Having blogged about the case of the Christian couple running a B&B in Cornwall, who were taken to court and fined for refusing to allow two men to share a double bedroom, I was startled to discover that they – and presumably other Christians in similar situations – now have an unlikely champion: Dr David Starkey. I have just come across a clip of Dr Starkey’s statement on BBC1’s Question Time last week. In it the historian, who describes himself as “atheist and gay”, speaks out against what he calls a “new tyranny”, a liberal morality which is “every bit as oppressive as the old”.
He makes it clear he is opposed to the fine imposed on the couple, saying: “The way to do that is not to ban them, not to fine them. It is for them simply to put up what seems to me to be a quite proper notice in a small privately-run hotel which says we are Christians and this is what we believe.” Otherwise, Starkey told the hushed TV audience, “We are producing a new tyranny.”
Should I be so surprised at Starkey’s stance? When he used to be on the Moral Maze he always demonstrated that he was his own man. When the morality of separating the conjoined twins, Rosie and Gracie Attard, was debated in 2001, and it became clear that the surgical intervention to separate them would mean the deliberate killing of one of the girls in order to save the life of the other, Starkey opposed the surgery.
As intriguing as his championing the right of Christians to follow their conscience was Dr Starkey’s final remark on Question Time: he said his mother had been a devout Christian and that it was “her hatred and opposition to homosexuality that made me what I am”. As he concluded that “being nice and sweet about gays isn’t wholly a good thing”, I don’t think he meant that his mother was the cause of his homosexuality; I interpret it as meaning that his mother’s strong views had shaped her son’s similar determination to speak out strongly on what he believed – especially in instances of bullying and oppression – and not to kow-tow to heavy-handed political correctness.
Others may have different interpretations. At any rate, it is salutary to note that the clearest objection to the legal judgment against the B&B couple has come not from our Catholic bishops (as far as I know) but from a self-confessed atheist and homosexual. Thank you, Dr Starkey.