Christian hoteliers forced to sell following religious row with guest

29 March 2010 by
Christian hoteliers forced to sell following religious row with guest

The two Liverpool hoteliers who last year were cleared of committing a religiously aggravated crime against a guest have been forced to put their property on the market.

Bounty House hotel, near Aintree racecourse, had collapsed after being charged with the offence in April last year and they are now losing about £8,000 per month. They were eventually cleared in December.

The charges arose out of a conversation in the hotel's dining room between the couple, who are both Christians, and a guest, Ericka Tazi, a 60-year old white British convert to the Muslim religion who was attending a course at the Walton Centre.

Liverpool magistrates' court dismissed the case, saying that it contradicted the Vogelenzang's right to freedom of religious expression.

"Before the charges, we had not really felt the effects of the recession as we received regular business during the week from patients who attended pain-relief courses at Walton Centre, part of Aintree Hospital," said Ben Vogelnzang, who opened the hotel six years ago.

"Our occupancy was always around 80-90%, but since the charges we've only had two to three guests a week. Even since we were cleared, business has not picked up - all because of an innocent conversation that took place in our dining room."

"We would like to start again somewhere else, but we don't know whether it is going to be possible."

The Vogelenzangs, with support from the Christian Institute, are now considering taking civil action against the police or the Crown Prosecution Service.

"Ben and Sharon have been treated rather badly and have suffered considerable loss as a result," said Simon Calvert, a spokesman for the Christian Institute.

The Bounty House hotel will be sold at auction in May unless an acceptable offer is made before then. The property has previously been valued at £700,000 to £800,000.

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By Janet Harmer

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