WEST SPRINGFIELD, Mass (WWLP) – Nearly 6,000 people were at the Big E fairgrounds to hear from Reverend Franklin Graham Saturday.
President and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Reverend Graham kicked off his Decision America Tour on May 19th to share a message of hope “calling on people to pray and to engage local civic opportunities.”
Reverend Graham told 22News, “Massachusetts is facing a lot of problems, [for example,] the drug problems, all this we see and it’s a reflection on our society today and the problems we’re facing. I want people to know that there’s hope, a lot of people feel that there’s no hope.”
But protesters are saying, “Reverend Graham does not speak for all of the religious community.”
An op-ed published in The Republican this week raised concerns regarding Graham’s stance on the LGBTQ and Muslim communities saying, “We want to make clear… that not all religious people share his beliefs.”
The “Letter to the Editor” had more than 50 signatures from local religious leaders and quoted several statements from Graham, including:
- “All Muslims should be banned from the United States because Islam is a ‘very evil and wicked religion’ at war with the Christian West.” – (NBC Nightly News, November 16, 2001)
- “Can’t stay gay and call yourself a Christian.” – (Dr. James Dobson’s Family Talk, January 19, 2019)
Graham told 22News, Saturday’s event wasn’t about politics but rather to encourage people to have a relationship with God.
“We love everybody, we want everybody to come, but I don’t agree with everybody and just like people don’t agree with me, I don’t agree with everybody else on everything. But, we want to try and find common ground where we can,” Graham said.
Protesters greeted Graham at his other New England stops, but police say they weren’t out Saturday in West Springfield.
The Big E’s head of security told 22News, if people protested during the event they could be banned from the fairgrounds for an entire year.