UK: Christian couple charged with criminal offense after offending Muslims during discussion of religion
Yet another indication of the walking-on-eggshells that British authorities (and plenty of non-British authorities) are doing around Muslims these days. Absurd Britannia Update: “Christian hotel owners hauled before court after defending their beliefs in discussion with Muslim guest,” by Jonathan Petre for the Daily Mail, September 20 (thanks to all who sent this in):
A Christian couple have been charged with a criminal offence after taking part in what they regarded as a reasonable discussion about religion with guests at their hotel.
Ben and Sharon Vogelenzang were arrested after a Muslim woman complained to police that she had been offended by their comments.
They have been charged under public order laws with using ‘threatening, abusive or insulting words’ that were ‘religiously aggravated’.
The couple, whose trial has been set for December, face a fine of up to Â£5,000 and a criminal record if they are convicted.
Although the facts are disputed, it is thought that during the conversation the couple were challenged over their Christian beliefs.It is understood that they suggested that Mohammed, the founder of Islam, was a warlord and that traditional Muslim dress for women was a form of bondage.
The contention about traditional Muslim dress for women is a matter of opinion, but anyone, Muslim or non-Muslim, who denies that Muhammad was a warlord is simply ignorant or deceptive.
They deny, however, that their comments were threatening and argue that they had every right to defend and explain their beliefs.
Mrs Vogelenzang, 54, who has run the Bounty House Hotel near Aintree racecourse in Liverpool with her husband Ben, 53, for six years, said: ‘Nothing like this has happened to us before. We are completely shocked.’
She added that the episode had damaged their business and they had been forced to lay off staff and run the nine-bedroom hotel by themselves, leaving them exhausted.
Sources said that a number of guests staying at the hotel, which charges Â£92 a night for a double room, were having breakfast in its restaurant on March 20 when comments were made about religion.
One of those involved was the Muslim woman, who was staying at the hotel while she received treatment at a hospital nearby.
The couple, who are members of the Bootle Christian Fellowship, and their solicitor, David Whiting, said they could not discuss the content of the conversation for legal reasons. But the independent lobby group, the Christian Institute, which has seen both the prosecution and defence legal papers, is supporting their defence.
Mr Whiting, who last year successfully defended street preacher Anthony Rollins in Birmingham, said: ‘There is a dispute as to the facts of the allegations, but Ben and Sharon do not accept they were threatening, abusive or insulting.
‘They are committed Christians and it is the defence’s contention that they have every right to defend their religious beliefs and explain those beliefs to others who do not hold similar views.’…
At least for now, even in Absurd Britannia.