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No bull: religion + business = red ink and faces

March 18, 2012

A Cornwall UK based website has a story about British hoteliers Peter and Hazelmary Bull who were asked by a UK  county court to pay £3,600 in damages to civil partners Steven Preddy and Martyn Hall, from Bristol. The site notes that "the Christian owners of a Marazion guesthouse ordered to pay damages for turning a gay couple away say they are ready to take their case to the Supreme Court."

Earlier this year, Peter and Hazelmary Bull lost their latest legal challenge against a finding that they broke Britain's equality laws. The hotelier couple plans on continuing with their battle all the way to the European Court of Justice, the last resort for those in the UK and the EU. The Bulls' legal battle began in 2008 when they turned Martyn Hall and his civil partner Steven Preddy away from their bed and breakfast. They denied their stance was anti-homosexual and said "their deeply-held Christian beliefs meant they only allowed married couples to share a room."

The Wall Street Journal weighs in on the issue with an op-ed from their European editorial page writer complete with the somewhat shrill headline "Can Britain Tolerate Christians? and seems to suggest that a "carve-out for religious business owners such as the Bulls" may only be a temporary palliative that "will only further muddle companies' freedoms to dispose of their resources as they see fit—regardless of faith, sexual orientation, or ever-changing estimations of political expedience."

The foregoing may be true but it is hard to imagine a dispositive outcome via a future law that explicitly allows folks like the Bulls to excluse clients based on their religious beliefs. Given their demographic trends, Britons could, before long, find themselves in an unpalatable (to the current majority) situation analagous to that of hotels in Saudi Arabia where Bibles are banned. It is not inconceivable that a British Muslim businessperson with a hotel bans anyone from entering his/her hotel with a Bible. The same new law that permits the Bulls to exclude gays would then likely be used against those carrying a Bible. In both instances what is a near certainty is a loss in revenue.

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