Christian guesthouse couple take legal action to Europe

AP

A Welsh Christian couple who run a guesthouse in Powys have sought legal action in the European Court of Human Rights against claims that their former policy of only providing rooms with double beds to married couples discriminatory.

Jeff Green, who is also the Mayor of Llandrindod Wells, said: "We have to go to Europe because we don't have a fighting chance in the UK courts."

"Recent UK equality legislation seems to be being used to undermine Christian faith and values," he said.

"We believe that the rights outlined in the European Convention on Human Rights are an illusion in the UK."

The Supreme Court ruled on a similar case last November, when it agreed that Christian couple Peter and Hazelmary Bull had discriminated against Martyn Hall and his civil partner Steven Preddy by denying them a double bedroom at their guest house.

The case of the Greens came to light last November when the couple received a letter from the UK Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) warning that a policy of reserving the double rooms for married couples only was discriminatory on the grounds of sexual orientation.

The EHRC's letter, signed by Susan Kelly, a senior enforcement legal officer was quoted in The Telegraph as saying: "Under the Equality Act 2010 treating a civil partner less favourably than a married person could amount to discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation."

Sue Green said that neither she nor her husband had seen any evidence of this complaint: "We have no recollection of ever refusing accommodation to same-sex couples and the EHRC gives no evidence of a complaint in its letter. We have asked the EHRC to identify their evidence and source of complaint.

"It would be a matter of deep concern if a public authority is simply scanning websites with the intention of confronting Christian businesses which want to conduct their activities in line with their beliefs."

After receiving this letter, the couple have changed their guest house policy, and now all customers may only sleep in single beds. The EHRC have since dropped their complaint, but the Greens want resolution on this issue.

The case is being brought to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg by the Christian Legal Centre's leading human rights barrister Paul Diamond.

Andrea Williams, CEO of the Christian Legal Centre, said: "At the Christian Legal Centre we have many cases in which Christians have lost jobs, faced discipline or been denied services. When will the state champion their cause?

"It is ironic that the Court in Strasbourg seems to understand the nature of Christian faith better than our own courts."

"Debate over sexual morality has been allowed to become a battlefield and we are concerned about the attempt to clamp down and even exclude Christian beliefs on the issue from public life.

"It is disturbing that the couple have been forced to change their business model, have been targeted, and now face oppression from the State to deny how they live out their faith."

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