Monday, 22 March 2010

Unwelcome Guests

The usually tranquil village of Cookham hit the headlines this weekend as a couple were turned away from a guesthouse in the village on account of their sexual orientation.

Owner of the Swiss B&B, Suzanne Wilkinson, said she refused to accept Michael Black and John Morgan as guests because homosexuality is "against her convictions" and she refuses to accomodate homosexual couples in the same bed.

She added, "I would have offered them two single rooms but we were fully booked as it was a Friday night."

Director of public affairs for gay rights group Stonewall, Derek Munn, described the incident as an open and shut case of illegal discrimination.

The matter has since been referred to Thames Valley Police and the couple are considering whether to initiate civil proceedings.

Messages of support and other offers of help have also been received.

The Christian Institute is advising the couple on their potential defence, arguing the law affords protection on the grounds of religious liberty, as Mrs Wilkingson explained,
"I don’t see why I should change my mind and my beliefs I’ve held for years just because the government should force it on me... I am not a hotel, I am a guest house and this is a private house."
Speaking on behalf of the Christian Institute, Mike Judge said,
"Whether you agree with the Wilkinsons' beliefs or not, a diverse society is one that respects diversity of opinion. Surely the world is big enough to let people disagree... Suing someone because you don’t like their beliefs is illiberal, undemocratic and has no place in a free society."
But being refused access to rooms booked well in advance is not the same thing as just disagreeing with a person's beliefs, however sincerely held they may be.

Tim Trent is suitable shocked by the incident, taking the internet adverts for the guesthouse to task arguing this shows it to be a commercial enterprise.

He points out the inaccuracy of the phrase 'A warm & friendly welcome awaits all guests', saying "Well, obviously unless you are gay!"

Tim also argues that civilisation is based upon the toleration of differences, adding that the provision of twin beds would have averted the controversy of offended feelings.

He is incredulous that such discriminatory attitudes persist today, comparing the prejudice to the racism which lead to violent segregation in societies during the 20th century.

Elsewhere Caron muses that the concept of racial or ethnic prejudice would fill most people with digust and that it has been necessary to enact anti-discriminatory laws precisely to prevent a reversion to such horrors.

Meanwhile the satirists have taken up the story, to pose the question whether it's actually more a matter of thin walls and voyeuristic tendencies on behalf of the moralising owners of the establishment.


Update: @qwghlm's Chris Applegate sardonically quotes 1 Peter 4:8-9
Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling."[1]

Oranjepan asks:
If the Christian attitude is not to turn one's back, but to turn one's cheek, who is the more Christian here? Reverse the situation and ask what the response would be - would Christians with strong beliefs be turned away?


More equality issues


  1. Interesting view by Mike Judge. It seems he thinks the law is ok unless you disagree with it. Poor Mr Judge! This isn't a speeding ticket; this is bigotry that is being complained of. It's also a criminal offence.

    As for Susanne Wilkinson, she does have to change her beliefs. What she has to change is her attitude. I wonder what will happen with the next gay couple who turn up. I'm sure there are a load of gay guys who;d be happy to book a secluded weekend in Cookham! She may have found a niche market!

  2. That was a failure of 'poofreading' She does NOT have to change her beliefs! I wish there were an edit button.

  3. Steve Borthwick22 March 2010 at 22:08

    Explain to me again why I need to "respect" Christian beliefs?

  4. @tim
    perhaps Maidenhead would welcome some convention business to help boost local tourism...

    I think it's helpful here to distinguish between Christian beliefs and the beliefs of Christians. I'm not entirely convinced they are one and the same.

  5. I'm not sure the Gay Lib Annual Conference happens any more! But in Cookham that would probably be held at the CIM!

  6. Location wise, that is!

  7. @ Steve Borthwick
    You don't have to. Your turn: Explain to me why Suzanne, and other who agree with her (like me) should respect gay beliefs? There is absolutely no proof it is genetic afterall...

  8. @Jack
    can you explain to me what are 'gay beliefs'? It's not a phrase I've heard before.

    While I agree that respecting the belief systems of others is difficult in many cases, if not impossible, I also think it is imperative that we do respect the people who hold them.

    Otherwise we are guilty of playing the man, not the ball - and we open ourselves up to commiting foul play.


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