The judge who ruled against Christian B&B owners for turning away a gay couple has said she may have been wrong.
Last week Supreme Court deputy president Baroness Hale called for a re-think on religious freedom of conscience six months after she rejected the B&B owners’ arguments in a key test case.
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, Archbishop Emeritus of Westminster, welcomed her comments in a letter to the Telegraph, saying the law had in recent years done “too little to protect the beliefs of Christians and the legitimate freedoms of Christian organisations”.
He cited the closure of Catholic adoption agencies following the Sexual Orientation Regulations which compelled them to offer their services to same-sex couples. He said the closure of the agencies had been a “sad loss”.
The B&B case came to court after a gay couple, Steven Preddy and Martyn Hall, sued Christian hoteliers Peter and Hazelmary Bull for refusing to give them a double room at their Cornish hotel in 2008.
In the Supreme Court Lady Hale, leading four judges, ruled against Mr Bull, 74, and his 70-year-old wife, who had fallen foul of Labour’s anti-discrimination laws. Lady Hale had declared in her Supreme Court ruling that we should be “slow to accept” the right of Christians to discriminate against gay people.
But in a speech last week she suggested that her judgment in the case may have been too harsh, and that courts might be better off taking a “more nuanced approach”. Lady Hale also suggested that the law should develop a “conscience clause” for Christians in similar situations.
She said: “I am not sure our law has found a reasonable accommodation of all these different strands. An example of treatment which Christians may feel to be unfair is the recent case of Bull v Hall. Should we be developing an explicit requirement upon providers of employment, goods and services to make reasonable accommodation for the manifestation of religious beliefs?”
Back in March Lady Hale also acknowledged that laws which ignore Christian consciences might not be “sustainable”.
The Bulls almost sold their hotel, Chymorvah House in Marazion, last year, but managed to stay afloat after being helped by sympathisers. Last week Lady Hall and her fellow judges ordered that the Bulls should not be liable for legal costs, sparing them from having to pay for Mr Preddy’s and Mr Hall’s lawyers.
Mrs Bull told the Daily Mail: “The pendulum has swung too far one way. Why can’t two lifestyles live together? It is too late for us, but we are glad the issue hasn’t gone away.”