A United Kingdom Council reportedly apologized for censoring an advertisement that promotes an event featuring Franklin Graham and paid over $150,000 for it.
The Christian Post said the Blackpool Council paid damages of $150,000 to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association for censoring the Lancashire Festival of Hope advertisements in opposition to the group's conservative stand on LGBT issues. The fees include payment for legal cost and taxes of $115,700 and damages of $34,400.
The Blackpool council also issued a public apology the past week for their actions as part of the settlement for the case filed at the County Court at Manchester.
In the public apology dated July 9, Blackpool Council Leader Lyn Williams admitted that the advertisements in itself were not "offensive" and that their decision to censor was due to reactions to the event's main speaker, Franklin Graham, being known for his stand against same-sex relationships and same sex marriage. They pointed out that they acted purely out of the complaint of some of their members who saw the advertisements without dialoguing first with the event's organizers.
"We accept that the advertisements were not in themselves offensive. We further accept that in removing the advertisements we did not take into account the fact that this might cause offence to other members of the public and suggest that some voices should not be heard. We also regret that we did not consult with the organisers prior to taking our decision," the council said in their statement.
"We accept the findings of the Court that we discriminated against Lancashire Festival of Hope because of the religious beliefs of Franklin Graham and in doing so interfered with Lancashire Festival of Hope's right to freedom of speech," they added. "We sincerely apologise to the organisers of the event for the upset and inconvenience caused."
The council ended their public apology stating that they have "learnt from this experience" and will ensure "equality of access and opportunity" to the citizens of Blackpool. The council also revealed that they have revised their policies and have introduced one that is more "clear and transparent" so that they will not repeat their mistake.
According to the Billy Graham Evangelical Association, the council's public apology sends a "strong statement for religious freedom" in the United Kingdom.
"This is an important moment for religious freedom in the U.K. We're grateful to God for the final outcome of this case, and for what it will mean for churches and Christians across the U.K. in the years ahead," BGEA President Franklin Graham said last Friday.
The incident, which happened in 2018, was actually decided by Judge Clair Evans last April in the favor of BGEA against the Blackpool Borough Council and the Blackpool Transport Services Limited, which displayed the said advertisements for 28 days in July of that year. The advertisements only announced the title, date and venue of the event along with its website address. The judge's ruling stressed that the advertisements "contained no overtly religious wording nor imagery."
Though the event was not canceled and was actually "successful," the judge stressed that the "interference" to the event was discriminatory on the part of the plaintiffs, violating their Article 10 rights, or their "fundamental right to freedom of expression." The judge pointed out that the council "breached article 14 and discriminated on the ground of religion" against BGEA.