Trevor Phillips’ Turbulent Priests

Peter and Hazelmary Bull are a mild-mannered self-effacing couple who, literally, mind their own business – which for them is running the Chymorvah Private Hotel near Penzance in Cornwall. For 25 years they’ve interfered with no-one. They’ve judged no-one. Summer and winter they’ve simply got on quietly with their lives deep in the south-western corner of England.

They are committed Christians who believe in traditional marriage, as their website makes clear (here): “Here at Chymorvah we have few rules, but please note that as Christians we have a deep regard for marriage (being the union of one man to one woman for life to the exclusion of all others). Therefore, although we extend to all a warm welcome to our home, our double-bedded accommodation is not available to unmarried couples. Thank you.”

Despite this plain public statement of values, gay activists and civil partners Martyn Hall and Steven Preddy, possibly with the active collusion of Stonewall gay rights organisation, went to the hotel in September 2008, tried to book a double room and unsurprisingly were refused.

In December 2010 Hall and Preddy, backed by the publicly-funded Equalities and Human Rights Commission, sued the Bulls on the grounds of sexual discrimination. In January 2011 they won their case in Bristol County Court and the Bulls were fined (here). They are strongly contesting the decision and their appeal comes up at the Royal Courts of Justice in The Strand in November.

Just 90 miles away in Torquay, Devon, is “the UK’s first and only” gay men’s resort which, amongst other things, has been happy to promote its sauna with photos of male genitalia on its website (no link ‘cos no porn on this blog thanks). In March this year I challenged the EHRC about the resort on the basis that what is sauce for the straight goose should be sauce for the gay gander too, but they declined to take action. To the equalities watchdog it seems some are more equal than others.

Lesley Pilkington is a dignified sensitive woman in her sixties who has practiced privately as a Christian psychotherapist for 20 years. Accredited by the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy, she has occasionally offered ‘Reparative Therapy’ to people who are distressed by their unwanted homosexuality.

In May 2009 she was approached by Patrick Strudwick who said he was gay, wanted to change and asked to undertake the therapy. He secretly taped two confidential counselling sessions with Ms Pilkington before abruptly revealing he was an undercover journalist and gay activist. He wrote an angry belligerent article in the national press (here) quoting her directly from the tapes, and complained to her professional body, the BACP, who decided against her in May this year. She is currently fighting the BCAP decision through an appeal because it “undermines the special confidential relationship between counsellor and client”.

Last December Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, was secretly taped by two undercover reporters at his MP’s surgery. He expressed scathing views about the Coalition government and, presciently, Rupert Murdoch. When his views were published in the Daily Telegraph he was rebuked by David Cameron who reduced his ministerial role. However Cable’s claim that he had been the victim of a newspaper sting that undermined the confidentiality of an MP’s surgery was upheld by the industry’s watchdog, the Press Complaints Commission, in May (here); the Daily Telegraph was condemned for its deception on the basis that the ends didn’t justify the means.

It seems what is sauce for the Christian counsellor is not sauce for the constituency MP.

Christian sex-discrimination cases like the Bulls and Lesley Pilkington have become the most high profile of recent years and Trevor Phillips, chair of the EHRC and confused pillar of the liberal establishment, has extraordinary views about them. Under cheap headlines about Christians being more militant than Muslims, he recently downplayed claims of bias, harassment and persecution against Christians by diverting the argument; he impugned believers’ motives, asserting that many of the legal cases brought by Christians about homosexuality are driven by an attempt to gain political influence (here).

“A lot of Christian activists… want to have a fight,” he said, “and they choose sexual orientation as the ground to fight on. I think the whole argument isn’t about the rights of Christians. It’s about politics.”

Now I reckon we should celebrate when Christian activists want to get involved in politics and public life. We need more prophets and turbulent priests who get up the nose of authorities, speak truth to power and revitalise our decaying democracy. The recent death of Parliament Square’s Christian peace campaigner Brian Haw (here) was a loss to the whole nation.

But the Bulls and Lesley Pilkington? Thrust into the limelight through no wish of their own, they’ve been forced to fight for their livelihoods and beliefs.

If they’ve become prophets and political priests, it’s because the aggressive gay lobby and Trevor Phillips’ bumbling EHRC have made them so.

(This post was published as an article in The Church of England Newspaper on 22 July 2011)

11 thoughts on “Trevor Phillips’ Turbulent Priests

  1. “our double-bedded accommodation is not available to unmarried couples”

    Illegal since the first Sex Discrimination Act in 1970-something. And not required by the 10 commandments, where unfaithfulness is the only consenting sex that is prohibited.

  2. Not really a silly comment. It’s more than prudent considering the ridiculous claims of victimisation of Christians.

    Faith is a private matter. End of discussion surely?

    Stop obsessing over homosexuals. Ted Haggard learned that lesson.

  3. Faith is a private matter if non-faith is too. But I see noisy atheists claiming the public space for themselves. Personally I’d prefer Jesus’ values out there rather than, say, Harris’s or Dawkins’.

    I ain’t obsessing and I have no problem with homosexuals. Live and let live. It’s the ideological gay agenda I have problems with.

  4. Replace “gay” with the word “black” and you will see the same prejudices suffered for simply being born with either the “wrong” skin colour or sexual orientation that a society deemed was not within normality.

    Noisy Atheists? Would you concede religion is “noisy too?

    You might want to have Jesus’ values but other people don’t. That’s why secularism is the only way for society to thrive.

  5. I object strongly to homophobia, but I also object to the pseudo-science that tries to persuade us that people are born gay. Gays chose their life-style, just like you and me.

    Elton John chose to marry a woman and then chose to change his mind. Michael Barrymore got married, then came out as gay, and recently – if you can rely on the media – announced that he is in a loving relationship with a woman. He’s free to choose and free to change his mind.

    Secularism is the sure way to kill off a society as it sinks into a morass of materialism, insecurity, superficiality and relativism – oh and bureaucracy. Europe has gone secular and by mid-century will be gone from the world stage. It has nothing to offer any more except its history, its museums and its ability to pontificate.

    If you want to be part of the future and go east to China, south to Africa or South America or west to the US, all of which have thriving Christianity.

  6. BTW did you see this, which explains why China’s rise is unstoppable?

    There’ll be bumpy moments while Christianity in all its guises throws off secular/atheist Maoist/Communist rule and impacts the underlying historic Buddhist and Taoist culture, but some form of liberal democracy and human rights will become established in due course – just as they continue to disappear in secular Europe.

  7. Ok, now with the Elton John and Barrymore situation you are suggesting that they changed their minds from being heterosexual to homosexual and thus argue that the reverse could be the same and therefore sexuality is a choice.

    I can understand how you come to this argument with rationality based on your assumptions. Notwithstanding additional information, one might be convinced.

    However, I can also say that you are wrong.

    The simple fact you have omitted from your reasoning is that both Elton John and Barrymore married into conventional heterosexual relationships in spite of their sexuality. I think you would agree that social convention, moral zeitgeist etc has moved on from the 1970s. Compelling reasons still exist today why homosexuals continue to stay ‘in the closet’.

    Your argument therefore fails and I would REALLY love to see what credentials in biology and neuroscience you have in order to make a firm statement about the sexuality of human beings.

    China is unique in never experiencing mono-theism as a mass religion. But even then the adoption of religion means nothing considering that Christianity soon recedes as evidenced in Europe.

    That it has taken China longer to adopt Western religions is more a statement of Communist repression and the fact the East was never part of the Roman Empire (responsible for adopting Christianity over Mithraism). This is a point you should consider wisely for had Constantine not adopted Christianity you would be harping on about something else altogether.

  8. How do you know John and Barrymore married despite their sexuality. And how come Barrymore is back in a heterosexual relationship now? And what about say Chris Huhne MP’s current partner, Carina Trimingham, who was in a civil partnership and is now with Huhne? On your assumptions what would that say about her sexuality?

    To me it is evident that John, Barrymore, Trimingham, you and I are all free to choose who we go to bed with or not – and free to change our minds or not, as we wish.

    Your approach makes us less than rational human beings and more like animals.

  9. When people say homosexuality isn’t a choice, they are referring to homosexual attraction. Any person sound of mind will know that people do not choose who they are attracted to and cannot change it on a whim. Do you think you’re going to wake up tomorrow and be attracted to men, Alan? I doube that somehow, and I doubt many gay people think they’re going to make up and be attracted to women. This isn’t difficult to grasp. It’s a real shame that on one hand you obsess over peoples’ sexuality, and on the other you don’t make a peep when people with extreme anti gay views pipe up on your blog.

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