A LESBIAN couple from Dorset say they were forced out of their church after they were spotted holding hands during a service.
Kersten Pegden and Nina Lawrence said that other members of the congregation at St Nicholas Anglican church in Corfe Mullen thought their behaviour was “overtly sexual”.
They said other couples within the congregation held hands, and they felt it was their sexuality that had influenced the complaints.
Pegden, 38, had attended the church for many years. She separated from her husband last September and is now going through a divorce. She began a relationship with Lawrence , 31, last November but the new relationship had split the congregation of mainly elderly people, according to this report.
PegdenÂ told how her daughterÂ Emily, 12, has left the church choir and her son Elliot, 14, is no longer a server at the church that attracts up to 70 worshippers each Sunday.
The vicar, who is a woman, wanted to know the details about my divorce, how long it was going to be, and the fact it had dragged on too long. And she added that members of the congregation said that during hymns we were dishonouring God because they said we were singing the hymns to each other, and that we were overtly sexual with each other.
They said even the way we looked at each other was not acceptable. And as I was not divorced from my husband I was seen to be openly adulterous as well.
I said all we do is hold hands. I pointed out there is an elderly couple who hold hands. It’s no more sexual than if a straight couple did it. These people who are watching us, instead of worshipping, are the ones dishonouring God.
I have been out for 13 years and I’ve never had this reaction.
In a statement, a spokesman for St Nicholas Church said:
St Nicholas welcomes people from a variety of backgrounds and gives private pastoral care to those in need. Issues have arisen with members of the congregation which are being addressed compassionately.
Pegden has written a letter to the vicar, Rev Pamela Walker, telling her why she was leaving the church, which she has attended for four years.
The letter included the line:
I have spent 25 years hiding and do not wish to continue that now.
Meanwhile, we learn via the BBC that a gay couple – Michael Black and John Morgan, from Brampton, Cambridgeshire – are to sue the owners of guest house – Mike Wilkinson and his wife Susanne – who turned them away because of their sexuality.
Civil liberties organisation Liberty is acting for Black and Morgan and said it planned to bring a civil case.
Legal director James Welch said the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007 made it against the law for public authorities and other service providers to discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation.
This isn’t about money for them. Their only motive is in order to prove the point that it is unlawful and should not have happened.Â If they win, they have said they will give any money away to charity.
Hat Tip: BarrieJohn and Ian E.