Don’t worry

Of course I’m happy with the ruling that hotel owners cannot discriminate against gay guests. Since the case got itself all over the newspapers, I’m sure you have caught up with it. A gay couple in a Civil Partnership could only stay in The Chymorvah if in a twin-bedded room.

Actually my youngest son and his girl-friend would have found themselves in twin beds too. The hotel owners only let married couples have a double bed. The hotel owners were guilty of discrimination because they failed to recognise that Civil Partnership confers the same legal status as marriage. Mistaken as I feel they were in that, I feel they were even more mistaken in not recognising the limits of proper responsibility

Bluntly, I do not think we are bound to police the morals of others. Within limits.

The first limit is this: I think we do have a responsibility to prevent the abuse of one human by another. I thin hotel owners do have a responsibility to prevent the sexual abuse, or the violent abuse, of a child or of what is known in care shorthand as ‘a vulnerable adult’, that is, somebody who from mental or physical infirmity is unable to give real and informed consent to what is going on. This abuse would also include taking advantage of a sleeping or absent fellow hotel guest by stealing from them.

I also think we have a right to be allowed to express in polite and non-confrontational terms what our own moral code is. I think, for instance, that I have a right to tell others that I never buy battery-farmed eggs because I think keeping chicken in small cages is cruel. I do not think that in the real world we can expect we will never hear criticism of our own conduct. I think it would be more politic in a hotel simply to say: ‘all the eggs I serve are free range’, but let us admit that even in doing this I am making a moral statement. If, let us say, Richard Dawkins turned up as a guest at this imaginary hotel, I would not myself think it good sense to tell him I was a Christian, but I think I should have the right to do it. I guess I therefore have (reluctantly) to concede that Mr and Mrs Bull, who own the hotel in question, had a right to inform guests that they thought gay sex was wrong.

There, it seems to me (and if you think otherwise, it might make a good discussion) there my responsibility stops. Christians have a right to follow their own moral codes (plural, mine in no way resembles the Bull’s) but none of us are enjoined to make sure other people follow it too.

Not only I am not obliged to enforce my moral code on others. Indeed, I am obliged not to enforce it. It appears that God, too, takes this approach. He offers advice (and how irritating is it that ‘Don’t worry’ appears high up the list) but he leaves it up to us. If we want to worry, the most he will do is set things up so as to point out, gently, the error of our ways. Even if he could, one cannot imagine him dragging himself through a law court to prove that he had a right to discriminate against people who worry.

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13 responses to “Don’t worry

  1. I really thought you were going to say,(in my tired dyslexic fog, have read you to say) — ‘If we want to worry, God will most certainly set it up so that we can worry.’

    good-niiiight.

  2. What if the hotel owners honestly didn’t know someone was a “vulnerable” adult? I’m not advocating evil, but what are the limits of responsibility?
    I guess I’m just not sure where you draw the line.

  3. rosemaryhannah

    Lavender, I don’t think we can go through life assuming everybody we meet is vulnerable in ways we are not. I would only assume another adult was vulnerable if something happened to show it up. Sometimes, it does. Those with disabilities have as much right to relationships as anybody else, it is a misuse of power which sets alarm bells ringing. Just as two fifth formers dating is fine, and a teacher/pupil relationship is not. Hotel owners are not police, moral or otherwise.

    Oh Kimberly, that reminds me of the joke of the Highland minister breathing threats of wailing and gnashing of teeth over his congregation, only to have a little old bloke inform him he HAD no teeth. ‘Hamish’ replied the minister, ‘Teeth will be provided for gnashing.’

  4. ‘I guess I therefore have (reluctantly) to concede that Mr and Mrs Bull, who own the hotel in question, had a right to inform guests that they thought gay sex was wrong.’

    Yet according to press reports, a street-preacher who said in answer to a question that homosexuality was a sin was arrested. I suppose the issue is whether that sentiment was uttered in a way which would come within the scope of the law on inciting hatred. But I also sometimes think that some police officers exceed their powers.

  5. PS That joke has also been told about Ian Paisley!

  6. rosemaryhannah

    I cannot imagine that quietly saying: ‘Personally, I think that homosexual acts are wrong.’ would get one arrested, and indeed, if it did Lord Carey would have been inside long ago. I think you are right Eamonn – it is stirring up hatred that (rightly) brings the law down on one.

  7. Why are we all so obsessed with sex. In my younger years if I stayed with my pal I had to sleep with him – and no we didn’t have sex. When I was very young I had to share a bed with my two brothers – I hated it – and no we didn’t have sex – though we did fight all the time .
    Do gay couples want to have sex every time they share a bed? I somehow don’t think so – but then I am an old man.

    Anyway what’s wrong with a same sex couple accepting a room with two beds? Surely that wouldn’t prevent them getting up to whatever they wanted. The time was that if you booked a double room in a hotel or B & B it was inevitably a twin bedded room.

    I rather suspect that the couple were being simply provocative in demanding a double bed . Of course it is really all about being politically correct. You mustn’t say this – you mustn’t infer that – someone might be offended – O dear! But then didn’t our Lord spend much of his ministry offending all and sundry. Anyway we had better either edit or ban the Bible -it is absolutely full of sexist and very un – P C statements.

  8. rosemaryhannah

    Well, it was the decision of the B & B keepers that double bed = sex and twin beds = chastity. It seems as unlikely to me as it does to you.

    But the point is that the double bed was offered on the understanding that is conferred the blessing of the hotel keepers on sex, and the offer of a twin bed implied that you ought not to be having sex. It was a clumsy attempt to police other people and to keep a clear conscience. I do not think that is justified.

    I think it is perfectly all right to offer offence if you are prepared to take the consequences. I do not think it is perfectly all right to police others. There is a difference between opinion and action.

    And our Lord most usually caused offence by welcoming in people HIS society wanted to ostracise. The only people I can, off hand, remember him actively seeking to offend were the smug.

  9. We’re not obsessed with sex, we’re obsessed with gay sex. I don’t feel it is provocative to demand a double bed besides, having sex in a single bed is very awkward.

  10. rosemaryhannah

    I dunno. I suspect we are obsessed with sex. Two accounts by young women clergy written this week commented that the first thing a new date wants to know is how soon he can expect to have sex with them. Judging from the experience of friends, this is also true of women of my age too. The first question is how long the bloke has to wait. No concept that one might want to be friends first. To me, that does look like obsession with sex.

    I must say I think the problem is the ‘let us police’ attitude. It is deliberately only offering a twin bedded room. Not because that is what the hotel happens to have vacant, but to make a point. Much has been made of their Christian rights – which to me are (on this issue) pretty much summed up in their right to chose who they do and do not have sex with themselves.

  11. I don’t think that treating everybody with respect and offering good customer service is related to being politically correct. In my experience political correctness is an adherance by a person/organisation to a set of rules/supposed rules in order to give the appearance of being in the right. It never seems to be a genuine attempt to actually include people or meet people’s needs.

    In the case of the B&B owners I think they are entitled to hold whatever beliefs they like privately, but when running a business they need to do so in a way that complies with the law. Regarding this story and the recent sacking of football pundits, I think a good test of whether or not a behaviour is discriminatory is to swap the word ‘gay’ or ‘women’ for black. I.e. you can’t share a bed because you are black, or you can’t understand how to referee football because you are black – it sounds shocking and ridiculous. We should be equally as shocked and appalled by discrimination against people because of their gender/sexuality/disability/age as we are by racist discrimination.

  12. “Woman” is something you are, “black” is something you are. Is “gay” something you are or something you do?

  13. Rosemary Hannah

    Gay is something you are.

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