A Scottish judge has ruled that the Scottish Event Campus (SEC) discriminated against the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) because of Franklin Graham’s religious views when it canceled a 2020 event.
Sheriff John McCormick, a judge for the Sheriff Court of Glasgow, issued his ruling Monday, declaring that the SEC violated the 2010 Equality Act by discriminating against BGEA because of Graham’s religious and philosophical views.
“By terminating the agreement the defender directly discriminated against the pursuer in that it treated the pursuer less favourably than it would have treated others,” McCormick wrote. “The defender had hosted other religious events, but here it terminated its agreement because of a protected characteristic, namely, the religious or philosophical beliefs of the pursuer and Franklin Graham.”
The judge ruled that the 2010 Equality Act applies equally to all. “It is an Act designed to protect cornerstone rights and freedoms within a pluralist society. It applies to the LGBTQ+ community as it does to those of religion (including Christianity) and none. It follows that in relation to a protected characteristic (here: religion or philosophical belief) no section of society can discriminate against those with whom he, she or they disagree,” he reasoned.
The Sheriff found that pressure from protestors, including social media campaigns furthered by politicians who falsely portrayed Graham as Islamophobic and homophobic, led the Glasgow City Council to express concern over allowing him to speak. The council, the majority shareholder of SEC, met and discussed potential harms of allowing the event to continue. They sent a letter to the SEC urging them to cancel the BGEA event, claiming that there was potential for Graham “to make homophobic and islamophobic [sic] comments” and added that the council may violate the 2010 Equality Act by allowing him to speak.
They also claimed that allowing Graham to speak would hurt the city’s reputation.
The SEC complied, sending a letter to BGEA alleging that BGEA had breached its contract requirement that it not act in any way reasonably likely to bring SEC into “disrepute.”
McCormick said he found “no evidence” that Graham would make such comments. He wrote,
“The defender’s true problem with the pursuer arises as a result of the religious views of Franklin Graham, which it has sought to categorize by wrenching selected comments made in the past whilst conveniently ignoring contrary comments also made by Franklin Graham.”
He further ruled,
“The law cannot endorse an outcome whereby a mainstream Christian religious gathering cannot be held because some members of the community, however vehemently, disagree with religiously based beliefs to which they take objection. Such objectors in a democratic society undoubtedly have a right to freedom of expression and of assembly to protest against other’s religious views. What they do not have is a right to silence them or to stop religious assemblies from being held and from making welcome all who would come and hear the Good News preached by Franklin Graham at the Glasgow SSE Hydro Event.”
McCormick awarded BGEA $109,927 in damages.
Graham celebrated the ruling, saying,
“I am grateful to God for this decision—it is a clear victory for freedom of speech and religion in the UK. This case was never about financial remedies—it was about the preservation of religious freedom in the UK—particularly the right for Christians to share the Gospel in the public square. I want to thank Sheriff John McCormick for upholding the law and affirming that Christians must be treated fairly and equally. This ruling will be a great encouragement for Christians and people of all faiths across the UK and many other parts of the world.”
Matthew 5:11-12 says,
“Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
The Glasgow City Council and the SEC listened to and furthered lies about Franklin Graham. Those lies started because of Graham’s belief in God’s Word and his steadfast preaching, including the Bible’s commands against homosexuality. The world doesn’t want to be told about its sin. That’s why people try to silence those who preach the truth.
1 Peter 3:14-16 says,
“But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. ‘Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.’ But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.”
McCormick saw through the slander against Graham, and he is to be commended for adhering to the law and furthering religious freedom. Hopefully, thanks in part to this ruling, those who believed these lies about Franklin will come to understand the truth and listen to the message of God’s love that he preaches.
Ready to dive deeper into the intersection of faith and policy? Head over to our Theology of Politics series page where we’ve published several long-form pieces that will help Christians navigate where their faith should direct them on political issues.