Wednesday, April 07, 2021

British Court Says Removal of Franklin Graham Bus Ads Violated Religion and Speech Rights

In Lancaster Festival of Hope With Franklin Graham v. Blackpool Borough Council(Manchester Cty. Ct., April 1, 2021), a British trial court held that the Equality Act 2010 and the European Convention on Human Rights were violated when banner ads for the Lancaster Festival of Hope were removed from public buses. According to the court:

Upon the Defendants receiving complaints from members of the public about the advertisements, the advertisements were removed from the buses. The complaints related to Franklin Graham and his association with the Festival, and predominantly referred to his views on homosexuality and same-sex marriage as being offensive.

In finding a violation of the Equality Act, the court said in part:

The complaints arose from the objections of members of the public to the religious beliefs. The removal came about because of those complaints. I find it also came about because the Defendants allied themselves on the issue of the religious beliefs with the complainants, and against the Claimant and others holding them. If there were any doubt about that it is made explicit by the content of the press statement issued on behalf of the Second Defendant when the advertisements were removed....

Finding a violation of the European Convention, and thus of the Human Rights Act 1998, the court said in part:

Yes, the Claimant was still able to advertise its event and yes, it was still a success. But “it turned out all right in the end” cannot be an answer to the question of whether the interference with a fundamental right to freedom of expression can be justified. The Defendants had a wholesale disregard for the right to freedom of expression possessed by the Claimant. It gave a preference to the rights and opinions of one part of the community without having any regard for the rights of the Claimant or those who shared its religious beliefs. It made no effort to consider whether any less intrusive interference than removing the advertisements altogether would meet its legitimate aim.

Christianity Daily reports on the decision.