Judge rules against Christian B&B owner
A Judge sitting in Reading has ruled that a Berkshire B&B owner acted unlawfully by following a rooming policy based on her Christian beliefs about marriage.
Michael Black, 64, and John Morgan, 59, took legal action against Susanne Wilkinson after she refused to provide the couple with a double bed at the Swiss Bed & Breakfast in Berkshire in March 2010.
Mrs Wilkinson told the couple that the business operated a “married couples only” policy concerning its double rooms, meaning unmarried heterosexual couples were also prohibited from sharing a double bed at the guest house.
She insisted she is not homophobic and would have offered two single rooms had the guest house not been fully booked.
Her husband Mike, a former City worker, 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.
James Dingemans QC, who represented Mrs Wilkinson, told Reading Crown court: “If Mrs Wilkinson had simply said, 'don't come in because you're gay', that could never be justified.
“It was simply the provision of the double bed which Mrs Wilkinson believed was wrong”.
But Recorder Claire Moulder ordered Mrs Wilkinson to pay the couple damages of £3,600 for “injury to feelings”.
Responding to the ruling, Mrs Wilkinson said: “Naturally, my husband and I are disappointed to have lost the case and to have been ordered to pay £3,600 in damages for injury to feelings. We have the option to appeal, and we will give that serious consideration.
“We believe a person should be free to act upon their sincere beliefs about marriage under their own roof without living in fear of the law. Equality laws have gone too far when they start to intrude into a family home”.
“People’s beliefs about marriage are coming under increasing attack, and I am concerned about people’s freedom to speak and act upon these beliefs. I am a Christian, not just on a Sunday in church, but in every area of my life – as Jesus expects from his followers.
“That’s all I was trying to do and I think it’s quite wrong to punish me for that, especially after enduring over two years of vile abuse and threats. We find this a strange justice in a society that aspires to be increasingly tolerant.”
Mrs Wilkinson has said that she will “seriously” consider appealing the decision.
Andrea Minichiello Williams, CEO of Christian Concern, said:
“This is not the first time in the British courts that the rights of homosexual couples have trumped the rights of Christians to live out their faith.
“As a result we are witnessing a narrowing of Christians’ freedom to live in line with their beliefs.
“Should marriage be re-defined, such cases are likely to become commonplace, with the freedom to express dissenting opinions on the issue being supressed even further.”
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