The case of Peter and Hazelmary Bull, the Christian hoteliers who yesterday were forced to pay £3,600 to a homosexual couple who were refused a room at their hotel, has some disturbing implications for modern Britain.
The task of Judge Andrew Rutherford, was not an easy one in this particular instance, with strong arguments to be found both on the side of the Bulls and of civil partners Steven Preddy and Martin Hall.
In favour of the Bulls was the fact that the hotel is also their home and thus they have a right to ensure that their beliefs about the sanctity of marriage are followed in their own house.
Their case was strengthened still further by the fact that their decision to turn away the homosexual couple was not an act of "homophobia", as they have also previously refused admission to unmarried heterosexual couples.
In addition the Bulls apparently made it clear that while they objected to Mr Preddy and Mr Hall booking a double bed, they could stay at the hotel provided they booked a room with two single beds instead.
In opposition to this is the fact that neither Mr Preddy nor Mr Hall were told of the policy when they booked their room over the phone. This of course led to the pair being refused a double room only after they arrived at the hotel.
Judge Rutherford also pointed out that the Bull's policy of not allowing unmarried couples to share beds had a number of inconsistencies. What would happen for example if a pair of backpacking students, rather than a couple, married or otherwise, wanted to book the room?
In any case, the Judge argued, the Bull's policy, brought about by their opposition to non-marital sex, meant that while unmarried couples could not have sex in a double bedroom, they could do so in the confines of a single bed .
What apparently tipped the balance for Judge Rutherford however was the fact that Mr Preddy and Mr Hall are in a civil partnership. Judge Rutherford even implied that his judgement could have been different were they a non-civil partnered (is that the proper term?) homosexual couple.
It is here where the judge's remarks start to get rather disturbing. He claimed that there is "no material difference between marriage and a civil partnership".
This may be true in that the legal rights and privileges, such as on tax and inheritance issues, of marriages and civil partnerships are the same. However civil partnerships are not, and were not intended to be, the same as marriage. If they were they would be called "marriage".
If civil partnerships are the same as marriages then there would not be campaigns by homosexuals and heterosexuals alike to introduce "gay marriage" along with civil partnerships for heterosexuals. After all, why campaign for something you already have?
However Judge Rutherford's declaration on civil partnerships was rather minor compared with the sinister and semi-totalitarian remarks he made about "social attitudes".
He said, "Our laws are made by the Queen in Parliament. It is inevitable that such laws will from time to time cut across deeply held beliefs of individuals and sections of society for they reflect the social attitudes and morals prevailing at the time that they are made.
"In the last 50 years there have been many such instances - the abolition of capital punishment; the abolition of corporal punishment in schools; the decriminalisation of homosexuality and of suicide; and on a more mundane level the ban on hunting and on smoking in public places."
He added, "These laws have come into being because of changes in social attitudes. The standards and principles governing our behaviour which were unquestioningly accepted in one generation may not be so accepted in the next.
"I am quite satisfied as to the genuineness of the defendants' beliefs and it is, I have no doubt, one which others also hold. It is a very clear example of how social attitudes have changed over the years for it is not so very long ago that these beliefs of the defendants would have been those accepted as normal by society at large. Now it is the other way around."
According to this logic he would no doubt have been in favour of arresting and prosecuting Rosa Parks on the grounds that by refusing to give up her seat to a white passenger on a segregated bus she was breaking the law which reflected "the social attitudes and morals prevailing at the time they were made".
While Judge Rutherford is quite right that social attitudes have changed, the unpleasant implication of these remarks is that because most of society has a certain set of "acceptable" beliefs it would be unwise to be found having "unacceptable" beliefs.
Mr Preddy and Mr Hall, following the judgement claimed that the result was not an attack on the beliefs of Christians (the Bulls had a rather different interpretation). This is true only in that Christians are free to have their beliefs, so long as they do not act on them, just as you could be against the government in the USSR, so long as you did not actually try and change it.
This is the harsh lesson that the Bulls, and others before them, have learnt. It is that if you do not conform to the prevailing ideology of the day consequences will be suffered.
Judge Rutherford may have made the right decision in this very difficult case and he made some very good points about the flaws in the Bulls policy against non-married couples booking double beds, but many of his others words made him sound like well-mannered political commissar ensuring that those who do not share prevailing views do not stray from the true path again.