A well-liked, Christian man in England had his salary reduced by 40% after posting a comment on his Facebook page in which he stated that the government should not force churches to perform same-sex “marriage” ceremonies. And a Christian couple running a bed and breakfast in their family home in England was fined almost $6,000 for hurting the feelings of a gay couple by refusing to rent a room to them. The headline to Amanda Platell’s report on the first of these two cases said it all: “The real hate crime is persecuting a decent man for his beliefs.”
According to Platell, “Adrian Smith is a kind and gentle man. Friends say the happily married father is a pillar of the community, a practising Christian and a tireless worker for charity. Yet this week Mr Smith was in court, defending accusations that he is a bigot whose personal views are so offensive and outrageous that they are incompatible with his work as a housing officer. His crime? To have put a posting on his personal Facebook page which said he thought civil partnerships ceremonies in church were ‘an equality too far’.”
Smith’s comment, posted on his personal Facebook page, explained, “‘If the State wants to offer civil marriages to the same sex, then that is up to the State; but the State shouldn’t impose its rules on places of faith or conscience.’”
Who could object to such a moderate, fair-minded comment? One of Smith’s co-workers did object, alleging that his post demonstrated that he was “blatantly homophobic” (!). As a result, “His salary was reduced by 40 per cent by the Trafford Housing Trust, which claimed he was guilty of ‘gross misconduct’ because people might mistake his views as trust policy.” Yes, this actually happened days ago in jolly old England.
Platell, who is no rightwing conservative, exclaimed, “What utter nonsense. And what a terrifying insight into the dystopian world we now live in — a world where a man can be penalised for a thought crime, even when that thought is shared by a huge proportion of the population.” And even when the thought is eminently reasonable.
Then there is the case of a devout Christian couple, Susanne and Mike Wilkinson, owners of a bed and breakfast, who refused to rent a room to a gay couple in 2010, just as they had previously refused to rent a room to an unmarried heterosexual couple. They were taken to court by the gay couple and, just last week, found guilty of hurting the feelings of the gay couple, resulting in a fine of nearly $6,000.
Michael Brown holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University. He is the author of 25 books, includingLine of Fire. Follow him at AskDrBrown on Facebook or @drmichaellbrown on Twitter.