Guesthouse Owners Fined for Married-Couples-Only-Policy

Country: United Kingdom

Date of incident: February 10, 2012

The Christian owners of a guesthouse who restrict double rooms to married couples have been ordered to pay £3,600 in damages to a homosexual couple in January 2011. Their appeal was lost in February 2012. In November 2013 they were forced to sell their B&B.

Judge Andrew Rutherford declared on January 18, 2011, that it was unlawful for Peter and Hazelmary Bull to operate their policy and deny a double room to civil partners Martyn Hall and Steven Preddy. 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 judge had given the Bulls permission to appeal, saying 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.” The appeal was lost on Feb 10, 2012.

Since the court ruling, the guesthouse has been targeted by numerous homosexual couples attempting to book double rooms in an apparent attempt to destroy the business. Mrs Bull, 66, has also received abusive and menacing phone calls, but she cannot ignore the phone because her 71-year-old husband is in hospital, recovering from major heart surgery. Even the hospital has had to deal with nuisance phone calls, leading staff to operate a password system for friends and family to enquire after Mr Bull’s health.

Mrs Bull said about the court ruling: “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, as the judge accepted. ... 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: “Although we are disappointed by the decision, we are encouraged by some of the things the judge said. He said his decision affects our religious liberty and forces us to act against our deeply and genuinely held beliefs. He has therefore given us permission to appeal. We will take time to consider our position carefully with our legal team. ... In the meantime, I do feel that Christianity is being marginalised 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.” Mr and Mrs Bull’s double room policy has been in place since they opened the Chymorvah guesthouse in 1986 and the policy is applied consistently to all unmarried couples whether homosexual or heterosexual.

But Martyn Hall and his civil partner Steven Preddy brought a claim of sexual orientation discrimination against the Bulls after they were denied double bed accommodation in September 2008. The claim was brought under the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations, each man seeking up to £5,000 in damages. The litigation was financed by the Government-funded Equality and Human Rights Commission. Mr and Mrs Bull contested the claim, saying that their double bed policy applies to all unmarried couples regardless of sexual orientation. They said it is based on their beliefs about marriage, not hostility to any sexual orientation.

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’.

In December 2010 a letter written by two Church of England bishops appeared in The Daily Telegraph in which the bishops expressed “great concern” over the case. The letter was signed by the Bishop of Winchester, Rt Revd Michael Scott-Joynt, and the former Bishop of Rochester, Rt Revd Michael Nazir-Ali. They wrote: “Mr and Mrs Bull’s understanding of marriage is the same as that of English law and the Christian Church. Their guesthouse is also their home. Their policy may seem traditional but, of itself, there is nothing wrong with that.” They added: “Liberty of conscience must not be confined to the mind. It is meaningless unless it includes the freedom to stand by our principles publicly.”

In 2013, the Bulls finally felt forced to sell their home and business.

Source: LifeSiteNews

Coverage on the lost appeal in Feb. 2012:

Main source of text: The Christian Institute (Jan 2011). Read the full story here: Read here a comment in the Daily Telegraph on January 18, 2011: Watch Mrs. Bull's statement on youtube:

Interesting Reactions:

Former Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe defended Christian hoteliers, writing in the Daily Express on Wednesday, “There is a difference between discriminating against somebody because of what he is and refusing to promote or facilitate what he does. If the Bulls ran a grocery shop which refused to serve homosexuals then that would be discrimination but to refuse to facilitate their activity or that of an unmarried heterosexual couple by providing a double bed is not. It is the once lawful exercise of conscience against particular deeds.”

Robert Leitch, a homosexualist activist in the Tory party, agreed, writing on the ConservativeHome blog, “The reaction to this somewhat traditional yet harmless policy has been remarkable. Mr. and Mrs. Bull have been tagged as homophobes, taken to court, forced to justify their literal interpretation of the Bible, told by the judge involved that their views are out of date and, finally, given a punishment which will place significant strain upon their business’ finances. In the end, the penalty for holding a diverse viewpoint has been extreme.”

Michael Portillo, a former cabinet minister, commented to BBC Radio 4 yesterday that the case is an example of the danger Britain faces of turning into a “secular theocracy.” He said, “I am not a religious person. But I can easily conceive of how I could be on the receiving end of some future legislation.”

On the same program Claire Fox, director of the Institute of Ideas, expressed concerns over the erosion of traditional liberties. Such decisions mean that Christians are “allowed to have those views but they’re not allowed to do anything with them. I mean it basically makes a mockery of religion if that’s the case; it’d be kind of religion-lite. You can think that in the privacy of your bedroom, as we in fact used to say, but certainly you can’t do anything about it.”