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Church minister sues Belfast hotel after it 'calls a halt' to religious event


The Balmoral Hotel on the outskirts of west Belfast

The Balmoral Hotel on the outskirts of west Belfast

Freddie Parkinson

The Balmoral Hotel on the outskirts of west Belfast

A minister is taking legal action against a Belfast hotel after claiming he was told by staff to stop a religious event promoting marriage.

The Rev Harry Coulter, from Carrickfergus Reformed Church, had booked a conference room at the Balmoral Hotel, on the outskirts of west Belfast, last October to host his event, Marriage Matters.

It is alleged that midway through the meeting, which was attended by over 50 people, he was told to end proceedings by hotel staff, who said they had received a complaint.

Rev Coulter then left the hotel, along with the attendees and a keynote speaker, who had travelled from Wales.

The Christian Institute - a lobby group and charity - released details of the alleged incident. It is supporting the legal action being taken by the clergyman.

According to the group, Rev Coulter later wrote to the hotel asking for an explanation and compensation.

The hotel failed to respond to his letter, the institute said.

Rev Coulter could not be reached for comment.

The Christian Institute alleged the hotel asked the minister to stop proceedings because the event promoted the belief that marriage is between one man and one woman.

A spokesperson for the group said: "The Christian Institute supports Rev Coulter in his action against the hotel and is helping him with his case."

It would not disclose on what grounds the minister had initiated legal proceedings, but claimed Rev Coulter's right to believe in traditional marriage, had been "breached".

"The hotel's treatment of Rev Coulter is a violation of free speech," it said.

"It is important for the sake of gospel freedom that we take every opportunity to defend this essential right."

Simon Calvert, deputy leader for public affairs at the Christian Institute, said the hotel had not acted properly in its treatment of Rev Coulter.

"The hotel interrupted the meeting halfway through, causing maximum inconvenience and embarrassment to Mr Coulter and to the 55 people attending his meeting," he claimed.

"People who believe marriage is between a man and a woman have the same rights and freedom of speech and not to be mistreated, like everybody else."

The Belfast Telegraph contacted Balmoral Hotel for a response.

In a statement it said: "The Balmoral Hotel is currently closed due to the coronavirus crisis and are unable to comment in relation to the matters raised (by your query)."

Belfast Telegraph