Sunday, September 23, 2012
Who are the real bigots? Christian couple reveal how they have suffered a two-year campaign of death threats and abuse for refusing to let two gay men share a room in their B&B
Susanne and Mike Wilkinson’s ‘Swiss B&B’ is ablaze with flowers, immaculately maintained and tucked away at the top of a single-track lane in the ridiculously pretty village of Cookham, near Maidenhead, Berkshire.
The house, called Uf Dorf, named after a village in Susanne’s native Switzerland, has sweeping gardens leading down through a field to the River Thames, a lovely outdoor swimming pool, a vine-covered terrace for breakfast (weather permitting) plus two bright and very comfortable double rooms for £75-a-night, and one single, all en-suite.
Indeed, had Michael Black, 63, and John Morgan, 58, been allowed to check into the large downstairs double on Friday, March 19, 2010, they would doubtless have loved its bright airiness, the triptych of photos of the Swiss Alps above the lovely big double bed, the flat screen TV, the double doors opening on to the garden, the extensive and very generous tea and coffee-making facilities and the acres of clean linen and fresh towels.
Christian B&B couple Susanne and Michael Wilkinson who were at court earlier this week because they wouldn't let a gay couple stay in a double bed in their B&B
But they never made it past the kitchen or the extract from Jeremiah (chapter 16, verse 19) stuck firmly to the fridge.
Because Susanne, 56, and Mike 58, are devout Christians and only allow married heterosexual couples to book into their double rooms. And Michael Black and John Morgan, who hail from Cambridgeshire and have been together for nearly ten years, are gay.
‘I’d had a booking from a Mr Black for the Zurich room — a nice big double with an en-suite,’ explains Susanne. ‘And, naturally, I assumed it was for Mr and Mrs Black. But as I helped them manoeuvre their car into the drive, I realised they were two men and I thought: “Oh dear, this isn’t a situation I can go along with.”
So after inviting them into the kitchen (‘It felt rude to have this conversation outside’), and despite her website promising ‘a very warm welcome to all visitors’, Susanne, a former airhostess and mother of four, told them politely and firmly that she was very sorry but they’d have to leave.
‘I said that because of my convictions, I could not go along with two men in the big double bed and I refunded their £30 deposit.’
Messrs Black (an exams consultant) and Morgan (an IT consultant and Lib Dem councillor) were appalled.
‘They said they couldn’t believe this sort of discrimination was happening in this day and age and that there would be consequences,’ recalls Susanne. ‘They said it was surely illegal in a hotel.
‘But I said: “This isn’t a hotel, this is my private home,” and that I’d have offered for them to stay in separate rooms if I had any available, but they were all booked.
‘So they left. They were polite, but shocked. And that was that.’
Or rather, it was the beginning of two-and-a-half years of hate mail, arson and death threats, obscene emails, filthy texts, bogus TripAdvisor and Google reviews, cancelled bookings — none of which, of course, was posted or encouraged by Mr Black or his partner — and spiralling legal fees.
Meanwhile the wheels of justice ground on, all culminating in a court hearing this week at Reading County Court. The judgment is deferred for a couple of weeks.
Michael and John’s claim (funded by Liberty) was made under the new Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007 and argued that it was unlawful for a person providing services to the public to discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation.
Susanne and Mike, who are funded by the Christian Institute, claim that the regulations shouldn’t apply to B&Bs in the same way as they do to hotels and insist the law has been interpreted badly.
‘We are not homophobic,’ says Mike, who traded 30 years as a financial director in the City to become leader of a local non-denominational church in Marlow eight years ago.
‘We would happily have all our rooms filled with gay folk on a single occupancy basis. But not sharing a double bed because, for us, sex when you’re unmarried is a sin before God.’
The backlash started a couple of hours after Michael and John reversed out of the Wilkinsons’ drive.
‘The lady who ran the Cookham.com website telephoned to say she was removing us from the website for bringing shame on Cookham,’ says Susanne.
‘Then there were so many hits on our website that the server nearly went down,’ says Mike. ‘And then the phone calls and emails started.’ Because the following day, the BBC took up the story.
‘We were bombarded,’ says Mike. ‘I’m sure they didn’t plan for all this to happen, but there were hundreds of emails an hour from all over the world, our phones were ringing day and night. Texts were coming in all hours. Most were just obscene.
‘They were very sexually explicit — I wouldn’t really like to tell you what was in them,’ says Susanne.
And then the bogus TripAdvisor and Google reviews started, most of the Wilkinsons’ bookings were cancelled and death threats began.
‘They talked about “coming to get us”. One was hand-delivered and handwritten in capitals and said ‘I am coming to burn your house down” and then lots of filthy words about what they thought of us,’ says Mike.
‘It was very scary. And we’ve guests as well as children living here. People started cancelling the bookings. And that’s when we called the police.’
Who — strangely you may think — despite trawling through thousands upon thousands of emails, texts and letters, were unable to track a single sender. ‘They were all from anonymous sources. It’s so cowardly, isn’t it?
But what about the discrimination law that came into force just after they started offering B&B? ‘To be honest, we weren’t aware of it and we were pretty shocked when we did hear about it — that you couldn’t determine who could stay in your own home,’ says Mike.
‘You can say no children and no pets, but I’m not allowed to say I don’t want homosexual couples to share a bed under my roof. Just as we would never knowingly allow an unmarried heterosexual couple stay in the same room in our home.’
Indeed they’ve turned away a heterosexual couple wanting a room for just a few hours. ‘It was clear they weren’t married,’ says Susanne, appalled.
The couple even banned a family member from sharing a room with her boyfriend. ‘That caused a bit of a scene. But you have to be consistent and honest.’
Back in Berkshire, how have things been for the Wilkinsons’ four children, aged 17 to 29? ‘I think it’s not been easy for them,’ says Mike, quietly. ‘All of them are supportive and all of them have chosen to become Christians — our older boy is in training to become an Anglican priest. But even if they understand and agree with us, most of their friends don’t and our daughter at university got all kinds of grief.
‘It’s been very upsetting. At least TripAdvisor has removed all the phoney reviews, though Google have done nothing — even though I’ve written to them over 20 times. There’s stuff on there that’s disgusting and illegal — one says everybody should come and smash the house up.’
What a dreadful mess. One can only imagine the nightmare through which the Wilkinsons have lived over the last few years.
But surely, whatever the court determines in the next couple of weeks, their ‘crime’ — sticking fervently to their admittedly old-fashioned views within their own home — cannot be deserving of the vicious torrent of bile, obscenity, hatred, bullying and death threats that nearly swept them away.
Are Black and White Conservatives Racist?
Well the Congressional Black Caucus is having their annual legislative week in Washington DC this week opining about their favorite subject "racism". They can't seem to stop reminding their audience that President Obama and his Democratic machine continues to champion their causes and if Romney is elected, we will return to the days of the great plantations. They have taken Romney's video comments about the 47% and are creating a new political industry and campaign. However, the President's record on crime, closing the education gap, reducing unprecedented poverty in minority communities, and creating an entrepreneur class during his tenure has taken a massive nose dive. Why is it that white and black conservatives are always the biggest impediment to the progress of many blacks in this country, according to the high pitch rhetoric of the CBC and Democratic machine ?
What you’ll often hear from conservatives like me is that the left’s solutions to the problems that ail minority communities are themselves racist, since they operate on the fundamental premise that minorities are incapable. There’s almost nothing, according to Democrats, that minorities are cable of accomplishing without the help of the government. To hear some Democrats speak, minorities are incapable of doing just about anything without a handout or a leg up.
Believing – as white and black conservatives alike do– that minorities don’t need anyone’s help to get ahead in life may be naïve, or unrealistic, but it is not racist. And certainly not as racist as the notion underpinning Democratic policy: That minorities can’t make it in this world without free money, special scholarships, quotas, affirmative action, lower admissions standards, and any other mechanism employed to propel them forward. After all, isn’t racism defined as a belief in the inherent inferiority of a group of people based on their skin color? And yet it is somehow, inexplicably, not racist, if your intention are good – not to hold them down but to help them out.
Thus, black and white Republicans find ourselves labeled racist, Uncle Toms, race traitors, and for daring to say no, no, no, they don’t need anyone’s – much less the government’s – help to get ahead in life. We live in a world where saying that we’re all equal and no one deserves a handout more than the person sitting next to us makes us a racist.
The litany of accusations can reach absurd proportions. Want to emphasize teaching about this nation’s founding in our public schools more than the history of Swahili in Africa? You’re a racist. Want the government to stop handing out our tax dollars to companies simply because they’re run by blacks or Hispanics or women? You must be a racist. Want to keep health insurance the way it is, and not turn it all over to politicians and bureaucrats in Washington? You must be a racist. It sure gets tiresome, doesn’t it?
It all gets back to the lack of tolerance of others’ beliefs regardless of race, and the failure to exercise patience in order to understand why Republicans of all colors believe as they do.
Tolerance, or rather the lack thereof is my point. By automatically labeling one whole segment of the political spectrum as racist, the left has attempted to de legitimize all conservative thought. It’s a red herring. Rather than listen to and consider the true merits or flaws of conservatism, especially in regards to how policies will affect minorities, every idea is labeled as racially insensitive and therefore, inherently bad.
The virtue of tolerance demands that you check your prejudices at the door and consider the person and their beliefs based on their merits. We ask that all people do this when dealing with someone of a different race, yet how quickly we forget to exercise the same ideal when discussing politics.
Let us take the 2011 health care bill. The prevailing assumption throughout the debate was that Republicans were acting as a monolith – all of them rich, well-to-do whites who themselves, of course, couldn’t possibly have known anyone who lacked health – and that their opposition to running a health-care system for more than 300 million people out of Washington couldn’t have stemmed from a different understanding of economics or public policy. It had to have been motivated by the drive to keep minorities out of their hospitals.
Likewise, during the financial regulation debate, opposition to the Democrats’ legislation couldn’t have possibly stemmed from fear of over regulation or of stifling the economy, but instead must have had its origin in the massive, white Republican monolith’s need to protect its own kind: white bankers on Wall Street. As if Republicans had no skin in the game, and only black and Hispanic Democrats lost their homes and saw their 401k’s cut in half as a result of the crash!
How can we accomplish anything of major national importance – whether it's helping the uninsured get health coverage or overhauling the financial system – if those who stand on one side of the divide are assumed to be acting and thinking out of a deep hatred for people of color?
Giving the green light to grievance
The Obama administration seems to see free speech as a bigger problem than attacks on its overseas embassies
Once again, we see images of demonstrations and rioting in capital cities across the Middle East. But unlike the Arab Spring, these protests are explicitly anti-American. Demonstrators have been gathering at US embassies, with placards denouncing the US and burning American flags. In Libya, four Americans, including the ambassador, were killed following an attack on the US consulate in Benghazi. In Lebanon, rioters burnt down that towering symbol of the Great Satan known as Kentucky Fried Chicken.
The spark for this trouble was an amateurish video, called ‘The Innocence of Muslims’, which apparently mocks the prophet Mohammed as a sexual deviant. (Only a trailer has been released; some doubt whether a full movie exists.) The recent events cannot be fully explained by this one movie; for one thing, it seems pretty clear that the attack in Benghazi was premeditated. But this obscure video has been at the forefront of demonstrators’ complaints.
Protesters across the Middle East called on the US to take the film out of circulation. In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood, the organisation behind the recently elected Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi, urged the US government to prosecute the ‘madmen’ behind the video. Morsi himself called on the Egyptian embassy in Washington to take ‘all legal measures’ in the US against the makers of the film.
Of course, we have heard Muslim charges of blasphemy before – from Salman Rushdie to the Danish cartoons, to accidental Koran-burning in Afghanistan, and more. It seems like there is a perpetual grievance machine, ready to be activated no matter how obscure the source.
In response, US officials could have taken a firm stand for free speech. They could have stated that the government will not give in to complaints about cultural works being ‘insensitive’ or ‘offensive’, either in the Middle East or at home. But no. Instead, American authorities essentially conceded that the demonstrators have a point.
While protesters amassed outside its gates, the US embassy in Cairo issued a statement: ‘The embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions… We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.’ In other words, embassy staff chose to condemn the filmmaker rather than the demonstrators. Furthermore, officials endorsed the protesters’ view that ‘hurt(ing) the religious beliefs of others’ should override free speech.
In the event, this ploy didn’t help; Cairo’s protesters breached the embassy’s walls and tore down the American flag. The Cairo embassy statement was widely criticised in the US. Perhaps we should cut the Cairo staff some slack, knowing that they probably felt very threatened and were desperately trying to stave off an attack. The Obama administration disavowed the statement, saying it did not vet it.
But its disavowal of the Cairo embassy statement didn’t stop the Obama administration from proceeding to denounce the movie, thus validating the protesters’ petty grievances. Secretary of state Hillary Clinton deemed the film ‘disgusting and reprehensible’ and said the administration ‘absolutely rejects’ its contents. President Obama said ‘the United States rejects efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others’. Since when is the US government in the business of determining what is blasphemy and what isn’t? And now it appears the secretary of state job description includes movie criticism. As it happens, it was reported that Clinton attended The Book of Mormon, the Broadway play that satirises the Mormon faith - and oddly enough failed to give her thumbs up or down on that cultural attack on a religion.
What’s even worse is that the US authorities then began trying to quash the film. Remarkably, a top military official, Martin Dempsey, called the Koran-burning Florida pastor Terry Jones (congregation: 50), asking him to withdraw his support for the ‘The Innocence of Muslims’ and to tone down the Islamophobia. Then the White House called Google, the parent company of YouTube, and asked it to ‘review’ whether the film violates the site’s content guidelines. In other words, they were trying to find a reason to have the film censored. But it’s not the government’s task to identify content that it would like a private internet company to remove. To its credit, Google has kept the video up.
To top it off, the alleged filmmaker, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, was then brought in for questioning after federal (that is, not local) authorities appeared at his Los Angeles home around midnight on Saturday night. The officers said they were checking whether Nakoula violated the terms of his probation – but the timing and midnight theatrics suggest they had other motives.
All of these investigations and intimidations suggest that the administration really does think that the video itself - and implicitly, free speech - is the problem that needs to be addressed. Perhaps Obama, Clinton and the rest of the administration believe that their denunciations of the video, along with throwing their weight around with YouTube, will impress the Muslim world. But if so, they are mistaken. US government moves such as these only appear to endorse grievance claims and invite more outbursts. Indeed, seeing pictures of Nakoula in the custody of sheriffs might give the impression that the government really does have the power to shut him up.
The Obama administration’s response to last week’s crisis was not only defensive; it also showed the US as flat-footed and confused. First, there was the lack of organisation and security at the embassies. And then confusion: at one point, President Obama was asked if Egypt was considered an ally or enemy; he said neither. As his advisers quickly pointed out, if you are giving more than $1 billion a year in aid to a country, it had better be an ally.
In today’s situation, there’s a good chance that anti-American protests in the Middle East would continue no matter how the White House responded. But with its craven concessions to the sensibilities of certain Muslims, the Obama administration is only pouring fuel on the fire.
Australia: Federal MPs say no to homosexual marriage
GAY marriage advocates have urged supporters to "maintain their rage" after federal Parliament delivered a crushing defeat of proposed changes to the law.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott and former party leaders Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull all voted against same-sex marriage as it was beaten in the House of Representatives by 98 votes to 42.
It came as Mr Abbott sacked Senator Cory Bernardi as his parliamentary secretary after he commented that the push for gay marriage could lead to legalising bestiality and polygamy.
Senator Bernardi told the Senate the "next step" after gay marriage could be "creepy people" who want "consensual sexual relations between humans and animals".
He said: "In the future will we say, 'These two creatures love each other and maybe they should be able to be joined in a union?'."
Mr Turnbull, who supports gay marriage but voted against it because Coalition frontbenchers did not have a free vote on the issue, blasted Senator Bernardi's comments as hysterical, alarmist and offensive.
Mr Abbott said Senator Bernardi had been "ill-disciplined" but was a "decent bloke with strong opinions".
He said after a fairly forthright discussion Senator Bernardi offered his resignation and he accepted it because it was crucial the Opposition be a "strong and disciplined Coalition".
Labor MP Stephen Jones, who sponsored the Bill to change the Marriage Act, urged supporters to "maintain your rage" and predicted he would be attending gay weddings within 10 years.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.