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UNLESS physical injury or civil disorder is involved, no!
But at the heart of a trial that opened yesterday in Liverpool are the “hurt feelings” of a Muslim convert who claims to have been abused by a pair of dotty Christian fundies who ran the hotel at which she was staying earlier this year.

Ericka Tazi
Ericka Tazi

Ericka Tazi, 60, who described herself in court as “a normal Warrington girl who liked the Beatles”, scuttled off to the police after she was allegedly subjected to a “tirade of abuse” by Bounty House owners, Benjamin Vogelenzang and his wife Sharon, who are fundamentalist Christians.
The pair were subsequently arrested and charged in July under Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986 and Section 31(1)(c) and (5) of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998.
When the trial began the couple denied using threatening, abusive or insulting words which were religiously aggravated.
Tazi claims the abuse was sparked by her appearing one day in Muslim garb – a hijab and gown.

According to the BBC, Tazi had worn normal European dress during her four-week stay at the hotel but a row flared after she came down on her last day in traditional Islamic dress.
She said Mr Vogelenzang asked her “Why are you wearing those clothes?” and began laughing at her.
Prosecutor Anya Horwood told magistrates that Mr Vogelenzang then began to discuss his Christian faith but became angry – at which point his wife joined in.
Tazi walked away but was followed by Mr Vogelenzang, who was acting like “a whirling dervish”, repeatedly asking her if she was a “terrorist”.
Giving evidence, Tazi told the bench that dressing in her hijab seemed to “trigger something” in the hotelier.
The 60-year-old, who suffers from fibromyalgia and lives with chronic pain, said:

He just couldn’t accept the way I was dressed. He asked me if I was a murderer, if I was a terrorist. I’m a 60-year-old disabled woman, I couldn’t understand where it was coming from, it was shocking to me.

Tazi  said Vogelenzang followed her into the dining room “flailing” his arms and “jumping up and down”.

 pictured at the prayer rally organised by the Christian Institute
Benjamin Vogelenzang and his wife Sharon pictured at the prayer rally organised by the Christian Institute

She added:

Sharon came running in, she was shouting ‘you started this with your dress’ and she was pointing in my face and I was frightened at this stage. I was absolutely traumatised by it all.

The prosecutor said Vogelenzang, 53, had called the prophet Mohammed a “warlord” and likened him to Saddam Hussein and Hitler.
And his 54-year-old wife told Mrs Tazi her Islamic dress represented “oppression” and was a form of “bondage”.
After Tazi had contacted Merseyside Police, detectives questioned the couple. They claimed they had merely been sharing their “faith views”.
Tazi told Hugh Tomlinson QC, for the defence, that she was not trying to make a statement by wearing the hijab and denied having robust arguments about religion with other guests.
She told him she tried “many religions” before converting to Islam when she married.
She added:

My journey has been a long, long journey, it was a very difficult decision to wear these clothes… I’m a normal Warrington girl who liked the Beatles.

Guests at the hotel told the court that Mrs Tazi was left distraught by the row.
Pauline Tait, 52, another “committed Christian”, described it as “a very upsetting and volatile exchange”.
Another guest, Shirley Tait, said she was in her bedroom when she heard Mr Vogelenzang shouting the words “Nazi” and “warlord”.

A fundie in full cry at the CI's pryer rally
A fundie in full cry at the CI's prayer rally

The Christian Institute lost no time in milking the case for every inch of publicity they could gain, claiming the trial was an example of free speech being trampled upon.
The CI’s website carries a quote from the couple’s lawyer, David Whiting, who said in September:

Ben and Sharon do not accept they were threatening, abusive or insulting. They are committed Christians and it is the defence’s contention that they have every right to defend their religious beliefs and explain those beliefs to others who do not hold similar views.

The CI also organised a prayer rally in supports of the Vogelenzangs at Bridge Chapel, Liverpool – and promptly posted it on YouTube:
The case continues today.
Hat Tip: Marcus & BarrieJohn
UPDATE: The case against the foolish fundies was dismissed earlier today.