King's Evangelical Divinity School

4 April 2010

We've Lost Control Over Our Own Homes

So many stories with a religious element emerging recently, demonstrating yet again that secularisation theory has proved woefully mistaken, while religion remains an important determinant of political behaviour. One such story over the weekend is Conservative Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling's suggestion that people running private bed and breakfast establishments from their own home should be allowed to turn down gay couples if they wish. This story has a faith element because it comes in the wake the recent case when a Christian woman refused a gay couple from staying at her B & B because she objected to two men sharing a bed in her home. However, under legislation introduced by this government she no longer has the freedom to refuse service on such grounds. In short, equality legislation says she is breaking the law.

Well, the law is an ass. Grayling differentiates between hotels and family-run establishments where customers spend the night in your family home. It is quite one thing to refuse service to somebody because of their religion, race, gender or sexuality, but home owners surely have the moral right to choose what happens in their own home. Indeed, private hostelry has always expressed suspicion of prospective customers, whether motorbikers, unmarried couples, young people, people with blue hair, Mods, hippies, or whatever. Owners of B & Bs have always chosen to turn down people they don't want in their own home, whether that decision is reached rationally or not. Personally, I for one believe B & B owners, whether Christians, Muslims, atheists, gays, or whatever, should be allowed to limit who they take in. After all, it's their home which they exercise control over (or did until this government took it away).

Meanwhile, I certainly wouldn't want to stay in a B & B where, say, a secular atheist owner made me feel uncomfortable about my faith. Neither should such a person be forced to welcome Christians like me. Yet of course some people revel in exacting their "rights". In short, they want to engage in a triumphalist lording over those who question their faith or lifestyle, and if they can draw on the law to force their opponents to ditch their principles, even in their own homes (a kind of ideological imperialism), so much the better. It smacks of revenge, and a particularly vindictive kind at that, and it is complete nonsense. Are we going to legislate every time someone disagrees with what every member of society practices, says or believes? This is why pluralism's days are numbered. It is unworkable.


Gabi said...

This whole thing is so annoying. Sometimes I think these people sit around and think of new ways to cause more problems for Christians. They have already done so much to flaunt their 'lifestyle' in our face, and the government is a coward. These people are going to continue pushing and pushing for their rights until someone opposes them big time. This is an utter disgrace, and in my opinion it will only get worse.

Stephen Kneale said...

I am entirely split on this matter if I am honest. I recognise, and agree with, the point that people should feel at liberty to refuse a private service to whomever they choose regardless of how repugnant we find their stance - be it refusing service on the basis of race, religion, sexuality or any other. By the same token, we are at liberty to refuse such people our custom if we disagree with their practice.

Nevertheless, is there not a sense in which we are being inconsistent as Christians in refusing service to homosexual couples but opening up our service to people engaged in all manner of other sinful activities? Surely unless we refuse the service to all people engaged in sinful activity (something which is both impossible to implement and would bar even ourselves as Christians) we are acting inconsistently? On that basis, if we run a business that is open to the public, must we not recognise that people will adhere to a different standard to us?

I would perhaps suggest the principle in law should be the former thereby agreeing with you but the latter is surely something we should consider carefully as Christians.