Members of the British parliament are asking the government to consider refusing entry to U.S. evangelist Franklin Graham, who is accused of making inflammatory comments against Islam and the LGBT community.
Graham, the president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelical Association (BGEA), is due to speak at the Lancashire festival of hope at Blackpool's Winter Gardens in September 2018.
The evangelist has been accused of Islamophobia for describing Islam as "an evil and very wicked religion," although his organization, Samaritan's Purse, has cared for Muslims, including injured Islamic State fighters, in war-ravaged places like Iraq.
He has also been vocal about his opposition to same-sex marriage, saying Satan is behind such unions.
Several MPs have urged Home Secretary Amber Rudd to refuse entry to Graham due to concerns that his visit would promote prejudice and damage interfaith relations.
Gordon Marsden, a Blackpool MP, said that Graham may have violated U.K.'s hate speech laws, adding that the preacher's remarks were "incompatible with what Jesus said in the Bible."
Afzal Khan, the Labour MP for Manchester Gorton, expressed concern that the Graham's upcoming visit would sow division in the U.K.
"His views are not welcome, and I will make representation to the home secretary if it looks like he is intent on coming," he told The Guardian.
A Change.org petition calling for Graham to be banned from entering the U.K. has already garnered over 6,000 signatures. The movement to refuse entry to the prominent evangelist gained national attention after British news outlets reported that some MPs and even Blackpool clergy are voicing out their concerns about the upcoming visit.
Nina Parker, the pastor of Liberty church in Blackpool and the organizer of the petition, said that the planned visit has triggered "enormous amount of protest from Christians in the north-west" of England, and Graham's presence would be "extremely destructive in the area."
Blackpool vicars Andrew Sage and Tracy Charnock have written an open letter to the bishop of Blackburn, Julian Henderson, to raise their concerns about the damage the proposed visit will do to interfaith relations.
"We cannot stay silent in the face of such dangerous and outspoken prejudice," the vicars wrote, suggesting that the bishop's silence on the issue could be seen as a sign of support for the U.S. evangelist.
In a statement, the BGEA said that it has partnered with local churches to hold the event in Blackpool next year.
"It will be a positive and encouraging event with music and also a message from Franklin Graham about the hope that can be found through a relationship with Jesus Christ. It will be free and everyone is invited to attend," the statement read, according to Premier.