The Christian owner of a Cornish guesthouse has spoken of her distress at a malicious internet campaign being waged against her and her husband’s business.
Peter and Hazelmary Bull were fined £3,600 last week because of their policy of restricting double rooms to married couples. They were sued by a homosexual couple.
Now it has emerged that bogus reviews of the couple’s hotel are being placed on Tripadvisor.co.uk, a prominent travel website, in what appears to be an attempt to harm their business.
The genuineness of the reviews was questioned when Mrs Bull discovered that the people behind them were claiming to have stayed at the hotel in the winter – when the hotel was closed.
One of the reviews, posted on the same day as the court ruling against the couple, said: “The bedsheets were soiled and there was a strong smell of urine coming from the mattress. I even spotted a dead coakroach [sic] behind the dresser.”
Another review, posted on the first day of the couple’s trial in December, said: “The service and ‘welcome’ was as friendly as havin [sic] a gun pointed to your face with a sinister smile on the face of the person about to fire it!”
Describing their experience Mrs Bull, whose husband is recovering from major surgery in hospital, said: “I was moved to tears when I saw the reviews. I pride myself on cleanliness and we work so hard to provide a good experience for people.
“It’s a cruel and vicious thing to do, and it couldn’t have come at a worse time because people are now booking summer holidays. This could wreck our business.”
She added: “Peter’s fighting to get better from a heart operation and I don’t dare tell him”.
TripAdvisor invites managers to respond to reviews, but so far it has failed to display the response Mrs Bull has submitted.
However when contacted by the Daily Mail TripAdvisor promised to remove the suspect reviews and claimed it had no record of the Bulls’ response.
Since last week’s ruling Mrs Bull has been subjected to abusive phone calls, but she has been unable to ignore them because she needs to be near the phone while her husband recovers from major surgery in hospital.
Homosexual couples have also been besieging the B&B with demands for double rooms in what may be an attempt to force the Christian couple out of business.
Earlier this week the consequences of the ruling against Mr and Mrs Bull were debated on BBC Radio 4’s Moral Maze show.
Panellist Michael Portillo warned of the dangers posed by a “secular theocracy” saying: “I’m not on the receiving end of this at the moment at all because I’m not a religious person.
“But I can easily conceive of how I could be on the receiving end of some future legislation.”
Commenting on the case earlier this week Ann Widdecombe, a former Conservative MP, said: “There is a difference between discriminating against somebody because of what he is and refusing to promote or facilitate what he does.
“If the Bulls ran a grocery shop which refused to serve homosexuals then that would be discrimination but to refuse to facilitate their activity or that of an unmarried heterosexual couple by providing a double bed is not. It is the once lawful exercise of conscience against particular deeds.”
Miss Widdecombe’s concern over the case is echoed by Robert Leitch, an openly homosexual Tory activist.
Writing on the widely-respected ConservativeHome blog, Mr Leitch said: “The reaction to this somewhat traditional yet harmless policy has been remarkable.
“Mr and Mrs Bull have been tagged as homophobes, taken to court, forced to justify their literal interpretation of the Bible, told by the Judge involved that their views are out of date and, finally, given a punishment which will place significant strain upon their business’ finances.
“In the end, the penalty for holding a diverse viewpoint has been extreme.”