Ben and Sharon Vogelenzang, the Christian couple who were put on trial for defending their faith, have said they hold no bitterness towards the Muslim woman who brought the case against them.
Listen to the Vogelenzangs’ interview with BBC Radio Merseyside
Speaking in a BBC radio interview the couple said their hotel is in dire financial straights but heartily thanked the Christians from around the world who had supported them through their ordeal.
In December the couple faced a criminal trial in Liverpool Magistrates’ Court following a complaint over a conversation about Christianity and Islam.
The judge dismissed the case against the Vogelenzangs and declared them innocent.
In a BBC Radio Merseyside interview broadcast on Sunday, the couple said they pray for Ericka Tazi, the Muslim who made a complaint against them, and hold no bitterness towards her.
Yet Sharon Vogelenzang expressed sadness at Mrs Tazi’s decision to take the matter to court, saying it was only a “gentle”, grown up conversation.
Sharon also said it was a shame that Mrs Tazi and her witnesses could walk away “scot free” after telling conflicting stories in court and having their evidence dismissed, while they have been left to face such financial trouble.
She said their accusers “can get on with their lives and our life’s been completely destroyed financially”.
Despite the trial and the loss of business resulting from it, Mrs Vogelenzang said she didn’t regret the original conversation: “I can’t regret the fact that I disagreed with what somebody was saying about my faith.
“I thought in this country we had freedom of speech and I had the right to turn round and say ‘no I’m sorry but we disagree with you there because we’re Christians’ and that was the sum total of my conversation with her.”
The couple thanked Christians from around the world who prayed and gave whatever money they could to support them. That money has kept them financially afloat, Sharon said.
The Vogelenzangs were backed in their case by The Christian Institute’s Legal Defence Fund.
Back in September when details of the conversation emerged, media commentators attacked the decision to bring it to trial. Henry Porter, writing on the Guardian website, said: “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.”
Following the case’s dismissal the Head of Communications at The Christian Institute, Mike Judge, in an article for the Mail on Sunday newspaper, questioned why the case was even brought against the Vogelenzangs.
He said: “Now that the case is over I hope the nation will ask itself: What’s happening to free speech?
“How on earth did a breakfast discussion about religion end up with two Christians sitting in the dock at Liverpool Magistrates’ Court?”