Saturday, 1 February 2014

When an Attorney General fails to understand the law

The Northern Ireland Attorney General has come forth yet again with what seems a ridiculous position for any law officer that is meant to be upholding the law of the land, not the law of Judea.

Speaking at a Presbyterian Church in Ireland conference on Thursday he said:

Christians – and I think particularly in the period after Christmas – are, or should be, sensitive to the plight of persons who cannot find accommodation. It is one thing, I suppose, to find that there is no room at the inn. But disappointing as that may be, it is another to find that there is no room at the inn for you because of some characteristic that you possess.

In November of last year the UK Supreme Court held that Mr & Mrs Bull, a Christian couple who ran a small hotel, unlawfully discriminated against Mr Preddy and Mr Hall – a homosexual couple who’d booked overnight accommodation in the hotel – on the grounds of the sexual orientation of Mr Preddy and Mr Hall. It was held by the Supreme Court that the right of Mr & Mrs Bull to practice their Christian faith did not permit them to reserve double-bedded accommodation to married couples.

Bull & Hall is an immensely important case, and it is a very strong example of the clash of rights. The claim on one hand by Mr Preddy and Mr Hall founded in domestic law not to be discriminated against on the ground of their sexual orientation and on the other hand the right of Mr & Mrs Bull under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Section 6 of The Human Rights Act to manifest their religious beliefs in practice and observance …

Now I am rather shocked that a law officer should come to such a sweeping generalisation without fully checking the facts. For example did every mixed-sex couple that turned up to stay at Mr and Mrs Bull's Bed & Breakfast have to had over a marriage certificate (to each other) before they were allowed the luxury of not being turned away from the booking that they made?

Also the defense that Mr and Mrs Bull was to claim that it wasn't an hotel, but a business run from the house in which their lived. Legally that is guest house or bed and breakfast and not an hotel. Indeed as far as HMRC are concerned:

Accommodation for staff also qualifies for allowances as part of the hotel, even if it is in a separate building. The proprietor's domestic accommodation and accommodation for the proprietor's family is not included and, if accommodation like that is in the hotel building, is treated as a non qualifying part.

So the whole defense being based that this was taking place by people they were allowing into their home, would have falling at the first legal step if they claimed to be a hotel.

But he then went on to say:

I don’t know if Mr & Mrs Bull serve meals in their establishment. But if they did so, and if they were to refuse to serve food for example to Mr Preddy and Mr [Hall] on the grounds of their sexual orientation that would be not only unlawful I think – it’s a matter of domestic law – but also incapable I think of moral justification.

On the other hand, a Christian who wishes to adhere to traditional Christian moral principles cannot without committing serious sin make available premises to facilitate a purpose which that Christian believes to be gravely sinful. To do so, a Christian believes, is to be complicit in the sin that one thereby facilitates. 
Mr and Mrs Bull ran a B&B so there was complicit in the acceptance of provision of the service to Messrs Preddy and Hall that food was to be available. Not just a bed when they turned up as arranged. The Attorney General is ignoring the fact that the Bulls ran a business and had no disclaimer in their advertising that certain groups would not be allowed to stay there. There was was no code of ethics to sign up to that you can only share a double bed in this guest house if you are an opposite sex couple, married to each other. Or indeed how thoroughly they actually checked that all the couples that they put up actually complied to their traditional Christian moral principles.

Now there are 84 Hotels, Guesthouses of B&B in Marazion, Cornwall where the Bulls had their B&B, so there may well have been other room at other inns that night that Messrs Preddy and Hall could have availed themselves of, but that is not always the case when you turn up at some resorts in the height of the season. Or if there is a conference or other event on in the area.

But surely the Bible tells us about the inn keeper who welcomes in the unmarried pregnant woman about to go full term, and the the good Samaritan who helps the person who is his mortal enemy. The only case I see of any people turning people away or not welcoming them they end up getting punished for it, indeed that is the true sin of Sodom for which the people were punished, something that most "traditional Christians" seem to overlook.


  1. someone learns from mistakes I hope this GA learn his lesson
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