Christian hoteliers cleared of ‘religious hatred’
It has been nine months of trauma as their lives were placed in turmoil and their takings at the Bounty House Hotel in Aintree plummeted by 80 per cent. But after a two-day trial, District Judge Richard Clancy at the Liverpool Magistrates Court has cleared Benjamin and Sharon Vogelenzang of ‘religious hatred’ towards Ericka Tazi.
Mrs Tazi, a convert to Islam from Roman Catholicism, had claimed that the Christian couple had insulted her because of her faith while she was a guest in their hotel after she appeared one evening wearing a hijab (some reports say burkha, but they appear to be inaccurate). She claimed they had insulted Mohammed by calling him a ‘warlord’, and likened him to Saddam Hussein and Hitler. They allegedly asked her repeatedly if she was a murderer or a terrorist.
Mr and Mrs Vogelenzang's barrister Hugh Tomlinson QC challenged her account, suggesting she had worn Islamic dress to provoke the Vogelenzangs and that they merely engaged in a legitimate discussion about their faiths. They denied using threatening, abusive or insulting words which were religiously aggravated. They denied Mrs Tazi’s version of events and claimed she had told them that Jesus was ‘a minor prophet’ and that the Bible was untrue.
No religious hatred there, of course.
Mr and Mrs Vogelenzang said: "We would like to thank all those who have supported us over the last nine months – our family, our friends, our church, and Christians from all around the world and non-Christians. And as Christmas approaches, we wish everybody peace and goodwill."
Including, no doubt, Mrs Tazi, for that is what Christians do, even though she has been found to have lied, slandered and caused financial detriment, even after swearing an oath to Allah and kissing the Qur'an. It is now for her to apologise; it is she who should compensate. Cranmer is all for forgiveness, peace and love, but actions have consequences: slander and lies have penalties, and by turning the other cheek to these sorts of onslaughts against the freedom to talk about Jesus on one's own property risks the liberties of us all.
Cranmer received an email from a friend of the Vogelenzangs in September. It said: ‘I know this couple personally, and can confirm that they are the most unoffensive people you could meet. When the Muslim woman in question realised they were Christians she kept trying to provoke them and start arguments about religion - they were wary of her and kept trying to change the subject - then on the last day she came down in a burkha and started ranting at them!”
Justice has prevailed, and for that one must thank God.
Cranmer wonders what happens now to someone who says Mohammed is a false prophet.
It appears that one may be arrested for ‘religious hatred’, endure months of anguish and hardship, all because someone takes offence.
How much longer will it take our politicians to realise that freedom of speech must be tolerated, and everyone living in the United Kingdom must accept that they may occasionally be insulted about their beliefs, however sincerely held, or indeed be offended, purposely or inadvertently, and that this is something which they must simply endure?