Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Christian morality shouldn't mean refusing to allow gay couples to share a double bed

Peter and Hazelmary Bull, the guesthouse owners who have been found guilty of discrimination by turning away a gay couple, are the latest on the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph roll call of Christian martyrs. At the same time they present Christianity in an intolerant and petty-minded light.

Despite being a Christian (albeit with irregular church attendance and various heterodox beliefs), I think the judge made the right decision and have little sympathy for Mr and Mrs Bull. But then, mine is a liberal Christianity, and in common with a good proportion of my Roman Catholic co-religionists, I politely disagree with many of the Pope’s strictures on sexual morality. However, even if Mr and Mrs Bull belong to a stricter Christian tradition and accept the traditional teaching of the church (not necessarily that of Jesus Christ) on such matters, I don’t see that this requires them to refuse to let gay couples stay in a double bed at their guest house.

Their policy is described in news reports as allowing only married couples to stay in double-bedded rooms. To enforce this effectively they would have to check the marriage certificates of guests, together with other identification to confirm that the names tally with the certificate. Then there are awkward theological issues of second marriages following divorces, where guests may be legally married but in the eyes of some churches living in a state of adultery. Also, presumably it’s all right for guests of the same gender to share a twin-bedded room. But twin beds hardly preclude sexual activity (and for that matter a double bed isn’t necessarily confirmation of it). Unless Mr and Mrs Bull run their establishment more like a prison than a guest house, then all manner of sinfulness may be going on under their roof and they can’t really hope to prevent it. In which case banning same-sex couples is a selective display of mean spiritedness (at best) rather than a principled upholding of sincere beliefs.

Actually, anyone running a business providing a service to the public is not well advised to select their customers on the basis of approval or otherwise of their lifestyle and personal morality. It’s bound to lead to trouble.

If Mr and Mrs Bull regard their guest house as an articulation of their theological outlook, rather than a service for which people pay money, then perhaps they are in the wrong trade.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Christian morality also means not allowing sin to take place in your home or a place under your authority as that authority is given to us by the command and grace of God. We have a responsibility to be the moral guardians of those under our direct authority, which is what guests in our home are. If we do not practice sex outside of marriage or gay sex then we cannot give consent to it happening in our home.]

Also the Bulls were not found guilty of discrimination. There is no guilt or innocence in question: it is not a criminal trial, but a civil case in which the claimants asked for damages as they believed they had been discriminated against. The judge also read the law incorrectly! He stated that they had directly discriminated and this was not the case as they did not refuse on the basis of the couple being gay. They said they provided double beds to married couples as a preferance. This is indirect discrimination. And they may not even be 'guilty' of that as they are allowed under the law to practice indirect discrimination in certain special circumstances; one being the practice or the upholding of a religious practice or belief or a matter of conscience. Another example is when a group is allowed to positively discriminate in order to give preference to a group of people less advantaged in society or when special protective measures require discrimination. The best example of this is a female home or refuge can ask for female staff only as the male sex may cause women to be afraid or that a female may ask for a female key worker to avoid being abused or a female doctor and a man can see a male doctor. Another example may be a female religious order not allowing men other than a priest to enter. The most popular form of the positive discrimination is Labour having female only lists in elections for MPs or certain policies to recruit more ethnic minorities or people with disabilies.

All of these are perfectly acceptable and so is the refusal to allow people into a business that you believe to be unsuitable. You can still ban someone from a public house or other premises and you do not have to give a reason; so why should the Bulls not refuse a couple a double bed that do not match the criteria on their website?

I am not saying what they did is absolutely correct, but they do have this right as far as I am concerned and they have been targetted by Stonewall and other groups wanting to make a quick bit of money and some cheap publicity for their highly politicalized cause.