Christian hotel owners hauled before court after defending their beliefs in discussion with Muslim guest , By Jonathan Petre, London Daily Mail, September 20, 2009
A Christian couple have been charged with a criminal offence after taking part in what they regarded as a reasonable discussion about religion with guests at their hotel.
Ben and Sharon Vogelenzang were arrested after a Muslim woman complained to police that she had been offended by their comments.
They have been charged under public order laws with using ”threatening, abusive or insulting words’ that were ”religiously aggravated’.
This of course is not what the public order acts were supposed to do:
The use by the police of the Public Order Act to arrest people over offensive comments has dismayed a number of lawyers, who say the legislation was passed to deal with law and order problems in the streets.
Neil Addison, a prominent criminal barrister and expert in religious law, said: ”The purpose of the Public Order Act is to prevent disorder, but I’m very concerned that the police are using it merely because someone is offended.
”It should be used where there is violence, yobbish behaviour or gratuitous personal abuse. It should never be used where there has been a personal conversation or debate with views firmly expressed.
”If someone is in a discussion and they don’t like what they are hearing, they can walk away.’ He added that the police had a legal duty under the Human Rights Act to defend free speech ”and I think they are forgetting that’.
In other words, the law is being interpreted expansively, which is why this sort of law is so dangerous..
In effect, the law enforcement bureaucracy has already punished the Vogelenzangs:
Mrs Vogelenzang, 54, who has run the Bounty House Hotel near Aintree racecourse in Liverpool with her husband Ben, 53, for six years, said: ”Nothing like this has happened to us before. We are completely shocked.’
She added that the episode had damaged their business and they had been forced to lay off staff and run the nine-bedroom hotel by themselves, leaving them exhausted.
The couple, whose trial has been set for December, face a fine of up to Â?5,000 and a criminal record if they are convicted.
n.b this alleged offense occurred in March, so the Vogelzangs will have been tortured for the bulk of the year.