The Christian Institute has put its legal support behind a church minister punished by a Belfast hotel for his biblical beliefs about marriage.
In October 2019, Revd Harry Coulter was forced to stop an event in support of traditional marriage at the Balmoral Hotel in Belfast.
The ‘Marriage Matters’ event, which was addressing the imposition of same-sex marriage by Westminster on Northern Ireland, was interrupted half-way through by hotel staff.
They demanded that Mr Coulter should bring the conference to an end immediately, claiming that a fellow hotel patron had complained about the meeting.
As a result, 50 attendees had to leave the hotel, along with the keynote speaker, Tony Rucinski from the Coalition for Marriage, who had travelled all the way from Wales.
Mr Coulter, who is the pastor of Carrickfergus Reformed Presbyterian Church, said he had written to the hotel asking for an explanation and some form of redress but has received no response. He has now instructed solicitors to take the hotel to court.
Simon Calvert, deputy director for public affairs at The Christian Institute, called the abrupt cancellation and subsequent lack of restitution by the hotel an ‘outrage’.
He said, ‘For the hotel to take Mr Coulter’s booking, take his money, provide signage and set up the event, only to stop it halfway through, causing maximum inconvenience and embarrassment, is an outrage.
‘We’ve got to put an end to what we consider to be attempts to punish people for believing in one-man-one-woman marriage. After all, it’s what most people believed in until recently.
‘The Supreme Court has reaffirmed that belief in traditional marriage is worthy of respect in a democratic society. So we are very happy to be supporting Mr Coulter in his legal action to defend his freedom to hold and express these beliefs without being humiliated like this.’
The Supreme Court made it clear that the freedom to believe, or not to believe, is a human right enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights, article 10.
This was cited in the October 2018 judgement handed down in favour of Ashers’ bakery, which had been taken to court initially in Northern Ireland after they turned down a request to decorate a cake with the slogan, ‘Support gay marriage’.