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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege

Court rules against homophobic discrimination

Bristol County Court has awarded £1,800 each in damages to the gay couple who were refused a room in a Cornish hotel because of the owners’ religious beliefs.

Keith Porteous Wood, Executive Director of the National Secular Society commented:

“This is yet another example of the growing militancy by evangelical Christians demanding privileges for their followers through courts and employment tribunals. Fortunately, all the cases they have brought to court have so far been spectacularly unsuccessful*. The court, as we predicted, has rightly resisted the pernicious claim that exercising “conscience”, be it Christian or any other kind, is a carte blanche to break the law. It is just as reprehensible to refuse accommodation on the grounds of sexual orientation as race. Lawful activities conducted behind closed doors are no legitimate concern of those running businesses. The argument that this was a private home is undercut by the fact it has a large sign outside proclaiming it to be a hotel.

“Mr & Mrs Bull’s argument that they denied double rooms to all unmarried people, not just homosexuals, has been shown to be false by one of the National Secular Society’s Council members, Dr Ray Newton. He stayed at this hotel in a double room with an unmarried partner – they registered under different names – but they were not challenged."

Background

* Other examples of failures: (Registrar) Ladele v. Islington Council; McFarlane v. Relate Avon Limited; Eweida v. British Airways; Caroline Petrie (nurse) and Olive Jones (teacher) - North Somerset cases.


Also see
Bristol gay couple win Cornwall B&B bed ban case (BBC)

Commentary critical of such cases:

From The Tablet 10 December 2010

... ‘The Christian Institute will go to court in Bristol on Monday to defend Cornish guesthouse owners Peter and Hazelmary Bull, who refused to allow a gay couple to share one of their double-bedded rooms two years ago. The Bulls are being sued for sexual orientation discrimination by Martyn Hall and his civil partner, Steven Preddy, under the Equality Act, over their policy of restricting double-bed accommodation to married couples only. The case is the first of its kind in Britain.

‘But neither of these bodies has anything like as high a profile as the CLC, leading to criticism of the Centre’s work in some quarters. One Christian lawyer, who did not want to be named, said the CLC’s focus was too narrow, and risked undermining its core message.

‘“I think they are very sincere and honest people but I think they see things in apocalyptic terms. They almost seek martyrdom rather than trying to seek workable solutions. They are a little too narrow in their outlook. There are too few lawyers. Just four, from what I know. They don’t seem to have any desire to work with other Christian legal groups.” He also claimed the CLC “seemed to be uniformly unsuccessful”.

‘“They have not won anything, as far as I know. They do not do enough to resolve these issues outside of court, when they would probably be able to achieve more that way. They also seem to have an obsession with homosexual cases.”

‘These views were refuted by Andrea Williams, who said the CLC was there to “make a stand” and was not discouraged by its losses. “All of our cases are to do with freedom of religion to fight for people’s right to be free to profess their faith,” she said.’


Published Tue, 18 Jan 2011