Franklin Graham has slammed news reports claiming that hundreds of LGBT protesters came out against his three-day evangelistic event in Blackpool, U.K.
The preacher said that while there were around 39 protesters on the largest night for the “Festival of Hope” outreach event over the weekend, that is a far cry from claims that “up to 200” showed up.
“I guess fake news is everywhere — it’s in England too! As word got out that I was coming to Blackpool to preach the Gospel, some were against us coming and tried to stir up opposition and protesters. But what they intended for harm, God used for good. We had thousands attend the events this weekend and hundreds of lives were changed by the power of the Gospel!” Graham wrote Tuesday on Facebook.
He said that overall, there were only a “handful” of people protesting outside, despite what the Blackpool Gazette has reported. At the same time, close to 9,000 attended the “Festival of Hope” over nine days.
The publication in question said that “up to 200 people” came out to the Winter Gardens to protest Graham’s arrival, accusing him of homophobic and anti-Islam preaching.
Protesters reportedly waved rainbow flags and handed out leaflets to people warning them of Graham’s past preaching, with statements such as “I love (gay people) enough to care to warn them that if they want to continue living like this, it’s the flames of hell for you” and “I believe (Islam) is a very evil and wicked religion.”
Other publications, including The Huffington Post, also picked up on the story, reporting that on Saturday and Sunday activists used a 12-foot-high Jesus figure draped with rainbow sash as part of their protests.
Some, such as Nina Parker, pastor of Liberty Church Blackpool, explained the purpose of the efforts opposing Graham’s preaching.
“Through [conversations] with passers by and some people going into the Festival we were able to tell people that there are Christians who value the equality of gay people and are truly inclusive,” Parker argued.
On Facebook, Graham said that his ministry counted “39 protesters” on the largest night, however, not hundreds.
“No question, there’s a definite bias against Christians in much of the mainline media. The sad thing about that is, they’re missing the best news of all,” the evangelist argued.
“I want everyone to know that God loves them — including every protester. He sent His Son Jesus Christ to die for our sins. If we turn to Him in repentance and faith, God will not only forgive us, but give us eternal life and a new beginning,” he added.
Graham, who leads the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, has repeatedly denied that his purpose for preaching in the U.K. has anything to do with attacking gay people, despite months of accusations from LGBT activists, including some churches.
“My message will be the simple Gospel message: a timeless message of God’s hope, love and redemption for all people,” the preacher said ahead of the event. “Regardless of the hostility, I plan to preach the Word of God in Blackpool.”