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Hoteliers must pay; counsellor asks for police investigation

by
21 January 2011

by Ed Beavan

A JUDGE ruled on Tuesday that Peter and Hazelmary Bull, the Christian hotel-owners from Corn­wall who denied a gay couple a double room, acted unlawfully (News, 17 December).

Judge Andrew Rutherford told Bristol County Court that it was a “very difficult case” to rule on, but concluded that the Bulls’ deci­sion to refuse a double room to Martyn Hall and Steven Preddy, who are civil part­ners, at the Chymorvah guest house near Pen­zance, “was because of their sexual orientation . . . and that this is direct discrimination”.

He acknowledged the Judaeo-Christian roots of English law, but said that things had “radically changed” in his lifetime, particu­larly with the “enormous growth of statu­tory legislation”. He ordered the Bulls to pay both the claimants £1800 in damages.

At various points in his judgment he noted that, under the Equality Act (Sexual Orien­tation) Regu­lations 2007, there was “no material differ­ence” for the purposes of the regulations “between marriage and a civil partnership”.

In what he described as a proposal “to depart from my normal practice”, Judge Ruther­ford granted Mr and Mrs Bull permission to appeal, be­cause the decision had affected “the human rights of the defendants to manifest their religion and forces them to act in a manner contrary to their deeply and genuinely held beliefs”.

After the ruling, Mrs Bull, whose hus­band did not attend court because he was under­going a triple heart bypass, said that she was disap­pointed, but was encouraged that the judge had given leave to appeal. The Bulls are now considering this with their legal team.

She issued a statement in which she said that “Chris­tianity is being marginalised in Britain.” Their “double-bed policy was based on our sincere beliefs about marriage, not hos­tility to any­one”, and was ap­plied “equally and consist­ently to unmarried hetero­sexual couples and homo­sexual couples”.

The Bulls say that they have received hundreds of gifts from Christians, which will cover the cost of the damages. They are being supported in the case by the Christian Institute.

Simon Calvert, from the Insti­tute, said that the Bulls might have to pay the claimants’ legal fees, and this would be likely to run into tens of thousands of pounds. He said that many people, even those who dis­agreed with their views on sex­ual ethics, would be concerned by the ruling. “This is depriv­ing the Bulls of the right to live by their principles under their own roof, and many people are thinking ‘Who’s next?’”

The head of public affairs at the Evangelical Alliance, Dan Horrocks, also criticised the ruling, saying that the human rights of the couple had been sidelined. He criticised the Equality and Human Rights Com­mission, the public body that funded the claimants’ case, for failing to find a solution through mediation.

Rev Sharon Ferguson, Chief Executive of Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, welcomed the ruling, which she said was "a simple case of equalities law being upheld.

"Thankfully we have laws in the UK which ensure equal treatment of all people no matter their ethnicity, sexual orientation and so on.  For the judge to have ruled any differently would have meant that within the UK the only people who can argue exception from laws are those who do so on religious grounds."



Counsellor asks for police investigation
by Ed Thornton

A PROFESSIONAL hearing concerning a Christian therapist’s counselling of a gay man did not go ahead this week. The counsellor’s legal team have alleged that a key witness was intimidated.

Lesley Pilkington was due to appear before a panel of the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) yesterday after Patrick Strudwick, a gay journalist who runs the campaigning group Stop Conversion Therapy Taskforce, lodged a formal complaint after attending counselling sessions with her in 2009.

The Christian Legal Centre (CLC), which is backing Mrs Pilkington’s case, said in a statement on Thursday: “Shortly before the hearing, BACP required all witness statements to be passed to them with contact details, and to Mr Strudwick. Immediately after supplying the statements, an expert witness received several menacing phone calls, threats, and intimidation, telling the witness not to attend.”

The CLC urged the BACP to call in the police to investigate the allegations of intimidation. 

In response, the BACP said that it had adjourned the hearing because “the Association was concerned that the confidential nature of their procedure was being compromised due to the disclosures made in the media”.

As for witness tampering, the BACP emphasised that “the exchange of the party’s witness evidence, including any contact details, was carried out in accordance with the Association’s procedure and with the agreement of the parties involved. 

 “The Association is concerned to note that it is alleged that there may have been intimidation of a witness.  If Mrs Pilkington should make a complaint to the Police, the Association will, of course, advise them of the procedure that was followed.”

In a phone call to the Church Times, Mr Strudwick said that it was it was “an impossibility” that witnesses had been intimidated because the witnesses’ contact details had been redacted from the statements. Speaking to the Daily Mail, he said: “I could not have known any details about any of the witnesses and I could not have intimidated anybody. The other side are putting out information which is wrong.”

Mrs Pilkington told The Sunday Telegraph this week that Mr Strudwick had told her “he was looking for a treatment for being gay … I told him I only work using a Christian biblical framework and he said that was exactly what he wanted.”

Mr Strudwick told the newspaper: “If a black person goes to a GP and says I want skin bleaching treatment, that does not put the onus on the practitioner to deliver the demands of the patient. It puts the onus on the health care practitioner to behave responsibly.”

Mr Strudwick also said that undergoing therapy “with somebody who thinks I am sick … is the singularly most chilling experience of my life”.

Mrs Williams said: “It seems that what the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy object to is Lesley Pilkington holding the professional and personal view that sexual orientation is not fixed.”

“Many people have come forward to say that they have stopped the practice of homosexuality and many well respected professionals believe that ‘change is possible’, yet when this is the basis on which Lesley offered therapy, she is hauled before her professional body.”

The Revd Sharon Ferguson, the Chief Executive of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement and a trained psychologist, said groups claiming that sexual orientation could be changed relied on “anecdotal” evidence. “My experience is that people only have that desire to change [their sexuality] because they have been pressurised to believe their sexuality is a sin.

“The reputable professional people have done the research and clearly state that a person’s sexuality is not a choice and is therefore not something that can be changed; people need to be assisted to come to terms with their sexuality.” 

Last year, the Royal College of Psychiatrists issued a position statement on sexual orientation, saying that “homosexuality is not a psychiatric disorder.

“There is no sound scientific evidence that sexual orientation can be changed,” it said. “Furthermore, so-called treatments of homosexuality create a setting in which prejudice and discrimination flourish.”

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Rev Sharon Ferguson, Chief Executive of Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, welcomed the ruling, which she said was "a simple case of equalities law being upheld.

"Thankfully we have laws in the UK which ensure equal treatment of all people no matter their ethnicity, sexual orientation and so on.  For the judge to have ruled any differently would have meant that within the UK the only people who can argue exception from laws are those who do so on religious grounds."



Counsellor asks for police investigation
by Ed Thornton

A PROFESSIONAL hearing concerning a Christian therapist’s counselling of a gay man did not go ahead this week. The counsellor’s legal team have alleged that a key witness was intimidated.

Lesley Pilkington was due to appear before a panel of the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) yesterday after Patrick Strudwick, a gay journalist who runs the campaigning group Stop Conversion Therapy Taskforce, lodged a formal complaint after attending counselling sessions with her in 2009.

The Christian Legal Centre (CLC), which is backing Mrs Pilkington’s case, said in a statement on Thursday: “Shortly before the hearing, BACP required all witness statements to be passed to them with contact details, and to Mr Strudwick. Immediately after supplying the statements, an expert witness received several menacing phone calls, threats, and intimidation, telling the witness not to attend.”

The CLC urged the BACP to call in the police to investigate the allegations of intimidation. 

In response, the BACP said that it had adjourned the hearing because “the Association was concerned that the confidential nature of their procedure was being compromised due to the disclosures made in the media”.

As for witness tampering, the BACP emphasised that “the exchange of the party’s witness evidence, including any contact details, was carried out in accordance with the Association’s procedure and with the agreement of the parties involved. 

 “The Association is concerned to note that it is alleged that there may have been intimidation of a witness.  If Mrs Pilkington should make a complaint to the Police, the Association will, of course, advise them of the procedure that was followed.”

In a phone call to the Church Times, Mr Strudwick said that it was it was “an impossibility” that witnesses had been intimidated because the witnesses’ contact details had been redacted from the statements. Speaking to the Daily Mail, he said: “I could not have known any details about any of the witnesses and I could not have intimidated anybody. The other side are putting out information which is wrong.”

Mrs Pilkington told The Sunday Telegraph this week that Mr Strudwick had told her “he was looking for a treatment for being gay … I told him I only work using a Christian biblical framework and he said that was exactly what he wanted.”

Mr Strudwick told the newspaper: “If a black person goes to a GP and says I want skin bleaching treatment, that does not put the onus on the practitioner to deliver the demands of the patient. It puts the onus on the health care practitioner to behave responsibly.”

Mr Strudwick also said that undergoing therapy “with somebody who thinks I am sick … is the singularly most chilling experience of my life”.

Mrs Williams said: “It seems that what the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy object to is Lesley Pilkington holding the professional and personal view that sexual orientation is not fixed.”

“Many people have come forward to say that they have stopped the practice of homosexuality and many well respected professionals believe that ‘change is possible’, yet when this is the basis on which Lesley offered therapy, she is hauled before her professional body.”

The Revd Sharon Ferguson, the Chief Executive of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement and a trained psychologist, said groups claiming that sexual orientation could be changed relied on “anecdotal” evidence. “My experience is that people only have that desire to change [their sexuality] because they have been pressurised to believe their sexuality is a sin.

“The reputable professional people have done the research and clearly state that a person’s sexuality is not a choice and is therefore not something that can be changed; people need to be assisted to come to terms with their sexuality.” 

Last year, the Royal College of Psychiatrists issued a position statement on sexual orientation, saying that “homosexuality is not a psychiatric disorder.

“There is no sound scientific evidence that sexual orientation can be changed,” it said. “Furthermore, so-called treatments of homosexuality create a setting in which prejudice and discrimination flourish.”

Is it acceptable to assist gay people who ask to be heterosexual?
Vote here

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