The Christian hoteliers falsely prosecuted for a ‘hate’ crime have seen their business brought to the brink of collapse.
Ben and Sharon Vogelenzang were cleared of a religiously aggravated public order offence last December, but despite their innocence the prosecution has forced the couple to put their nine-bedroom Bounty House Hotel up for auction.
Mrs Vogelenzang has described the prospect of losing their livelihood as “devastating”.
And despite receiving donations from Christians around the world the couple are still in great financial difficulty.
Mrs Vogelenzang said: “Many people thought that when we won in court, everything would be OK.
“In reality, it has brought us to the brink of destruction”.
The prosecution was brought against them after a female Muslim guest accused the couple of insulting her during a debate about religion.
As a result of the accusation, one of the Bounty House Hotel’s major clients, a nearby hospital, ceased referring guests.
This resulted in an 80 per cent drop in the hotel’s income, leaving Mr and Mrs Vogelenzang in serious financial trouble.
The loss of the hospital’s business has cost the couple £8,000 per month since the allegations were originally made.
Lamenting the loss of the hospital’s business, Mrs Vogelenzang said: “Before the complaint, we were their first choice”.
She added: “But they seem to have lost interest in us. Despite the excellent feedback we received at the end of every course, our reputation hasn’t counted for anything. That is upsetting.”
The couple are currently considering bringing a civil action against the police.
The Bounty House Hotel is due to be auctioned in May.
In recent years there have been a number of cases where overzealous police officers have unjustly interfered with the rights of people to express their religious beliefs on sexual ethics.
Last October it emerged that a Christian grandmother, Pauline Howe, was investigated by police for ‘homophobic hatred’ after she wrote a letter of complaint to her local council about verbal abuse she received at a gay pride parade.
And in 2008 two church workers from Birmingham were told by a police community support officer that they were committing a hate crime by attempting to convert Muslims to Christianity.