Peter and Hazelmary Bull, devout Christians who own a guesthouse in a popular holiday resort in Cornwall, were ordered by the EHRC to pay a fine of £1,800 each to Martyn Hall and Steven Preddy, two men who had booked a room in September 2008.
The Bulls explained to the Commission that they have a long-standing policy of refusing double rooms to any unmarried couple, no matter what their “orientation,” at the Chymorvah Private Hotel in Marazion near Penzance.
Mrs. Bull commented after the hearing, saying she and her husband were “disappointed” with the result.
“Our double-bed policy was based on our sincere beliefs about marriage, not hostility to anybody. It was applied equally and consistently to unmarried heterosexual couples and homosexual couples, as the judge accepted,” she told media.
“We are trying to live and work in accordance with our Christian faith. As a result we have been sued and ordered to pay £3,600. But many Christians have given us gifts, so thanks to them we will be able to pay the damages.”
She added, “I do feel that Christianity is being marginalized in Britain. The same laws used against us have been used to shut down faith-based adoption agencies. Much is said about ‘equality and diversity’ but it seems some people are more equal than others.”
According to Judge Rutherford’s ruling the crucial factor in the decision was the fact that Hall and Preddy were in a legal civil partnership. Under recently passed equalities laws, civil partners must be treated the same as couples in natural marriages.
Judge Rutherford acknowledged that the Bulls had good reason to want to preclude what they regarded as immoral sexual activity in their home, but commented, “Whatever may have been the position in past centuries it is no longer the case that our laws must, or should automatically reflect the Judaeo-Christian position.”
A spokesman for the Evangelical Alliance responded to the ruling, saying, “Human rights law needs to face up to its current lack of fairness and inability to decide even-handedly where rights clash. This applies particularly to religious conscience and practice in public life.”
The case was one of the first to be brought by homosexualist activists against Christian hotel owners, under the Equalities Act 2008, a law put forward at the behest of the homosexualist lobby by Tony Blair’s Labour government. The situation of Christian bed-and-breakfast owners hosting homosexual couples in their homes was one of the possible scenarios discussed during the debates on the bill. The ECHR, similar in function to Canada’s Human Rights Commissions, was set up under the new law to administer cases of alleged discrimination.
During the giving of testimony, one of the Bull’s employees implied that the suit was a sting by homosexualist activists seeking to make an example of Christian hotel owners to establish a precedent under the new law.
Bernie Quinn testified that Stonewall had written to the Bulls a month earlier “advising” them to change their policies or face possible legal action. Quinn said that the two men gave false information to book a room that they knew would be refused when they arrived at the guesthouse. Quinn said that Preddy had presented himself as “Mrs. Preddy” when asking to book a double room.
The claimants’ barrister, Catherine Casserley, asked Quinn, “Are you suggesting this claim was a set-up?” Quinn agreed and said, “It is not beyond the realms of possibility. I have no proof other than the phone call.
“I cannot assume for them what their motivations were or weren’t. I assumed, going back to the phone call, that we were expecting a Mr. and Mrs. Preddy and what arrived was two gentlemen,” Quinn said.
Ben Summerskill, the head of the country’s leading homosexualist political lobby, Stonewall, praised the ruling, calling it a landmark decision. In a column in the Guardian he ridiculed the Bulls and mocked the idea that they had been “persecuted for their faith,” calling the suggestion “fatuous.”
However, some at the international level are less sanguine and are viewing the situation of British Christians with growing concern.
A Vienna-based human rights watchdog group issued a report last year tracking five years of anti-Christian incidents across Europe, including many that were motivated by newly enacted “equalities” legislation. The report by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said that there is a growing recognition at the institutional level of discrimination and intolerance towards believing Christians.
In his closing remarks, OSCE Director Janez Lenarcic said that the organization has become well aware of “emerging issues” regarding equality and non-discrimination legislation and the difficulties faced by believing Christians.
In an interesting twist, one of Britain’s most prominent homosexualist campaigners, Peter Tatchell, has warned this week against “criminalization” of Christian opinion. Tatchell, a political libertarian, writing in a column for Pink News, the country’s leading homosexualist news source, referred to the recent arrest of Christian street preacher Dale Mcalpine, who was taken into custody for expressing his religious opinion that homosexual acts are sinful.
“Freedom of speech is one of the hallmarks of a civilized society. Mr. Mcalpine’s views were homophobic, but the fact that he was treated as a criminal for expressing them, shocked me… Mr. Mcalpine was neither aggressive, threatening nor intimidating. He did not incite violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) people…”
Tatchell contrasted this with the speeches of Islamic extremists who have “advocated killing gay people and ‘unchaste’ women” and have “heaped hatred and abuse on Jews and Hindus.” Tatchell relates that when he organized a counter-protest at one rally of nearly 6000 Islamic extremists, he and the five members of his group were arrested, but only after they were threatened with death by the Muslims at the rally.
“In contrast to Mr. Mcapline’s case, the police did not drop the charges and apologise, let alone compensate us. It took nearly two years of lengthy, costly legal battles for me to finally win an acquittal.”
“Just as gay people should have the right to criticise religion, people of faith should also have the right to criticise homosexuality. When it comes to expressions of opinion, only threats and incitements to violence – and damaging libels – should be prosecuted,” Tatchell commented.