Christians and innkeepers

Why hotels should not discriminate.

Two Christians are to appeal for the right to turn couples away from inns. It is reported that in making this appeal they are being supported by the Christian Institute.

On one level this is all quite bizarre. One would perhaps expect Christians to be rather less judgemental, in accordance with the recorded liberal and inclusive teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. After all, he was welcoming to sex workers and even tax collectors. But, then again, how the many Christians who believe Mary being impregnated by a "god" is somehow more normal than gay sex has always been quite beyond me.

However, the contentions of the hoteliers in this case are troubling regardless of any seeming conflict between homosexuality and a distorted form of Christianity. Indeed, there is a very basic legal principle at stake.

It is a great and ancient English legal tradition that any hotel is in principle open to any guest. Inns, like toll bridges and ferries, should be open to all comers who are able to pay their way.

As a legal tradition, this predates the Victorian legal invention of extreme freedom of contract doctrine. It was simply not open to the innkeeper, the tollhouse, or the ferryman to refuse to enter into a contract on a whim. There was always a greater public interest than selfish contractual autonomy.

This area of law, aspects of which are called "common carriage", is still highly relevant today. Modern telecommunications and utilities law is to a large extent premised on such rules of "common carriage". It also informs the ongoing debates on net neutrality.

The duties that one owes to strangers are central to any developed system of law, as they are to any sensible system of ethics. In both legal and ethical contexts, there is long tradition of valuing the hospitality to be given to travellers and guests.

So it is saddening that some followers of the very religion that gave us the parable of the Good Samaritan appear now to be completely unaware of this.

 

David Allen Green is legal correspondent of the New Statesman.

David Allen Green is legal correspondent of the New Statesman and author of the Jack of Kent blog.

His legal journalism has included popularising the Simon Singh libel case and discrediting the Julian Assange myths about his extradition case.  His uncovering of the Nightjack email hack by the Times was described as "masterly analysis" by Lord Justice Leveson.

David is also a solicitor and was successful in the "Twitterjoketrial" appeal at the High Court.

(Nothing on this blog constitutes legal advice.)

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Election 2017: Which Labour MPs are standing down?

13 Labour MPs have announced they will not fight the June 8 general election.

Theresa May's decision to call a snap election - and the grim outlook for Labour - means a number of the party's MPs will not fight the June 8 poll. Here's a full list. 

Dave Anderson (Shadow Scotland and Northern Ireland Secretary) - Blaydon (14,227 majority)

Tom Blenkinsop - Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland (2,268 majority)

Andy Burnham - Leigh (14,096 majority)

Jim Dowd - Lewisham West and Penge (12,714 majoirty)

Michael Dugher - Barnsley East (12,034 majority)

Pat Glass - North West Durham (10,056 majority)

Alan Johnson - Hull West and Hessle (9,333 majority)

Fiona MacTaggart - Slough (7,336 majority)

Rob Marris - Wolverhampton South West (801 majority)

Steve Rotheram - Liverpol Walton (27,777 majority)

Andrew Smith - Oxford East (15,280 majority)

Gisela Stuart - Birmingham Edgbaston (2,706 majority)

Iain Wright - Hartlepool (3,024 majority)

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