Christian Hoteliers Acquitted in Muslim Abuse Case

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LIVERPOOL, England -- There was relief across the Christian community in the U.K. this week as hotel owners Ben and Sharon Vogelenzang were found not guilty of committing a hate crime.

The ruling comes after a Muslim woman complained that she was offended by comments made back in March of this year.

When the Christian couple, who run the Bounty House Hotel in the North West of England, entered into a debate about Islam with a Muslim guest, little did they realize they would be prosecuted for a crime.

According to newspaper reports, the debate at the hotel involved discussion of whether Jesus was the Son of God or just a minor prophet of Islam.

Click play for an update with CBN News Anchor/Reporter Efrem Graham.

Newspapers also report that the debate included comments that Mohammed was a warlord and Muslim dress for women was a form of bondage.

As the Vogelenzang's emerged from Liverpool Magistrates' Court, they were clearly relieved by the outcome.

"We are elated to be found innocent of any crime. It has been a very difficult nine months and we're looking forward to re-building our business and getting on with our lives," they said.

"We'd like to thank all those who have supported us over the last nine months," they continued. "Our family, our friends, our church and Christians from all around the world and non-Christians and as Christmas approaches we wish everybody peace and good will."

However, while they celebrated their victory they said the case had severely affected their hotel business and their personal lives.

Earlier in the week the public outcry was clearly evident across Liverpool when a thousand local Christians turned out for a prayer rally at Bridge Church.

Also, during the trial protesters turned out in force outside Liverpool Magistrates' Court.

Mike Judge from the Christian Institute, an organization that has been funding the couple's legal defense, says the outcome of this case is a clear victory for freedom of speech.

"Well this is a wonderful result in the Christian Institutes Legal Defense Fund," Judge said. "It was so important that this case was won and it's important for all free speech and our freedom to share the gospel with people without having that liberty infringed."

However, Judge says they're likely to see many more cases like this where Christians could face persecution for sharing their faith.

"I am fearful that we'll see more cases like this," he warned. "And it's important with every one of those cases that we're able to defend them and we're able to defend them well. And that's the importance of the Christian Intstitutes Legal Defense Fund."

Despite the Vogelenzang's acquittal, this case still raises major fears for Christians across the UK who are concerned they are losing their right to talk freely about their beliefs.

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Peter Wooding

Peter Wooding

CBN News United Kingdom Correspondent

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