Vogelenzang trial enters second day

Two Christian hoteliers went on trial yesterday accused of a public order offence for criticising Islam, but the couple deny the allegations.

Ben and Sharon Vogelenzang are attending Liverpool Magistrates’ Court today for the second day of their criminal trial.

The couple are alleged to have said that a guest, Ericka Tazi, was putting herself in “bondage” for wearing Islamic dress and insulting her by calling Mohammed a “warlord”. However, the couple strongly refute the claims.

The couple, who run the Bounty House Hotel in Aintree, face a maximum fine of £5,000 if they are found guilty.

Christians yesterday gathered outside the court singing hymns and holding free speech placards.

On Monday hundreds of Christians gathered to pray about the case, concerned about its implications for free speech and religious liberty.

The Christian Institute is funding the Vogelenzangs’ legal defence. Its spokesman, Mike Judge, said: “We believe there are significant free speech and religious liberty issues at stake.”

The couple’s lawyer, David Whiting, said in September: “Ben and Sharon do not accept they were threatening, abusive or insulting.

“They are committed Christians and it is the defence’s contention that they have every right to defend their religious beliefs and explain those beliefs to others who do not hold similar views.”

The couple were arrested and charged in July under Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986 and Section 31(1)(c) and (5) of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998.

The trial continues.

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