23 March 2010

A B&B, a gay couple, and freedom of religion - A question of private morality

Rights and freedoms are not always straight forward, but the abuse of rights’ language really works me up. The latest example comes from Susanne Wilkinson who turned a gay couple away from her B&B on account of her religious beliefs. Here, freedom of religion is often appealed to with total disregard for what it actually stands for.

Freedom of religion
Mrs Wilkinson has the sacrosanct right to profess her religion and belief, which means she can go to church, take sacraments, pray etc. I’m not being facetious; this is what ‘freedom of religion’ is. The gay couple staying at the B&B would have not prevented Mrs Wilkinson from professing her faith.

Freedom of conscience
Again, Mrs Wilkinson has the sacrosanct right to think that homosexuality is wrong and say so. Freedom of speech and conscience means that you have the right to say and believe what you want and should not be harmed for it by others or the state. There are limits (every right has a limit), but, in this case, Mrs Wilkinson could have voiced her opinion no problem. Equally, Michael Black and John Morgan, the gay couple, have the right to say what they believe. The parties should have exchanged arguments in the usual manner and tell each other where to go. No harm done.

B&B owners, of whatever type, haven’t got the right to pick and choose their guests on the basis of their beliefs. Let’s not forget that not so long ago, in the US, Italians, Irish and Blacks were not allowed in pubs. Then too it was a question of belief, a racist one. Freedom of conscience does not allow you to withdraw a service you provide to the public because you disagree on other people’s personal life.

I’ve argued previously about this matter, are these people who object so strongly on the basis of their morality checking what other things their guests get up to? Are they accepting adulterous couples? Are they running CRB checks?

If guests are drunk, behaved aggressively towards others or similar, one has the right to chuck them out or call the Police. However, one’s sexual morality is not the state’s nor anyone else’s business. It is private morality and that is protected by freedom of conscience. This does not mean that ‘everything goes’ as some people think, but that requires future posts.

The beauty of liberalism is that we can dislike each other. We can disagree and insult each other. At times, there seems to be a timidity of voicing one’s opinion (luckily, that doesn’t affect me). Some are too afraid of being controversial which is not helped by people who go to the Police because they have been offended by other people’s open views.

I’m concerned that my taxes are being wasted in this futile exercise in protecting a hurt ego. We seem to be slipping towards the American way of suing each other rather than having a good old fashioned row. Now feel free to leave insults on the comments section.