A Christian couple from Liverpool are starting a new venture after their hotel business was left crippled by an unsuccessful criminal trial over comments they made about Islam.
Ben and Sharon Vogelenzang, who closed the doors on the Bounty House Hotel last night, trace the loss of business to the ‘thought crime’ case against them.
But they are starting a new non-profit making business designed to provide a host of valuable services to their local community.
The new venture, known as Bounty House tlc Support Centre, is set to provide a range of services including respite holidays for Armed Forces families and other families/groups.
The couple are also planning to offer a range of support groups and seek to equip young people with skills for life through a number of taster courses.
They are also planning to establish a rehabilitation centre for Ex-Servicemen.
Mr and Mrs Vogelenzang, who were supported by The Christian Institute’s Legal Defence Fund, were arrested after a Muslim guest complained that she was offended by comments made on 20 March last year.
The allegations led one of the hotel’s main clients to stop referring guests there, causing an 80 per cent drop in the hotel’s income.
Last December during the couple’s trial Ericka Tazi, the guest in question, told the court that Mr Vogelenzang called the prophet Mohammed a murderer and a warlord and likened him to Saddam Hussein and Hitler. She also claimed they had called her a terrorist.
But the judge, as he explained his reasons for dismissing the case, said Mrs Tazi’s version of events amounted to “fairly big differences as to what happened”.
District Judge Richard Clancy also said Mrs Tazi’s claim that she was verbally abused for up to an hour was not backed up by other witnesses.
Although it has been a tough economic time for many in the hospitality industry, the couple trace the sudden downturn in trade to the moment of the complaint made against them.
But they are hoping their new venture offering respite care will help to heal the wounds.
During their criminal trial their legal defence was successfully supported by The Christian Institute.
The Institute’s Mike Judge said: “I pray that Ben and Sharon’s new venture will be a success and they can put this troubling chapter of their lives behind them.
“The police should not be investigating people’s beliefs or interfering with their free speech rights. There is clearly a problem in the system and it needs to be fixed.”