Bill Carmichael: Intolerance in equality’s name

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THE UK Supreme Court dealt a severe blow to freedom of religion and the rights of individuals to follow their own consciences this week in a ruling against Christian bed and breakfast owners who refused to let a gay couple share a double room.

Peter and Hazelmary Bull believe sex outside marriage is a sin and had a long standing and widely publicised rule at their Cornish guest house that unmarried couples would not be allowed to share a bed under their roof.

You may disagree with their stance, and it is clear that in modern Britain many people do. But it is worth noting that for many centuries until very recently, their views reflected exactly the teachings of the Christian church and were enshrined in English law.

Given their beliefs, and the fact that there are thousands of alternative B&Bs in the South West, it is a bit of mystery why a gay couple should choose to stay there.

But one couple made such a booking and were duly turned away, enabling them to launch a discrimination case under equality law – funded by the taxpayer, naturally. So up cranked the state machine, which now sees its role as policing the consciences of individuals, to drag Mr and Mrs Bull through the courts.

The couple, whose costs are paid by a Christian charity, have lost their case in the County Court, the Court of Appeal and now the Supreme Court.

Their argument that the decision was a matter of conscience and that the earlier rulings were a breach of their human rights to freedom of religion, were dismissed.

Mrs Bull said after the hearing: “Britain ought to be a country of freedom and tolerance, but it seems religious beliefs must play second fiddle to the new orthodoxy of political correctness.”

One striking fact about this case is that if Mr and Mrs Bull had turned away an unmarried, heterosexual couple there would be no case to answer.

In other words we are rapidly ditching the ancient liberty of having equality before the law – all in the name of equality.

Instead, we have a state-sanctioned hierarchy of victimhood, with gays and Muslims somewhere near the top, secular women in the middle and heterosexual Christians very firmly at the bottom.

And the law applies differently depending on how much of a “victim” you can claim to be. Instead of being blind, the law itself is discriminatory.

Our judiciary – not a particularly diverse bunch themselves, it has to be said – are happy when the victims of this system are middle-aged Christians.

But what happens when a Muslim businessman refuses to do business with a homosexual on the grounds of deeply held religious convictions as expressed in the Koran?

As Mrs Bull said: “We have got to find a way of allowing different beliefs to co-exist in our society”.

And we can start to do that by showing a bit more tolerance to those who hold unfashionable views.

Just Scotch mist

The new independent Scotland – if it ever comes to pass – will be a marvellous place with higher welfare payments, higher wages, lower taxes, more public spending and all the benefits of EU and Nato membership without any of the costs.

At least that’s according to a 670-page blueprint for independence launched by SNP leader Alex Salmond this week.

If true, the Scots will be voting in their droves for independence in next year’s referendum. But I’m not so sure. They are a canny lot north of the border and know when they are on to a good thing.

Will they be able to wean themselves off the teat of subsidy provided by English taxpayers, and take the painful decision to pay their own way in future? Don’t bet on it.