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January 28, 2011 Print

The Penalty for Diversity

by Jeff Johnston

“In the end, the penalty for holding a diverse viewpoint has been extreme.”

The Law is eroding our right to a set of beliefs

This disturbing headline from The Telegraph was published in the United Kingdom, after a court found that a couple in Cornwall, England owed two gay-identified men about $2,850 each in damages for refusing to rent the men a room in their bed-and-breakfast. 

Peter and Hazelmary Bull had a policy – based on their Christian faith – of not renting a room with a double bed to any unmarried couple. The policy had been in place for 15 years, and was not enacted to discriminate against gay-identified men and women. The couple is appealing the decision.

“We are obviously disappointed with the result,” said Mrs. Bull, “Our double-bed policy was based on our sincere beliefs about marriage, not hostility to anybody.”

Since the decision, she has been harassed with abusive phone calls and with homosexual couples attempting to rent rooms at their B&B. All the while her 71-year old husband is in the hospital, recuperating from a heart attack.

Should we be concerned here in the United States?

The two men turned away from the bed-and-breakfast had entered into a civil union.  One of the men had this to say about the court’s decision:

 We’re really pleased that the judge has confirmed what we already know – that in these circumstances our civil partnership has the same status in law as a marriage between a man and a woman, and that regardless of each person’s religious beliefs, no one is above the law.

The Telegraph headline continues:  The right to act in keeping with one’s religious faith is being set against the right not to be offended – and is losing.

Here are just a few additional stories from the U.K that support that contention:

  •  A bishop in the Church of England lost a case of unlawful discrimination because he did not hire a gay-identified man for a position as a youth official.
  • A Christian couple was charged with a hate crime after telling a Muslim man that Jesus was the Son of God. The case was later thrown out by the court.
  • A pastor was arrested after saying that homosexuality was a sin.
  • A Christian grandmother was investigated after writing to the Norwich city council about her disapproval of a gay-pride event.  

So why the concern about what is happening on the other side of the pond? Because the US seems to be headed in the same direction.

Cities and states all over the U.S. have passed laws giving special protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity. More and more schools teach children about homosexuality – even against parents’ wishes. A judge declares belief in one-man one-woman marriage “irrational.” And groups like the Alliance Defense Fund constantly have to battle for the rights to freedom of speech, freedom of religion and freedom of association. 

 Even a gay-identified British politician spoke out against the ruling.

 Mr. and Mrs. Bull have been tagged as homophobes, taken to court, forced to justify their literal interpretation of the Bible, told by the Judge involved that their views are out of date and, finally, given a punishment which will place significant strain upon their business’ finances. In the end, the penalty for holding a diverse viewpoint has been extreme.

In the U.S., some activists and their allies have said that protecting sexual orientation and gender identity should trump other freedoms.

That’s why we should be concerned.