The zealous Christian owners of the Bed & Breakfast which refused a double room to a gay couple have been found guilty of discrimination:
Devout Christian hotel owners who refused to allow a gay couple to share a double room acted unlawfully, a judge at Bristol county court ruled today.
Martyn Hall and Steven Preddy, who are civil partners, won their landmark claim for discrimination in a case funded and supported by theEquality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).
The ruling, one of the first made under the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007, is likely to provide those in partnerships with greater protection from discrimination.
The owners of the Chymorvah private hotel in Cornwall, Peter and Hazel Bull, do not allow couples who are not married to share double rooms because they do not believe in sex before marriage.
The Bulls asserted that their refusal to accommodate civil partners in a double room was not to do with sexual orientation but “everything to do with sex”. The restriction, the owners said, applied equally to heterosexual couples who are not married.
In his ruling, Judge Andrew Rutherford said the hotel had directly discriminated against the couple on the grounds of their sexual orientation and awarded them compensation of £1,800 each.
A great result. I’ve heard numerous complaints that the Bulls should be allowed to discriminate against anyone they like, but the Sexual Orientation Regulations of course apply because they are providing a service, which may be conducted within their home, but which constrains their freedom to discriminate there. Ben Summerskill of Stonewall points out:
During passage of the 2006 Equality Act, Stonewall fought hard to secure pioneering “goods and services” protections for lesbian and gay people, protecting them for the first time against discrimination in the delivery of public and commercial services. The preceding legal entitlement to deny gay people a service was every bit as offensive as the notorious signs outside guesthouses that once said: “No blacks. No Irish.” And people certainly took advantage of it, as lesbians denied smear tests and gay men refused holiday bookings were well aware.
The Bulls suggest that it’s their freedom, and not that of a gay couple, that is compromised by the existing law. But no part of the current and carefully calibrated compact in Britain’s equality legislation forces anyone to do anything. However, if a couple choose to turn their home into a commercial enterprise, why should they be any more entitled to exempt themselves from equality legislation than from health and safety laws?
Of course they shouldn’t – common sense says they shouldn’t. But the Christian devout keep protesting their right to discriminate as a necessary component of their religion trumps every right gay people have to be protected from discrimination. We’ve had relationship counsellors, civil registrars and others professing their right not to serve gay people in the same manner as they would others, and they’ve all failed. Judge Andrew Rutherford said:
the right of the defendants to manifest their religion is not absolute and “can be limited to protect the rights and freedoms of the claimants”.
No doubt the devout will continue to insist they’re being persecuted, but I would insist that quote proves conclusively otherwise.
We’ve had marriage registrars, marriage counsellors, and now an anti-gay adoption adviser, who has, following her removal from an adoption panel, after refusing to rule on cases involving same-sex parents, sued for religious discrimination:
She [Dr Sheila Matthews] said: “I understand that legislation permits same sex couples to adopt and they are positively encouraged to apply, but I have professional concerns, based on educational and psychological evidence, of the influences on children growing up in homosexual households and I feel this is not the best possible option for a child.
“I do not consider myself to be homophobic, however I believe that children do best in families with a father and mother playing different roles in a child’s upbringing and committed to each other in a lifelong relationship.”
She added: “My view arose from both a professional one from my reading of the literature, and an historical Christian perspective of relationships, based on the Bible, an authority which our court system still uses today to swear in those giving evidence and juries, based on its authority.”
Of course the homophobia is built in to the second paragraph, but Dr Matthews’ problem, as with the previous instances of Christian soldiers trying to get opt-outs in law to discriminate based entirely on the basis of their crazy belief, is that she was in breach of her contract, as well as of the law. Her view isn’t a medical one (or even a factual one if you want to broaden the argument) which can be substantiated at all, and no doubt she’ll keep insisting it is, but noone has suggested she not be allowed to believe this bigoted garbage – she just can’t act on it in a professional capacity. Although gay and religious rights have clashed here again (and will continue to do so), the reason why her ‘religious rights’ have been placed second is clear:
The employment tribunal, sitting in Leicester, dismissed the claim.
Concluding a two-day hearing, regional employment judge John MacMillan said she had no case against the council.
He said: “The complaints of religious discrimination fail and are dismissed.
“This case fails fairly and squarely on its facts.”
He added: “In our judgment, at least from the time of the pre-hearing review, the continuation of these proceedings was plainly misconceived… they were doomed to fail.
“There is simply no factual basis for the claims.”
Mr MacMillan said there was no evidence that Dr Matthews was treated differently from any other panel member who might request to abstain from voting, or that she was specifically discriminated against on the basis of her Christianity.
He said the issue “transcended the boundaries of all religions” and ruled that Dr Matthews should pay the council’s legal costs.
Message to the legions of Christian soldiers yet to come: your right to practice and believe in your religion do not (in the world of work and service provision) give you the right under the law to discriminate against people for their sexual orientation. So quit it.
It’s the normal garbage you hear from modern day Christian soldiers (read ‘bigots’), determined to try to retain any legal right to discriminate against gay people. And of course it’s presented by the Daily HateMail:
Gay rights laws are eroding Christianity and stifling free speech, Church of England bishops warned yesterday.
Senior clerics, including former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey, spoke out ahead of a High Court ‘clash of rights’ hearing over whether Christians are fit to foster or adopt children.
The test case starting today involves a couple who say they have been barred from fostering because they refuse to give up their religious belief that homosexuality is unacceptable.
Unacceptable to bigots maybe, but it’s a spurious argument to suggest that this is about whether or not Christians are fit to foster or adopt children. If they’re Christian bigots of course they shouldn’t; if they are determined to break equalities legislation because ‘God’ told them to do so then of course they shouldn’t, but this isn’t a secular/Christian argument – there are plenty of Christians who don’t oppose gay people or gay rights. That’s not what senior Bishops would have you think though:
The [open] letter is signed by Lord Carey, the Bishop of Winchester Rt Rev Michael Scott-Joynt, the Bishop of Chester Rt Rev Peter Forster, and Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, the former Bishop of Rochester.
They wrote: ‘The High Court is to be asked to rule on whether Christians are “fit people” to adopt or foster children – or whether they will be excluded, regardless of the needs of children, from doing so because of the requirements of homosexual rights.
‘Research clearly establishes that children flourish best in a family with both a mother and father in a committed relationship.
‘The supporters of homosexual rights cannot be allowed to suppress all disagreement or disapproval, and “coerce silence”.’
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a better case for removing these bigoted liars from the House of Lords. Research of course doesn’t prove anything of the sort, and supporters of gay rights aren’t remotely interested in ‘suppressing’ disagreement in this matter. It’s a question of equality before the law – of course they’re right in acknowledging that there will be times (many of which I’ve blogged about before) where rights are in conflict with each other and decisions will have to be made in court which should win out. But this is pretty clear – they are allowed to practice their religion, as are Owen and Eunice Johns, but noone is allowed to discriminate against gay people in areas codified by law, and rightly so.
It’s a real pity that these Men of God, who demand their beliefs be unconditionally respected, can’t even back their own argument up without resorting to lies. Still though, that’s theists for you. A repugnant case, which I hope the High Court will see sense on.
Ultra religious Christian zealot Lillian Ladele has failed once again in her continuing quest to appeal against her sacking for discriminating against gay people:
An Islington registrar who refused to carry out civil partnerships for gay couples has lost her appeal.
The Court of Appeal ruled today that Lillian Ladele had not been discriminated against. She had said she could not hold the ceremonies because of her Christian beliefs.
Lord Neuberger expressed some sympathy for her position but said that in a “modern liberal democracy”, only “very limited exceptions” could be made.
The Christian Institute, which is supporting Ladele, has said it will appeal to the Supreme Court.
The ruling was welcomed by Stonewall.
Director of public affairs Derek Munn said: “Stonewall are pleased that the Court of Appeal has upheld the right of lesbian and gay people to receive public services from public servants. We are glad that Islington council have seen this through for the sake of their lesbian and gay council tax payers.
“You can’t refuse a service to a person based on their gender, race or disability and you can’t on the basis of their sexual orientation either.”
You may remember civil registrar Ladele was fired by Islington Council for refusing to perform civil partnerships, and then took them to a tribunal, alleging religious discrimination. It’s becoming a reassuringly familiar refrain that appeals tribunals and courts, despite the appalling way in which gay and religious rights have been set against one another by this government, have brooked none of this from her or her ultra religious friends. The Christian Legal Centre however thinks otherwise:
“Civil partnerships were not being discriminated against, they were able to be performed by other registrars. Lilian Ladele has been discriminated against because of her Christian convictions.
“In a tolerant and civil society, we should be able to accommodate different groups.
“There will be serious consequences for religious freedom, conscience, acts and speech if we can’t learn to accommodate different groups.”
Except that wasn’t the issue – it was about Ladele refusing both to abide by her employer’s equal opportunities policy and then refusing different work, when offered, for the same pay. She felt that her religion afforded her what would have been essentially special rights – the right to discriminate in her employment on the grounds of belief. Now noone has suggested that she or any other theist should believe anything other than what they want, but their actions in civil society are governed by civil, not religious law. And despite the flaws in our equality legislation under civil law, she’s not allowed to act in a way that is detrimental to gay people. Accommodating the right to discriminate on the grounds of belief would not be the hallmark of a tolerant and civil society, and it’s something Symon Hill acknowledges:
Christians can welcome the court’s decision. We can emphasise that it is not an affront to Christian values – it is a victory for Christian values. Using traditional Christian terminology, we can point that it is not homosexuality, but homophobia, that is sinful. Those of who have gone along with homophobia in the past can declare our repentance of it.
In Jesus Christ, we have a messiah whose life embodied a message of radical inclusivity, a man who challenged religious hypocrisy and the abuse of power, who socialised with outcasts, broke religious and secular laws and forgave his persecutors as they killed him.
The New Testament’s ethical message is that “love is the fulfilling of the law” (Romans 13:10). It’s time for pro-equality Christians to make clear that our commitment to equality is not in tension with Christianity, or incidental to it, but flows naturally from it. Occasionally, I hear someone say “Symon’s against homophobia, even though he’s a Christian”. That’s just not true. I’m against homophobia because I’m a Christian.
Hill acknowledges the absurdity of Ladele’s position – her objection isn’t to anything she finds abhorrent to her zealous beliefs, just the gay bits. It’s an intellectually vapid take on religion, and fortunately one which neither the legislature nor the judiciary have any interest in enshrining into law.
Another Christian zealot is taking legal action against her local council employers, after they sacked her for homophobic behaviour:
Denise Haye, 25, worked at Lewisham Council’s legal services department.
Last September, she used her work email address to send an email to Rev Sharon Ferguson, head of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement.
She wrote that Rev Ferguson should be “ashamed” of herself and that homosexuality was “not normal” and a sin. Citing the importance of repenting in the “last days”, Haye added, in capitals, “the wages of sin is death”.
Speaking to The Voice, Haye admitted she had used her work email address but said she did not realise her name would be visible and claimed she had sent the message out of working hours.
She added: “It wasn’t with any malicious intent and it wasn’t with any hatred, it was out of sheer concern.”
I think we’ve had enough instances such as this to know she doesn’t have a leg to stand on. Sending emails from her work account during work hours, with homophobic and threatening content should be more than enough to get anyone sacked, regardless of their religious affiliations. There are other zealots posting around the Internet in her defence, claiming religious persecution, but their arguments don’t stand up either – you simply can’t morally relativise hatred, and defend it as ‘sheer concern’. I may not be a religious man, but I’m fully aware this is not what Christianity is supposed to be about, and fortunately Rev Ferguson understands this as well. Andrea Minichello Williams, founder of the Christian Legal Centre, which is supporting Ms Haye, has a different view:
“It is wholly disproportionate to end someone’s working career for the mere expression of orthodox Christian beliefs.”
What utter nonsense. We’re governed by the rule of law – it’s entirely appropriate.
(photo source – The Voice)