You may or may not agree with Graham’s politics. You may or may not agree with his religious views and the way he puts them across. But that he should be permitted to voice them was once a universally accepted basic right. But not any longer.
One of the difficulties of being a free speech advocate is that you inevitably find yourself defending people you don’t agree with. That is, after all, the whole point. I may not like the views and opinions being expressed, or the way they are expressed, but it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that the only ground I have for demanding the right to say whatever I want is to make sure I defend your right to say whatever you want too.
Most people would say they agree with that. That is, until they are faced with an actual person saying particular things they really don’t like. But that is the real test of whether your principle is worth anything at all. It’s not the easy cases in which we either agree, or are indifferent, to what is being said. Our commitment to free speech is only really tested when we’re faced with words and expressions we really despise. We’re only really advocates of free speech if we are prepared to accept the right of others to say such things.
And so we come to the latest round of, ‘I support free speech but…’ This time it is American Evangelical hate-figure, Franklin Graham. Graham is known for about four things: (1) being the son of Billy Graham; (2) being an Evangelical; (3) being a supporter of Donald Trump and – as a corollary of some of those – (4) saying things that liberal people really don’t like hearing about other religions and gay people.
Now, you may or may not agree with Graham’s politics. You may or may not agree with his religious views and the way he puts them across. But that he should be permitted to voice them was once a universally accepted basic right. But not any longer.
Graham was due to speak in Liverpool, as part of an eight-city tour, at ACC Liverpool. But following a campaign by “equality campaigners” (who, ironically, are not concerned about equal rights for others in the matter of free speech) the venue has cancelled Graham on the grounds, it ‘may incite hateful mobilisation and risk the security of our LGBTQ+ community’.
The Guardian go on to report:
The ACC said in a statement: “Over the past few days we have been made aware of a number of statements which we consider to be incompatible with our values.
“In light of this we can no longer reconcile the balance between freedom of speech and the divisive impact this event is having in our city. We have informed the organisers of the event that the booking will no longer be fulfilled.”
Joe Anderson, Liverpool’s mayor, said the cancellation was the right decision. “Our city is a diverse city and proud of our LGBTQ+ community and always will be,” he tweeted.
“We can not allow hatred and intolerance to go unchallenged by anyone, including by religious groups or sects.”
And so lobby groups, supported by the Mayor of Liverpool, have successfully managed to cancel a speaker because they do not like what he has to say.