Two Christian hotel owners from Liverpool are facing prosecution for debating their faith in conversation with a Muslim guest.
Police arrested Ben and Sharon Vogelenzang, who run the Bounty House Hotel, after a Muslim woman complained that she was offended by comments made on 20 March during a conversation they were having about whether Jesus was the Son of God.
The comments, which also included discussion about whether Muslim dress for women was a form of bondage, and that Mohammed was a warlord, were reported to police, who hauled the brother and sister up on charges of a religiously aggravated public order offence.
They will face a criminal trial at Liverpool Magistrates’ court on 8-9 December. If convicted, they will receive a criminal record and a maximum fine of £5,000.
Since the arrest, the hotel has suffered an 80 per cent drop in income because of the allegations. The Christian Institute is funding the pair’s legal defence.
David Whiting, their lawyer, said: ‘They don’t accept that they were threatening, abusive or insulting. They are committed Christians and it is the defence’s contention that they have every right to defend their religious beliefs and explain those beliefs to others who do not hold similar views’.
The Acts under which the Vogelenzangs were arrested are used where there is violence or anti-social and abusive behaviour; legal experts question whether the Acts should be used when someone gets offended during a personal debate.