Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

UK Supreme Court rules against Christian B&B couple’s conscience rights

Dina sent me this article from the UK Telegraph about a recent Supreme Court decision from the UK.

Excerpt:

The devoutly Christian owners of a Cornish hotel who refused to allow two gay men to take a double room have lost their final appeal to the Supreme Court. It ruled that Peter and Hazelmary Bull had discriminated against the couple, even though they had long operated a rule that unmarried guests had to sleep apart. One of the judges, Lady Hale, said such a case would have been unthinkable less than two decades ago, and it is a measure of how both the law and societal norms have changed that the Bulls should have found themselves in such a predicament.

It is also a pity this matter was not settled amicably when the Bulls made an offer of redress; but campaigners were intent on making an example of them. The aggrieved men, Martyn Hall and Steven Preddy, who were in a civil partnership, were supported by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC). The Bulls were perplexed as to why the EHRC should act against them, since their right to exercise their religious beliefs was being set against that of the men not to be discriminated against on the grounds of their sexual orientation.

Dina also sent me this article from the pro-gay Spiked Online.

Excerpt:

[A]s the systematic unequal treatment of gays has ended, so another problem has grown. One pernicious social force has been replaced by another: the willingness of the state to outlaw minority or eccentric views and behaviours. State-backed oppression has yielded to state-backed intolerance.

The Bulls have been hauled before the courts and told they can no longer practise what they preach. To deny a couple the right to make a living in a manner consistent with their Christian values is draconian. The Bulls’ fate is similar to that of Lillian Ladele, an Islington marriage registrar, and Gary McFarlane, a Relate counsellor, who were both sacked after declining to provide their professional services to lesbians and gays. Equality laws did for them all.

The problem here is not, as it appears, merely a slap in the face to Christians. It is a slap in the face to the right of all individuals to act free of state control absent a compelling reason for intervention. As John Stuart Mill put it in On Liberty (1859): ‘The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilised community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.’

As if to satisfy Mill’s harm principle, the Supreme Court went in search of Preddy and Hall’s ‘harm’. What they found was that when the Bulls’ house rules were explained to Preddy and Hall, they found it ‘upsetting’ and ‘very hurtful’. Even in the touchy-feely twenty-first century, where self-esteem is seen as so important and so fragile, this is pretty lame.

The Supreme Court judge, Lady Hale, may have been aware that this ‘affront to their dignity’, as she put it, was not the sort of harm, in the Mill sense, that should justify the state’s coercive power. She bolstered her argument by linking Preddy and Hall’s hurt feelings to a bigger historical picture. ‘We should not underestimate’, she said, ‘the continuing legacy of those centuries of discrimination, persecution even, which is still going on in many parts of the world’.

Fascism happens when the normal desire for compassion is taken out of the family context and becomes the policy of a powerful feminist welfare state. And that’s when it becomes a threat to the right of individuals to make moral judgments and to exercise religious liberty.

The EHRC, you’ll remember, was a project of the Labour Party of the UK, which is the socialist party in the UK. There is also a communist party called the Liberal Democrats. The striking thing is that many church-attending Christians not only vote for the Labour Party, but they also vote for the Liberal Democrats, which are even more liberal. A lot of this is because British Christians are so far to the left on economic issues that they sort of go along with the assault on their own religious liberty out of ignorance. They vote for bigger and bigger government, and then they are surprised when they actually get it.

The same thing happened in Canada with the Liberal Party and their introduction of Human Rights Commissions and Human Rights Tribunals, which criminalize offending people with free speech. The very Christians that voted for expanding government to reduce poverty were the ones who were then persecuted by the same big government they voted to create. This goes to show why we need to have better economics knowledge among Christians, because many of us are voting for left-wing parties because we think that private, voluntary charity can be replaced with government-controlled redistribution of wealth. Not only does that not work to reduce poverty, but in the end, we lose our liberties, too.

In the UK, you’ll find a lot of Christians who think that rent control is a good thing, that price controls are a good thing, that raising minimum wage is a good thing, that tariffs on imported goods are a good thing – positions which are generally viewed as incorrect by academic economists across the ideological spectrum. That’s why churches need to teach the Christian worldview, including economics. The UK church should be training Christians to undo this ignorant, patriotic confidence that UK Christians have in their welfare state. We all have a lot of work to do to educate ourselves on how the Bible applies to the real world (e.g. – economics), or else we will end up undermining our own liberties.

Additionally, I find it very frustrating that so many churches are so focused on providing emotional comfort and a sense of community to the people in the pews that they neglect to talk about these religious liberty issues. Pastors don’t want to alert ordinary Christians about how dangerous it’s becoming to take unpopular stands on issues like gay rights in public – it’s scary and divisive and drives people away from church. You’re not going to hear them trying to apply the Bible to moral issues or economic issues, etc. from the pulpit, because that spoils the “experience” and “the show” – the comfort and entertainment that people expect from church. We need to do better at helping Christians to be aware of threats to our liberties. They need to be trained to connect their faith to specific laws and policies in the real world.

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  1. […] UK Supreme Court rules against Christian B&B couple’s conscience rights | Wintery Knight. […]

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