Franklin Graham, who has demonstrated his intent on creating divisions with his discriminatory and repulsive views, could affect the long-established values that we all hold so dear in Sheffield."

image source, Getty Images
image captionFranklin Graham was pictured speaking to US President Donald Trump at his father Billy's funeral

Mr Graham said: "It's not true that I've come to divide the community. There's no evidence of me preaching hatred or inciting violence.

"I'm just coming to tell them what the Bible has to say. We welcome the LGBT+ community to our event."

He said he had "not received any clarification" about the reasons for the cancelling of the contract and that he was being denied freedom of speech.

"If they oppose me, who's next? Who are they going to silence?"

David Grey, chairman of the trust, said it "aimed to balance freedom of speech whilst promoting equality and freedom from hatred and abuse."

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More than 22 representatives of the city's LGBT+ community had signed a protest letter against his visit saying Mr Graham "has repeatedly publicly promoted his homophobic beliefs".

Councillors also wrote a cross-party letter to organisers warning the visit could lead to protests.

Mr Graham's visit was part of an eight-city tour of the UK.

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