The criminal prosecution of a Christian couple who criticised Islam has been slated by commentators.
Police arrested Ben and Sharon Vogelenzang, who run the Bounty House Hotel in Liverpool, in July after a Muslim woman complained that she was offended by comments made on 20 March.
The case hit the national press on Sunday.
Writing on the Guardian website Henry Porter commented: “Reports suggest that the couple said that the prophet Muhammad, the founder of Islam, was a warlord and that the traditional Muslim dress for women was a form of bondage.
“You may, or may not, agree with these sentiments but surely they don’t merit a prosecution in a society where a good deal of latitude is shown to the racism and homophobia preached by some imams.
“I can’t comment on the exact details of what the couple may have said, or their manner, or the offence taken by the customer but I can say that free speech – even about religion – is the freedom to be offended, and that the decision to prosecute is about as daft as it gets.”
Richard Littlejohn, writing in the Daily Mail, said the arrest was “a monstrous abuse of police powers”.
Mr Littlejohn said: “Respect for ‘diversity’ doesn’t extend to Christianity.
“While the state panders to the every whim of minorities, Britain’s official religion has become a pariah.”
He added the Vogelenzangs are “facing a £5,000 fine, a criminal record and are staring bankruptcy in the face after being struck off by the local hospital, which used to refer outpatients to their hotel”.
He continued: “We weren’t party to the conversation, so we can’t be sure what was said.
“But they’re entitled to their opinion. Arresting them for ‘hate crime’ is a monstrous abuse of police powers.
“Funny how the police adopt a far more tolerant approach towards bloodthirsty Islamist preachers of hatred against Christians and Jews.”
The case has also attracted attention across Europe, the Middle East, Russia and North America.
One Canadian writer said that freedom of speech in a democratic country is vital.
Lorne Gunter said: “Government has no right, none at all, to regulate what free people may say to one another about faith, politics or other beliefs.”
Mr Gunter also said it was “unbelievable” that the Vogelenzangs were facing criminal charges and the loss of their business for defending their faith.