Last July I brought the case of Christian couple, Benjamin and Sharon Vogelenzang to the attention of Dew readers. They were accused of insulting a Muslim guest at their hotel, Ericka Tazi. During the two day hearing at Liverpool Magistrates Court , Mrs. Tazi had alleged that they had insulted the 'Prophet' Mohammad by calling him a warlord and they had also made disparaging comments on her distinctive Muslim dress. District Judge Richard Clancy suggested that Mrs Tazi’s version of events could not be relied upon and that she was not the religious person she presented herself as in the witness box. The couple were cleared of a religiously aggravated public order offence of insulting a Muslim guest because of her faith.
The charge had been hanging over the couple for the last 9 months and they have experienced an 80% drop in business at the hotel which they run as a result of the accusation. After the case Mrs. Volgelenzang said, “We’ve been found innocent of any crime. It has been a very difficult nine months and we are looking forward to rebuilding our business and getting on with our lives.
‘We would like to thank all those who have supported us, our family, our friends, our church and Christians all around the world, and non-Christians. And as Christmas approaches we wish everybody peace and goodwill.”
I know many who had been praying for this outcome and who will be relieved that the case was seen for the opportunistic attempt it was, to stifle the right of freedom of thought and speech which are the bedrock of an open and healthy society. We need continued vigilance wherever we live to ensure that insidious legislation is not enacted which seeks to curtail the freedom of Christians to openly proclaim the Gospel. Incidentally the original report in the Dew drew the most comments of any single blog entry over the last year, you can find it at http://dewofhermon.blogspot.com/2009/10/freedom-of-speech.html