This week we have seen in the UK a story in the press about a gay couple who sued a Cornwall Bed & Breakfast who refused to allow the couple to share a double room on the basis of their Christian beliefs that unmarried couples should not share rooms. This particular case has caused a lot of backlash in the press, articles have been written in favor of one side or the other, and online newspaper reports have had many hundreds of heated comments.
It seems that such cases are becoming more and more common; its not the first case of its kind to hit the UK headlines. An important point is raised by this and similar cases: who’s rights are more important? The answer is not easy.
The arguments are:
Why should two people of the same sex who having chosen to be in a loving committed relationship face discrimination for their lifestyle choices?
Why should two people who are committed followers of a certain religion face discrimination for not being able to put the principles of that religion into practice in their daily lives?
Giving freedom to one person can quite often restrict the freedom of another.
From my point of view, I am of course a Christian, and my sympathies are with the hotel owners. However I also understand that whilst Britain is nominally a Christian country, these days many of those who call themselves Christian only offer the religion lip service, and the title is simply from lack of knowing what else to call themselves. A very small percentage of the population actually attends church on a regular basis these days.
As Christians we do have to take the laws of the country into consideration in all our actions, and the Bible tells us to obey the authorities – so long as their rules do not conflict with the rules of God.
It is therefore a hazard, as Britain and many other “Westernized” countries become increasingly more secular, of undertaking our daily activities that we will come across situations that conflict with our personal beliefs.
For example, a strict Christian, myself included, would say that it is wrong to be in an active homosexual relationship, or indeed any sexual relationship outside of marriage. There is however an overriding Christian duty to love everyone, and do good to your neighbor, so I think most Christians would agree that one should “love the sinner, hate the sin” – not forgetting that we are all sinners of course.
So – do you have gay friends? Do you have friends “living in sin?” Do you work with people in these circumstances? Are you obliged to provide services to people in relationships of which you don’t approve? Is it different providing a service that involves allowing people to actively participate in the relationship of which you don’t approve, such as the hotel industry? Do you just do your job and mind your own business where other people’s personal lives are concerned?
Such questions could be asked in any kind of personal service industry, and I suspect there is not one person who does not come into contact with situations like this.
There’s no easy answer.
Being a Christian in a secular society, the best answer I have is to work to actively limit in your life the situations that may bring you into conflict with secular rules and regulations, and to do your best to lead a Christian example in your own friendships and relationships.
Let us take comfort in the fact that the increasing secularization of society can only mean that we are coming closer to the times of the end, when Jesus will return to restore all things. Even so, come Lord Jesus.