More B&B owners in court
In late January, it became clear that another Christian B&B owner, Susanne Wilkinson, is to be taken to court following an allegation of discrimination by a homosexual couple.
Michael Black, and Liberal Democrat councillor John Morgan, are claiming that they were discriminated against under sexual discrimination law after being turned away from a B&B in Cookham, Berkshire on March 19 2010. They have launched legal proceedings against Susanne Wilkinson, the Christian owner of the B&B, to ?make sure that people can?t break the sexual discrimination act and get away with it?.
Mrs. Wilkinson invited Mr. Black and Mr. Morgan into the guesthouse before explaining courteously why she could not offer them the room. She insisted that she was not homophobic and would have offered two single rooms, but the guest house was fully booked. Her husband Francis explained politely that it was a question of living by their faith and that it was against their Christian faith to allow them to share a bed.
Human rights group Liberty confirmed that they are representing the homosexual couple and said that it will be announced in mid-February when and where the court case will take place. The Christian Institute is supporting Mrs. Wilkinson.
The Bulls? appeal
The case is similar to that of Peter and Hazelmary Bull, who in January were ordered to pay damages to a homosexual couple for not allowing them to share a double bed in their guesthouse. Their policy was applied equally and consistently to unmarried heterosexual couples and homosexual couples, as the judge accepted. The judge ruled that under the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations, introduced under the previous government, civil partnerships must be treated in the same way as marriage. The Bulls have been granted leave to appeal, and are planning to do so, as the judge stated that his ruling ?does affect the human rights of the defendants to manifest their religion and forces them to act in a manner contrary to their deeply and genuinely held beliefs?.
Since the ruling, Mrs. Bull has received many abusive calls and emails. Even the hospital where Mr. Bull is currently recovering from major surgery has had to deal with nuisance phone calls, leading staff to operate a password system for friends and family enquiring after Mr. Bull?s health. The Wilkinsons have also been subjected to abusive phone calls, text messages and emails since the facts of their story emerged in the media. Mr. Wilkinson told the police: ?There must have been 900 emails, and I would say half of them are really abusive and threatening?.
Fears come true
In December 2006, when questioned about the impact of the Sexual Orientation Regulations on those in just such circumstances as the Bulls and Wilkinsons, the then Labour MP Keith Hill and supporter of the Regulations, wrote in reply to a constituent?s question: ?No one will experience the loss of their livelihood ? that is, they will not be discriminating ? purely for refusing to provide goods or services ? as long as they consistently apply their beliefs when it comes to dealing with those who practise sex outside of marriage?. It appears that Mr. Hill was wrong, as the Bulls? guesthouse is now teetering on the brink of financial ruin.
Just days before Mr. Preddy and Mr. Hall arrived at the guesthouse, a letter had been sent to the establishment from homosexual lobby group, Stonewall. The letter claimed that Mr. and Mrs. Bull?s double room policy was unlawful. Stonewall denies that the litigation is a ?set up?.
Tory MP Chris Grayling was removed from his job of Shadow Home Secretary after he was recorded saying that B&B owners should be allowed to follow their conscience and exercise their Christian faith when dealing with this issue. Mr. Grayling was secretly recorded making the comments in April 2010 at a meeting of the Centre for Policy Studies think-tank. He said that hotels should not be allowed to discriminate against homosexuals, but that those individuals running B&Bs were a different matter. In the same month, the Conservative Party?s candidate for North Ayrshire and Arran, Philip Lardner, was sacked for expressing his view on the case and his views on homosexuality on his website.
Commenting on the case and writing on the widely-respected Conservative Home blog, Mr. Leitch, a young Tory activist, said: ?The penalty for holding a diverse viewpoint has been extreme. As an openly gay man it infuriates me when equality groups tell me that cases such as the [Bulls?s] should be celebrated as victories for the ?homosexual community?. I refuse to be confined to any such sub-section of society?. Anne Widdecombe stated: ?There is a difference between discriminating against somebody because of what he is and refusing to promote or facilitate what he does?.
Andrea Minichiello Williams, of Christian Concern and the Christian Legal Centre, said: ?The level of intolerance against those who wish to live by their faith appears to be reaching endemic proportions. Opposition, abuse and harassment are being used by elements of the homosexual lobby to silence any dissenting opinions and crush those who have a different set of beliefs. Equality law is completely out of balance at the moment, as judicial interpretation is consistently favouring homosexual ?rights? over the very historic rights of freedom of conscience and freedom of speech. This is a dangerous situation and cannot continue or we will see an escalation of these cases and more injustice?.
The Christian Institute / Christian Concern / Ruth Woodcraft