15 December 2017

Christian B&B Owners on Trial

Back in 2006, under Tony Blair’s premiership, Parliament was debating the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations. At that time The Christian Institute was actively warning that the measures could curtail the religious liberty of some Christians in business.

The Regulations became law in 2007 and impose an obligation on the providers of goods, facilities, and services, not to discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation. In many areas of business the Regulations make little difference to Christians. For example, a Christian baker would be happy to sell bread to anyone. Similarly, a Christian bookseller would be delighted to sell a Bible regardless of a customer’s lifestyle. But should the law force a Christian B&B owner to provide a double bed to two homosexuals?

Lawmakers and gay rights activists seem happy to ride rough-shod over the consciences of those who disagree with them. Some appear to take a very onedimensional view of religious liberty. They accept that people should have the freedom to believe whatever they like within their own head or within the confines of a church service, but they do not want to allow people the freedom to put these beliefs into practice as they live out their day-to-day lives.

Christians are called to give supreme allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ and to be faithful to His word in every area of life. We are to live for Christ not just within the confines of our churches, but also within our homes, within our neighbourhoods, and within our workplaces.

I Timothy 5:22 warns us not to be partakers in other people’s sins. Providing a double-bed to two practicing homosexuals, or to an unmarried heterosexual couple, would be facilitating the sins of another.

Peter and Hazelmary Bull are the owners of Chymorvah guesthouse in Marazion, near Penzance, Cornwall. The guesthouse is also their home, which they bought in 1986. Mr and Mrs Bull run Chymorvah with a clear Christian ethos. At the guesthouse reception desk is a decorative mosaic bearing the inscription, “Jesus Christ is Lord.” Bibles and Christian literature are placed in all of the bedrooms.

In keeping with Bible teaching on marriage, Peter and Hazelmary operate a policy of restricting the double beds to married couples. This policy is explicitly stated on Chymorvah’s website and on all booking forms. The policy is applied consistently to unmarried couples, whether heterosexual or homosexual. It has even been applied to family members. When Mrs Bull’s brother and his girlfriend come to visit, they are accommodated in two separate rooms.

In August 2008 (after the Sexual Orientation Regulations came into force) Mr and Mrs Bull were sent a booklet entitled “The Pink Pound” anonymously and also received a letter from the gay rights group Stonewall claiming that their doublebed policy was illegal.

On 4 September 2008 Steven Preddy booked a double room in Chymorvah. The following day he arrived at the guesthouse with another man, Martyn Hall, whom he introduced as his civil partner. It was explained to Mr Preddy and Mr Hall that the double bed accommodation was restricted to married couples and their deposit was refunded.

In March 2009, Mr Preddy and Mr Hall issued a civil claim against Mr and Mrs Bull under the Sexual Orientation Regulations, alleging discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation.

Mr and Mrs Bull contested the claim, saying that their double bed policy applies to all unmarried couples regardless of sexual orientation. They explained that it is based on their beliefs about marriage, not hostility to any sexual orientation. Mrs Bull said, “I have had people clearly involved in affairs and under-age people who have tried to book in here for sex, and I have refused them the same as I refused these gentlemen because I won’t be a party to anything which is an affront to my faith under my roof.”

In January of this year, at Bristol County Court, Judge Andrew Rutherford declared that it was unlawful for Peter and Hazelmary Bull to operate their policy and deny a double room to Martyn Hall and Steven Preddy.

He ruled that under the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations civil partnerships must be treated in the same way as marriage. Mr and Mrs Bull were ordered to pay £3,600 in damages to the homosexual couple.

However, the judge also gave Peter and Hazelmary permission to appeal his decision. He 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.”

Mrs Bull made the following comment, “We are obviously 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.

I do feel that Christianity is being marginalised in Britain. The same laws used against us have been used to shut down religious adoption agencies. Much is said about ‘equality and diversity’ but it seems some people are more equal than others.”

The legal action taken by Mr Preddy and Mr Hall was bankrolled by the Equality & Human Rights Commission, a taxpayer funded public body. Peter and Hazelmary’s legal defence has been provided by The Christian Institute.

Following legal advice Mr and Mrs Bull have decided to appeal their case, as the original trial judge allowed for. The appeal is due to be heard in the Court of Appeal on 8th and 9th November.

Please pray for Mr and Mrs Bull and for The Christian Institute’s legal team as the appeal hearing approaches. To see the latest news on this and other cases, or to support The Christian Institute’s work, visit www.christian.org.uk, or contact The Christian Institute, Unit 304, CityEast, 68-72 Newtownards Road, Belfast BT4 1GW.

Callum Webster