Evangelist Franklin Graham, who earlier this year had all eight of his planned United Kingdom appearances canceled by the venues after pressure from the LGBT community, is now facing similar backlash in Germany.
Following in the footsteps of his late father, the Rev. Billy Graham, the younger evangelist was scheduled to bring the gospel to Germany at the Cologne Lanxess Arena on June 20. But Sven Lehmann, a member of the country’s federal parliament, the Bundestag, sent an open letter to the venue urging it "not to stage the hate preacher," UK’s Premier Christian News reported.
"Graham has repeatedly been against homosexuals," Lehmann wrote. "In 2015 he called for a boycott of an LGBTI-friendly company and explained a year later that Homosexuals are 'enemies' of Christians provided that they do not 'regret' their sexual orientation."
Additionally, the Cologne Lesbian and Gay Day (KLUST) alleges Graham’s biblical view regarding "homosexuality as sin" creates a "breeding ground on which violence against lesbians and gays thrives."
Several German churches, however, support the Billy Graham Evangelist Association’s Festival of Hope and are calling the claims against Franklin Graham “defamatory.” The Evangelical Free Church of Cologne said in a statement the intent of the gathering was solely to present the life-changing message of the gospel, which "resists radicalism and racism and works for justice and peace all over the world."
In addition to his evangelistic outreaches, Graham also leads Samaritan’s Purse, which provides humanitarian and disaster relief around the globe.
Heinrich Derksen, director of the Bible Seminary in Bonn (Bornheim), said Graham “would never call for human rights to be restricted for homosexuals."
The latest developments in Germany come after the BGEA filed suit in late February against at least one of the UK venues that canceled his summer tour stops. Several British officials labeled Graham’s view on homosexuality “repulsive” and “discriminatory,” the Charlotte Observer reported.
“This case has wide-reaching ramifications for religious freedom and democracy in the UK and Europe,” Graham said in a news release about the lawsuit, adding he’s hoping to secure a favorable resolution to the issue.
“This is ultimately about whether the Scottish Event Campus will discriminate against the religious beliefs of Christians,” the evangelist said in the statement.
In an interview last month with The Guardian newspaper, Graham said the venues were breaking signed contracts with the BGEA.
“We had contracts signed and, in some cases, deposits paid,” he said. “I haven’t broken any laws. We are being denied because of religious beliefs and our faith. It’s a freedom of religion issue and also a free speech issue.
“We have attorneys trying to get the venues to reverse their decisions. We certainly have a legal position we’re standing on.”
More than 2,000 UK churches are supporting the Graham tour, according to World Net Daily.
Despite claims by the venues that the tour would have a "divisive impact," the BGEA maintains that "in nearly 70 years of public evangelistic outreach ministry, there is no evidence whatsoever that any BGEA event involving Franklin Graham has ever caused a danger to public safety or incited public disorder."
Newcastle City Council leader Nick Forbes disagrees.
"Pastor Graham peddles controversial, repulsive views about LGBT people which are in direct conflict with the values we hold dear in Newcastle," Forbes said, according to WND.
In the midst of the controversy, Graham has held fast to his biblical values.
"I believe the Bible teaches that marriage is between a man and a woman," he told Premier radio in February.
"That's the Church of England's position. I think her majesty the queen, that's her position, and it's the position of the church, pretty much worldwide. This is what the Bible teaches and that's what I believe."
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Justin Sullivan/Staff
Lori Arnold is a national award-winning journalist whose experience includes 16 years at a daily community newspaper in San Diego and 16 years as writer-editor for the Christian Examiner. She owns StoryLori Media and is a member of the Evangelical Press Association.