Graeme Archer on the Berkshire B&B

Absolutely loving this bit of the piece this morning on CentreRight by Graeme Archer.

There is plenty of real crime for the police to focus on – against all of us, I know, but sometimes, horribly, against gay folk in particular. I’m not someone who claims that targeted hatred of gay people is an invention, and that it has no violent sequel in real life. A man I knew, slightly, was kicked to death in Trafalgar Square last year, for the ‘crime’ of challenging some abusive teenagers who were amusing themselves by screaming obscenities at him. But. But. The legislation which may be brought down on Ms Wilkinson’s head wouldn’t have changed that murder (the court called it manslaughter; I call it murder). In fact – I’m not sure I’d go this far, but it’s possible to construct the argument – by creating an atmosphere where people are afraid to speak their mind, in case they are vilified – criminalised – for it, is it not at least possible that such legislation leads to a culture where there is greater, not lesser, tolerance for physical attacks on gay people? I don’t know. But the thought occurs to me.

And that’s why I’m angry. Real people get killed in this country for standing up for their right to be gay. But I can’t understand why the penalty for kicking a gay man to death should be any different to the penalty for kicking a straight man to death. The government fiddles around with Identity legislation which ends up being used against people like Ms Wilkinson. It’s at best a distraction from the real crime that makes too many people’s lives a misery. I wouldn’t have Ms Wilkinson for dinner, but she’s guilty of rudeness, not violence.

I’ve a suggestion for the Ms Wilkinson and others like her. If we do away with the hate-crime identity legislation, and return Britain to the sort of country where you can think and say what you like, within limits, then you have to do your bit too, to avoid any potential future embarrassments for guests. Ms Wilkinson, I hope you don’t end up being prosecuted. But you should edit your website. Remove the nonsense about a ‘warm & friendly welcome’, and replace it with words that express what you really mean: ‘No Poofs’. Then we’ll let the market decide what happens to your business. And the police can focus on keeping the streets safe for all of us.

I think Graeme makes a good point in his last paragraph (though I disagree with the language of “poofs” – I don’t think that’s the thought in most people’s minds). Christians should be free to discriminate on the grounds of sexual behaviour (not sexual orientation), but they need to make clear if they are doing so and they need to be consistent if they claim that they are doing so because of their faith. For example, it is inconsistent to refuse to allow a male couple to share a bed (regardless of their sexuality) on the grounds of such an action going against Christian morals, whilst at the same time allowing an unmarried male-female couple to share a bed. That is rank hyposcrisy.

I love this comment on the thread on CentreRight.

Now it is no doubt different for a large and inpersonal chain of hotels such as Premier Inn, Hilton, Radisson etc, but for a small and family run guest house especially where the proprietors live in the same building then I feel they ought to have the right to refuse a booking if the lifestyle of the potential client(s) is at variance with their moral code or religious beliefs, and yes I would extend that to a non-married hetereosexual couple being refused if sex-before-marriage was against the beliefs of the properietor. In like manner I backed Miss Ladele when she as a Registrar would not perform Civil Partnership ceremonies and I also back Roman Catholic and other faith based Adoption Societies which do not want to give children for adoption to Homosexuals or Lesbians as this conflicts with the priciples and tenets of that organisation’s parent religion.

Now I could not care less what consenting adults do in private to be honest, I neither wish to be involved nor to be told about it. What I do object to is the way that the “Gay” lobby, a minority let us never forget, is being so “in yer face” and provocative to the heterosexual majority. Look, it’s Legal, they have protection in criminal law against “Hate Crimes” and discrimination in the workplace. What more do they want? A ban on anyone daring to say that they consider homosexuality to be wrong according to their moral code and values?

Well said (though I don’t really like the term “Gay Lobby” – sounds like the entrance to a rather camp hotel…)

Perhaps it’s time for the Government to sort out the legislation in this area. It is illegal to refuse business to an individual on the basis on their sexual orientation, and quite right so. But the issue at hand in this case is, like it or not, individuals’ religious response to sexual behaviour and given that the conservative Christian perspective (as well as that of any religions) sees a clear ethical distinction between orientation and behaviour, the law needs to be tidied up to define exactly what is and what isn’t a legal basis for discrimination, let alone simply expressing an ethical conviction.

Update

And some more great comments further on.

Whatever the details, as somebody commented above this isn’t an entirely new situation: some landladies would refuse to put an unmarried heterosexual couple in the same room, while others would turn a blind eye and go along with the pretence that they were Mr and Mrs Smith. I don’t see that the law should have had anything to say about that, and I don’t see that the law should have anything to say about the present analogous case.

However if I turned up with with my hypothetical male friend, having pre-booked, and we were then told that our booking was cancelled and we would have to go elsewhere, then I would be annoyed and might think that we were due some form of compensation for the inconvenience.

I would actually have preferred it if the website had said: “Please note that we do not allow two male guests to share the same bed”, or “the same room”, or whatever, so that we could either have taken our custom elsewhere or booked separate rooms.

Similarly if my wife and I turned up with our hypothetical dog, having pre-booked, and we were then told that because of the dog our booking was cancelled and we would have to go elsewhere, then I would be annoyed and might think that we were due some form of compensation for the inconvenience.

Then I would have preferred it if the website had said: “Please note that we do not allow dogs or other pets on the premises”, or whatever.

Similarly again, if we turned up in our car and were belatedly told that the nearest parking was a mile away, or that there was an extortionate additional charge for using their car park, then I would be annoyed that this hadn’t been made clear before we booked.

But in none of these cases would I have thought that it should be a matter for the criminal law, or even that the government should force the owners to provide me with accommodation on my terms rather than theirs.

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  • Sue

    I don't know about the "consistency" idea, because it is difficult to be consistent when we judge moral behaviour. So, Ms Wilkinson would have to turn away unmarried couples, to be biblically accurate, she would have to turn away remarried divorcees ( unless divorced for the reason of a spouse's adultery.) I have met some Christians who claim that once you have sex with someone- whether married to them or not – you are "one flesh" and are not then free to go on to marry someone else – so would those people also be banned?

    How would all these things be checked out, how would a couple's account of their morality be verified and vetted?

    My recent post Expressions of faith

  • Blair

    Might have missed something – or be reading too hastily – but I think there's 2 things that are muddled here.

    1) How do we know that Susanne Wilkinson, proprietor of the Swiss b&b in Cookham, is a Christian? There seems to be an assumption that she is (eg when you say, "But the issue at hand in this case is, like it or not, individuals’ religious response to sexual behaviour "), but nothing on her website, and nothing I can remember from the BBC report, says she was.

    2) I've only read the portion of Graeme Archer's piece that you've quoted, Peter, not the full text, so stop me if I'm judging unfairly – but what on earth has Ian Baynham's murder got to do with a gay couple being refused a room in a b&b? GA says, "The legislation which may be brought down on Ms Wilkinson’s head wouldn’t have changed that murder" – and maybe not, but I didn't think she was liable to be prosecuted under hate crime laws (as GA seems to imply), but under laws forbidding discrimination in providing goods and services. Graeme A links the two cases closely but I can't see how that's justified – nothing in the BBC report about the couple, suggested Ms Wilkinson had been 'hateful' towards them (one of them was quoted saying she apologised for turning them away – how very English of her!).

    So I'm not that impressed so far…

    in friendship, Blair

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/Peter_Ould Peter Ould

      1) – http://www.christian.org.uk/news/christian-bb-own

      2) I think you need to read the full piece. His point is that he's fed up with people linking the kind of thing that happened in the B&B with the murder of Baynham (and you know as well as I do that some people do make such links)

      • Blair

        Evening Peter,

        point taken re Susanne Wilkinson – I hadn't seen that article but sallied forth anyway…

        But having read Graeme Archer's piece in full, it seems to me his argument is that, "No matter how rude Ms Wilkinson is, it's just wrong to criminalise someone because they don't approve of homosexuality". I don't see that he's "fed up with people linking the kind of thing that happened in the B&B with the murder of Baynham" – looks more like he's fed up with "Labour's tirade of legislation". Still looks to me as though he himself links Ian Baynham's killing with Ms Wilkinson's case – misguided attempt to be topical perhaps?

        Near the end of his article he says: "Real people get killed in this country for standing up for their right to be gay. But I can't understand why the penalty for kicking a gay man to death should be any different to the penalty for kicking a straight man to death. The government fiddles around with Identity legislation which ends up being used against people like Ms Wilkinson". The first and second sentences of that seem a bit in tension to me. And as I said above, I didn't think it was "identity legislation" that could be used against Ms Wilkinson. If one of GA's basic points is that we now have too much equality legislation in this country, and that the law is too blunt and cumbersome to address some of the problems it's meant to tackle (eg the Wilkinsons' case), then fair enough, but he doesn't make a coherent case in my view.

        in friendship, Blair

  • Sue

    Only if they're daft!

  • James

    I do feel sympathy for the Wilkinson's who have publicly stated they are Christians.. I do resent the way the gay lobby (not the hotel entrance of course) seem so insistent in pushing their agenda.. I wish this case was more clear cut and I do think sueing them would be grossly out of proportion. I also feel that the BnB website should clearly state their position on sharing double rooms without specifiying sexuality, but chances are someone would challenge the legality of that too. What's clear is there is a consistent push from certain liberal and gay rights groups to push gay rights over religious freedom. So should we fight this case as part of a wider campaign?? Or is it simply too ambiguous to be a good place in which to 'dig in'?

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