Liverpool hotel owners face criminal trial and financial ruin for criticizing Islam

Have you ever had a discussion about religion that became somewhat contentious? A not uncommon event in life, right? In the Dead Island, it’s a criminal offense—if the person you’re talking to is a Muslim.

Below are the stories from the Telegraph and the Mail. The latter goes more deeply into it. In both stories, notice that while there is some outrage expressed about this particular situation, no one challenges the underlying law itself and the unfree nature of contemporary Britain. What makes Britain dead is not the existence of such laws, but the absense of any resistance to them. In connection with which, let’s see how Hitchens, Phillips, and McKinstry cover it. Other than melodramatically huffing and puffing, will they call for the repeal of the actual state powers that allow such prosecutions to take place?

The article in the Telegraph:

Christian hoteliers charged with insulting Muslim guest

A Christian couple who run a hotel have been charged with a criminal offence for allegedly insulting a female Muslim guest about her beliefs.

By Jonathan Wynne-Jones, Religious Affairs Correspondent

Published: 9:30PM BST 19 Sep 2009

Ben and Sharon Vogelenzang are charged with breaching Section 5 of the Public Order Act—causing harassment, alarm or distress. If convicted, they face fines of £2,500 each and a criminal record.

The Muslim woman was staying at the Bounty House Hotel in Liverpool, which is run by the Vogelenzangs, when a conversation arose between the hoteliers and their guest about her faith.

It is understood that among the topics debated was whether Jesus was a minor prophet, as Islam teaches, or whether he was the Son of God, as Christianity teaches.

Among the things Mr Vogelenzang, 53, is alleged to have said is that Mohammad was a warlord. His wife, 54, is said to have stated that Muslim dress is a form of bondage for women.

The conversation, on March 20, was reported by the woman to Merseyside Police. Officers told the couple that they wanted to interview them over the incident.

After being questioned on April 20, they were interrogated again three months later before being charged on July 29 with a religiously-aggravated public order offence. They appeared in court on August 14 and are now awaiting trial.

Mr and Mrs Vogelenzang do not accept that they were threatening or abusive in any way. David White, who is representing them, said that they believe they have the right to defend their religious beliefs.

Their case is being funded by the Christian Institute, which has backed a number of Christians in legal disputes.

A spokesman for the Institute said: “We are funding Ben and Sharon’s defence because we believe important issues of religious liberty and free speech are at stake.

“In many instances we have detected a worrying tendency for public bodies to misapply the law in a way that seems to sideline Christianity more than other faiths.”

A police spokesman said: “Merseyside Police can confirm that Benjamin Vogelenzang and Sharon Vogelenzang, both of Fazakerley, were charged with a religiously-aggravated public order offence on 29 July 2009. This follows an incident on 20 March 2009.”

The article in the Mail:

Christian hotel owners face ruin after ‘defending their faith’ in row with a Muslim guest

Last updated at 10:11 AM on 21st September 2009

It started as a religious discussion over the breakfast table at a private hotel.

Several months later, the Christian owners face ruin after a Muslim guest complained that she had been insulted.

Ben and Sharon Vogelenzang are being prosecuted under controversial public order laws designed to target yobbish and abusive behaviour on the streets.

Ben and Sharon Vogelenzang: ‘Just defending their faith’

Ben and Sharon Vogelenzang: ‘Just defending their faith’

If convicted they face a fine of up to £5,000 and a criminal record. They have also lost 80 per cent of their bookings and have been forced to put the business up for sale.

The charges relate to a heated conversation the couple had with the guest at their hotel in Liverpool in March. On her final morning before checking out, she came down to breakfast wearing a hijab, the traditional Muslim headdress.

The unnamed woman had been staying at the Bounty House Hotel near Aintree racecourse for four weeks while receiving treatment at a local hospital, but the couple had never seen her wear her religious clothing before.

It is alleged they suggested that Mohammad, the founder of Islam, was a warlord when the guest challenged them about their Christian beliefs. The woman also claims that the couple, who vehemently deny the allegations and say they were simply defending their faith, described her traditional dress as a form of bondage.

The guest complained to police and the Vogelenzangs were charged with using ‘threatening, abusive or insulting words’ which were ’ religiously aggravated’.

Up for sale: Bookings are down 80 per cent at the Bounty House Hotel

Up for sale: Bookings are down 80 per cent at the Bounty House Hotel

The hospital where she was treated routinely referred outpatients to stay at the hotel. But when management found out about the court case they decided they could no longer recommend the Bounty House, leading to the catastrophic drop in bookings.

The conversation was overheard by several guests in the restaurant of the nine-bedroom hotel, which charges £92 a night for a double room.

Mrs Vogelenzang, 54, who has run the hotel with her 53-year-old Dutchborn husband for six years, said they had been warned not to talk about the case until it reaches court in December.

But a source close to the couple said: ‘They wouldn’t have said anything offensive. They are very mild-mannered people.’ A number of Church leaders in Liverpool have written to Keir Starmer, the Director of Public Prosecutions, calling for the case to be dropped.

The couple, who are members of the Bootle Christian Fellowship, are receiving financial backing and support from the independent lobby group, the Christian Institute.

Spokesman Mike Judge said: ‘Important issues of religious liberty and free speech are at stake. We have detected a worrying tendency for public bodies to misapply the law in a way that seems to sideline Christianity more than other faiths.

‘Nobody was being threatened and while the Vogelenzangs were fully aware that a robust exchange had taken place and the woman had been perhaps a little offended, they were shocked when the police became involved.

‘We feel their treatment has been heavyhanded and it is not in the public interest to go ahead with this prosecution. People see the police standing by when Muslims demonstrate holding some pretty bloodthirsty placards, but at the same time come down hard on two Christians having a debate over breakfast at a hotel.

‘We are just hoping the magistrates use their common sense and find them not guilty.’

The Public Order Act 1986 is designed to help police arrest those inciting disorder on the streets, through violence or abusive behaviour. ‘It should never be used where there has been a personal conversation or debate with views firmly expressed,’ said Neil Addison, a leading criminal barrister and expert in religious law.

‘If someone is in a discussion and they don’t like what they are hearing, they can walk away.’

- end of initial entry -

Howard Sutherland writes:

Compounding the outrage of prosecuting the Vogelenzangs over a private conversation is the fact that, if one presumes they said what is alleged, they simply spoke the truth. Mohammed was a warlord, unless the Koran and Hadiths contain no truth at all, and Moslem body wraps are a form—literally—of bondage for women. Truth, of course, is no defense in New Labour’s New Britain.

The cravenness of the un-named (why not?) hospital in refusing to refer for bookings in the aftermath of the allegations is also beneath contempt. Does that hospital cater to a mostly Moslem clientele? If so, what peculiar services does it provide?

We’ll probably never see answers to those questions in any mainstream British media outlet. Let’s see what McKinstry does with this one: it seems tailor-made for his indignation. I will bet, though, that he will not state the obvious conclusion: that Moslem immigration to no-longer-great Britain must end, and even be reversed. That bit of truth-telling would probably mean his job. HRS

Leonard D. writes:

Unbelievable. The prosecution of free speech, as blatant as you could imagine.

One interesting aspect of the story is the timeline. One hundred years ago, a murder could be discovered, investigated, prosecuted, and punished (by death) in a matter of a month. (I.e., see here; search for “William Sproull.”) Nowadays, it takes a month just to question the “criminals,” and questioning has to be done twice (for no reason I can think of; how hard can it be to ask someone if they had an argument?), the second questioning being four months after the “crime.” Having then been charged with this “crime,” the “criminals” in this case appeared in court two weeks later (speedy!), and now await trial in December. What is it the left is always saying when they’ve got a cause? “Justice delayed is justice denied.” Of course in this case it is injustice, but I do not think the valence reverses. Rather, injustice delayed is justice denied.

I also wanted to point out a bit of the language used.

It is understood that among the topics debated was whether Jesus was a minor prophet, as Islam teaches, or whether he was the Son of God, as Christianity teaches.

“It is understood that X.” Presumably this is a way of saying that “police allege X,” or perhaps “the plaintiff alleged X,” although I doubt this sort of law is a tort so she really is not a plaintiff. Again we see the passivization of Official English. Nobody does anything. Things happen.

LA replies:

I’m sorry if this seems captious, and I’m not trying to start an argument here with Leonard, but I can’t help pointing out that “Nobody does anything, things happen,” is not only a view that grows out of liberalism, it also grows out of Darwinism.

Leonard replies:

I understand your point, which is that “things happen” is consistent with methodological materialism, which can be found in Darwinism. However, I do not think that the use of the passive voice in the papers is inspired by Darwinism as such. But I do think it is, in part, scientism. It an appropriation of scientific language, where the passive voice is indeed used heavily. But this is not about Darwinism, it is about science.

LA replies:

Agreed, if by science you mean materialistic positivism or scientism, the belief that only the material, only that which can be detected by the senses or by scientific instruments is real. The (apparent) victory of materialistic science was sealed by Darwinism, which is why Darwin is the chief god of modern science.

My point is: what basis does a Darwinian or a positivist have to criticize the removal of moral agency from our language? Modern science denies the existence of a moral agent as distinct from material phenomena that just “happen.”

Posted by Lawrence Auster at September 21, 2009 08:51 AM | Send

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