A CHRISTIAN preacher whose arena event has been removed will receive over £97,000 in damages.
Billy Graham The Evangelical Association (BGEA) successfully sued the Scottish Event Campus (SEC) after a sheriff ruled they were being discriminated against.
But, the event at the Hydro Arena was canceled in January 2020 due to safety fears.
The BGEA claimed the SEC broke the Equality Act by not letting Graham play.
The organization initially sought £200,000 in compensation or asked Graham to perform under the July 2019 contract.
A civil hearing at Glasgow Sheriff Court was told BGEA was due to appear at six other UK venues.
Other venues had canceled reservations while four had postponed.
BGEA paid SEC a deposit of £6,000 for the rental of the city’s Hydro Arena which would have cost £50,000.
The “private” event was to be ticketless and members of the public could enter for free.
The event was described as “a gospel outreach event to profess and promote a religion or philosophical belief”.
Sheriff John McCormick said in his closing remarks, “The intended audience was the general public, regardless of religious belief or none and regardless of sexuality.”
The SEC became aware of the opposition to the event in November 2019 through the press, social media and emails.
Mr Graham also became aware of the post of backlash on Facebook: “Some say I am coming to the UK to bring hate speech to your community. That is simply not true.”
He added that he invited “all members of the LGBTQ community” to the event. He concluded “You are absolutely welcome.”
Preparations were made to cancel the event on January 28, 2020 with the SEC’s public relations officer telling Glasgow City Council: “We have made the decision not to go ahead with this.”
The decision to cancel was postponed until the next day following a meeting with members of the city council, including leader Susan Aitken and former leader Frank McAveety.
Sheriff McCormick said: “At this meeting the views of Glasgow City Council were conveyed to all present in unambiguous terms that the event should be cancelled.”
Meeting minutes show comments were made such as ‘there was a scale on the message being preached that is darker than before’, ‘contractually we may be in breach’ and ‘there is is about “doing the right thing” notwithstanding the contractual situation.”
Miss Aitken told the court proceedings: ‘My overriding concern, and I guess the factor that ultimately was most decisive for me in believing that the event should be cancelled, was because I thought that – not just the expression of opinions, but also the knowledge or expectation that opinions might well be expressed or might be expressed which would have real consequences for the people of Glasgow.
It was also revealed that the main sponsor of the Hydro did not want to be associated with the event and that artists were worried that they would refuse to play in the arena following the event.
Glasgow City Council, as the venue’s majority shareholder, contacted the SEC to request the cancellation of the event.
The letter made no mention of security concerns.
No security concerns were reported to the BGEA, the police or G4S at the time.
The termination letter to BGEA also failed to mention security issues.
It mentioned “negative publicity” which was “reviewed with our partners and stakeholders”.
Sheriff McCormick said: “The event was canceled due to the religious or philosophical beliefs of BGEA and Franklin Graham, as perceived by the SEC’s reaction by others to the religious or philosophical beliefs held by BGEA and/or or Franklin Graham.
“By terminating the agreement, the SEC directly discriminated against BGEA by treating it less favorably than it would have treated others.
“SEC had hosted other religious events but here it terminated its agreement due to a protected characteristic, namely the religious or philosophical beliefs of BGEA and Franklin Graham.
“He acted under pressure from others.”
BGEA lost a total of £97,325.32 following the cancellation of the event which Sheriff McCormick ordered the SEC to pay.
He said: “The Equality Act applies to everyone equally. It is a law designed to protect fundamental rights and freedoms within a pluralistic society.
“This applies to the LGBTQ+ community as well as those of religion (including Christianity) and none.
“It follows that with respect to a protected characteristic (religion or philosophical belief) no section of society can discriminate against those with whom he, she or they disagree.
“Whether others agree with, disagree with or even, as submitted on behalf of BGEA, find the views of the prosecutor or Franklin Graham abhorrent is irrelevant for the purposes of this decision.
“This applies even where, as I have heard evidence, members of the Christian community may disagree with the prosecutor. The court does not rule on the validity of religious or philosophical beliefs.”