Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson has joined an effort to prevent a Christian evangelist who has made offensive remarks about Muslims and LGBTQ+ people from speaking at a religious event set to take place at Rogers Arena from March 3 through 5.
Franklin Graham, a prominent American religious leader who spoke at the inauguration of U.S. President Donald Trump last month, is set to deliver a Gospel message at the Greater Vancouver Festival of Hope, a free-admission event that will feature Christian musical acts, testimonies and more.
But Graham, the son of famous evangelist Billy Graham, has also come under scrutiny for anti-gay, anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim comments.
“That’s what homosexuality is, it’s a sin against God,” he once said.
Of Islam, Graham said, “It’s I believe a very evil, a very wicked religion.”
WATCH: Donald Trump asks rally in Iowa to raise their hands if they’re Christian conservatives
Robertson and other city officials met with Festival of Hope organizers on Wednesday in an effort to cancel Graham’s appearance. They said his values are not in line with Vancouver’s and they’re concerned about public safety.
“People pick up on these things and would be looking at him as a man of God and then go to see what’s been written about him and find this kind of rhetoric,” Coun. Tim Stevenson told Global News.
WATCH: Vancouver church threatened for holding refugee fundraiser
The city, however, is limited in what it can do. It doesn’t own Rogers Arena, and therefore can’t decide what will take place there.
Festival of Hope executive leader Giulio Gabeli defended Graham’s presence at the event.
“Franklin Graham is not inciting hate language,” he said.
“He’s not coming here to incite violence, he’s coming here to simply present a Gospel message of hope.”
Graham is also the subject of a Change.org petition, started two weeks ago, that opposes him speaking in Vancouver. It had gathered almost 1,400 signatures as of Thursday night.
The petition notes that “there are many others in the Christian community who are uneasy with having Franklin Graham speak in Vancouver, in light of his outspoken bigotry targeting refugees, Muslims and the LGBTQ+ community.”