THINKING ANGLICANS

Another B&B owner loses discrimination case

In a case very similar to an earlier one, another Bed and Breakfast owner has lost a case in the county court for refusing to provide a room to a gay couple, and is claiming this constitutes discrimination against her Christian beliefs. This case has been widely reported in the media, partly because of the intervention of a fringe party politician.

The judgment can be read in full here.

The case is discussed in detail in two recent legal articles:

This case is supported by The Christian Institute whose position is expressed here: Christian B&B loses court case brought by gay couple and see also Christian B&B owners respond to Nick Griffin’s protest tweets.

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David ShepherdErika BakerSusannahJCFDavid Keen Recent comment authors
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Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

Leaving aside the well trodden facts of this debate, I have to say that I struggle with the definition of what constitutes religious belief and who has the right to define it. Is it based on the fact that a majority of Christian churches still officially consider same sex relationships to be immoral? What if someone who did belong to a liberal religious body, say the liberal Jews who want to celebrate same sex marriages, personally still thought that God prohibits same sex relationships. Would the official views of the religious organisation be the determining factor or the individual view… Read more »

David Keen
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David Keen

I wonder what would happen if a Christian B&B owner turned away a couple whom they knew to be committing adultery. Would the same legal arguments apply?

JCF
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JCF

Would-be proprietors HAVE to understand that opening a business to customers, is NOT the same as opening your home to invited guests. In the latter, personal discretion and “Owner’s Rules” are supreme. In the former, they are subject to considerably more laws.

David Shepherd
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Erika: Conerning what it recognises as a religious belief system, the ECtHR will rely on domestic authorities in the first instance. Article 9 guarantees “freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest [one’s] religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance” A key distinction is drawn between an activity central to the expression of a religion or belief, and one which is merely inspired or even encouraged by it. The action must be prescribed, rther than just motivated. Typically, the prescription would take the form of In the instances that you cite,… Read more »

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

David,
thank you.

So would it be possible, for example, for a Roman Catholic couple to refuse a B&B room for a married couple if it was known that one of the couple had been divorced? Because very strictly speaking Catholics consider the second marriage to be an adulterous one.

David Shepherd
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Sorry, I meant to say, A key distinction is drawn between an activity central to the expression of a religion or belief, and one which is merely inspired or even encouraged by it. The action must be prescribed, rather than just motivated. Typically the prescription would take the form of an historic mandate, scripture or canon, enjoined upon all adherents. In the instances that you cite, I still think those holding the minority position would be protected from coercion to actually perform a ceremony on pain of exclusion. However, an individual who is part of such an organisation does not… Read more »

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

David,
I’m not talking about anyone performing any ceremonies but, in reference to the topic of this thread, people seeking religious exemption from providing commercial services to anyone who offends their religious sensibilities.

David Shepherd
Guest

Erika, There are a number of key issues that would apply to your hypothetical: 1. The court considers private homes to fall within the scope of Equality regulations, once people pay to stay in them for a short time. It doesn’t matter whether the guest rooms are in an annexe or the heart of that house. 2. The court upheld that running a business in accordance with Christian principles was a manifestation of belief withing Article 9(2). 3. Nevertheless, if comparison with first marriage couples proves that re-married divorcees are treated less favourably, then this limits the religious exemption provided… Read more »

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

David,
thank you.
This still leaves me wondering how “religious belief” is actually defined. Is it something that most members of a particular faith believe, by doctrine or convention? Or is it something that the religious organisation an individual belongs to believes, or can it simply be something an individual holds to be true?

David Shepherd
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Erika, This is fruitful. To quote from the link ‘the belief must “attain a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance”;…the belief itself must be one which may be considered as compatible with respect for human dignity…the belief must relate to a “weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour” It’s a belief if you can demonstrate that it relates to important values of society and has a major impact on human life and behaviour. It’s a belief if it’s part of a framework of other central tenets about life that can be proven to hold together under… Read more »

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

David thank you again. ‘To quote from the link ‘the belief must “attain a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance”;…the belief itself must be one which may be considered as compatible with respect for human dignity…the belief must relate to a “weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour”’ In which case, something external like wearing crosses, that can be said to be important to an individual but it is not a “weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour” should not really come under the framework of religious exemption? And this: “”;…the belief itself must… Read more »

David Shepherd
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I would add that the arbitration should occur a lot earlier than after litigation has started. I think that the concern in some circles is ‘why can’t Christians enjoy the same sort of workplace accommodation that is extended to other faiths in respect of outward emblems of faith?’ Not all cases involve the issue of sexual orientation discrimination. There are even fair-minded non-Christians who believe that religious extremism has cowered employers into unduly accommodating the manifestations of minority faiths. They understand that these emblems are not compulsory aspects of religious adherence, yet wonder why employers treat the externalisms of other… Read more »

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

David, I did not want to get into a discussion about wearing crosses, in fact, I had merely tried to do what you are doing and to move this argument away from the lgbt debate. I am only interested in understanding the concept of “religious belief”, who defines it, what it includes and what it applies to. Am I not right in thinking that it was precisely the right to expression of one’s faith that was used in the 2 legal cases about wearing crosses? And yet, from the definition you cited, it cannot apply to that. It seems that… Read more »

Susannah
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Susannah

David: “There are even fair-minded non-Christians who believe that religious extremism has cowered employers into unduly accommodating the manifestations of minority faiths.” Hmmm… is Islam a minority faith in Britain today? In terms of active participation, I suspect it is verging on being the majority faith. In terms of active church attendance, Christians are a subset and minority in society. Religious adherence seems more embedded in Islam. David: “What’s the actual aim of banning Christian jewellery and cabin adornments? Is it really health and safety compliance.” In the case of the lady in the hospital who wanted to wear a… Read more »

David Shepherd
Guest

Erika: Point taken (hopefully both you and Susannah know my own opinion is that wearing a cross is a dispensable externalism). ‘Am I not right in thinking that it was precisely the right to expression of one’s faith that was used in the 2 legal cases about wearing crosses? And yet, from the definition you cited, it cannot apply to that.’ You are right. The problem is that the definition that I researched and cited is from EU legislation. Most people haven’t got a clue what it covers. I know it’s perspex clear to you, but few citizens or lawyers… Read more »

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

“If Changing Attitude wants to do the former, why can’t they sponsor a guide in simple English explaining what constitutes belief and manifestation of belief in legal terms? “

I’m not sure what authority they would have to compile such a guide and who would take it up, but why don’t you suggest it to them?

David Shepherd
Guest

The sponsorship of such a guide would involve Changing Attitude funding its development by those who have the recognised legal expertise to write one. There are several human rights lawyers who would be quite capable.

In answer to your question: yes, I will suggest it to them. However, as you intimate, it may be outside of their current charitable aims.