The mayor of England's Liverpool metro region, Steve Rotheram, is calling for the removal of bus ads promoting an upcoming evangelistic event featuring U.S. pastor Franklin Graham, who opposes same-sex marriage, accusing him of being a "hate preacher."
Still, the metro leader has come under fire for intolerance and encouraging hatred of Christians who believe in tradtional marriage and for stirring up a similar fight that another northern England city lost with Graham in a court case in recent years..
Graham is scheduled to speak at the Liverpool Exhibition Centre on May 14 as a part of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association's "God Loves You Tour UK."
Rotheram claims that Franklin is a "hate preacher" based on his Biblical beliefs about marriage and past comments condemning Islamic extremism and he wrote to two local bus companies carrying ads for the ent to remove them.
"To say that I'm angry that the views of a known hate preacher—who has an appalling track record of homophobic and Islamophobic views—are being displayed anywhere in our city region would be an understatement," Rotheram wrote to the two bus companies, the BBC reported.
He added that displaying the preacher's views on buses used by people who "belong to the very communities that Mr. Graham directs his bigotry and bile towards" was "inexcusable."
Graham previously said he believes "marriage is for a man and a woman, and that is what the Bible teaches us," the BBC said.
'REMOVE THE ADS'
Although the bus ads ask the question "Looking for something more?" and include the date and location of the event, Rotheram wrote the Stagecoach and Arriva bus companies demanding they immediately remove the ads, Christian Today reported.
"'God Loves You.' 'Looking for Something More?'. They may not be the most outstanding advertising slogans you have ever heard, but apparently, in modern Britain, these slogans now constitute 'hate speech,'" David Robertson wrote in Christian Today.
"At least they do if they are said by Franklin Graham. It seems we have reached a place where hate speech is no longer about what is said but rather who says it.
The American evangelist's invite to his event says, "Join Franklin Graham as he shares a personal message of hope and enjoy an exciting evening of live music. This event is free of charge. Bring your friends and family!"
The sight of these slogans on the side of buses in Liverpool seems to have triggered, the Metro Mayor of Liverpool, who wrote to the bus companies demanding that they remove the adverts.
He told the Arriva bus company, "To say that I'm angry that the views of a known hate preacher - who has an appalling track record of homophobic and Islamophobic views - are being displayed anywhere in our city region would be an understatement."
Graham is a "known hate preacher" because he is opposed to radical Islam and same-sex marriage, said Roberson in Christian Today.
"We have been here before. In 2020, Franklin Graham's UK tour was canceled because of similar concerns. He went to court and was successful," wrote Robertson.
BLACKPOOL CITY COUNCIL LOSES CASE
"A few years ago, Blackpool City Council also lost a court case after they were sued for removing bus adverts for a Franklin Graham event. They had to apologize and make compensation to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association."
Robertson said that in both these cases, the judge noted that the councils were not behaving fairly and appropriately for a civic authority.
"Rotheram has clearly not learned that lesson. As a civic authority, he thinks that he has the right to demand that private companies remove legal slogans for a legal campaign – just because he does not like the person who is making them.
"It is not (yet) illegal in the UK to disagree with Islam or to oppose same-sex marriage, although it is clear that Rotheram thinks it should be."
He accused Rotheram of being "disingenuous" in his argument. He tweeted, "No one should feel unsafe or uncomfortable using our public transport. Bus companies should prioritize the feelings of passengers – who pay their hard-earned money – over promoting the work of a hate preacher."
Roberson wrote, "The idea that someone feels "unsafe" seeing an advert that says 'God loves you' or 'Looking for Something More?' is as absurd as the notion that no bus company should put an advert which makes anyone feel 'uncomfortable.' That would put an end to all advertising!"
"But of course, Rotheham does not believe that this should apply to everyone. Personally, I find the mayor's views uncomfortable, and they certainly make me feel unsafe – he is, after all, seeking to ban people like me. But of course, I don't count because I am a Christian."
The Christian Today writer said that in his letter to Arriva, the Metro mayor writes that Liverpool is a "diverse and vibrant community of more than 1.6 million people."
"But in the Newspeak language of the new progressives, 'diverse' means 'the same.' Just as in this Brave New World, 'tolerance' actually means 'we will not tolerate those who disagree'; and 'equal' means 'there are some groups who are more equal than others,'" said Robertson
"So, in this same letter, the Metro Mayor of Liverpool is seeking to ban Christian preachers who hold to the teaching of the Bible from being able to meet in his city," wrote Robertson.
"That's the progressive view of tolerance and diversity.
"One could argue that Rotheram is himself guilty of hate speech by seeking to stir up hatred towards Christians who do not share his social views," he said.
"Unlike Franklin Graham, he is not willing to permit those who disagree with his views to have a public platform. In writing his letter to the bus companies, he is using his power to intimidate and bully in order to silence those with whom he does not agree."