Blackpool Council and Blackpool Transport have had to issue a public apology and pay £109,000 to an Christian evangelist group.
The pair were taken to court by the organisers of the Lancashire Festival of Hope, which took place in 2018, after adverts for the three day festival were removed from Blackpool buses.
But a judge ruled that the council and bus firm violated the Equality Act and the Human Rights Act by banning the adverts. Now the judges has said they must pay £25,000 in “just satisfaction” damages plus £84,000 in legal costs to the festival team.
The bus adverts which caused the controversy
In addition they have had to publish a public apology. In it they state: “We accept that the advertisements were not in themselves offensive.
“We further accept that in removing the advertisements we did not take into account the fact that this might cause offence to other members of the public and suggest that some voices should not be heard.
“We also regret that we did not consult with the organisers prior to taking our decision.
“We accept the findings of the court that we discriminated against Lancashire Festival of Hope because of the religious beliefs of Franklin Graham and in doing so interfered with Lancashire Festival of Hope’s right to freedom of speech.
US evangelist Franklin Graham
“We sincerely apologise to the organisers of the event for the upset and inconvenience caused.”
The festival organisers say they are pleased with the result and that it sets a precedent for others in the country.
Franklin Graham, president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association said: “This is an important moment for religious freedom in the UK.
“We’re grateful to God for the final outcome of this case, and for what it will mean for churches and Christians across the UK in the years ahead. The Good News of Jesus Christ must be proclaimed.
“My prayer is that this case will encourage Christians to stand firm.”
The Festival of Hope took place in September 2018 at the Winter Gardens where Franklin Graham’s father Billy had preached in 1982.