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.