By Hilary White

BRIGHTON, UK, January 8, 2009 ( – A home for retired British Christian missionaries faces a massive funding cut after residents refused to answer questions about their “sexual orientation” on a government form. Elderly residents at the Pilgrim Home in Egremont Place, Brighton, were accused of being “closed to the gay community” for their refusal to answer the questions. As a result, the Brighton & Hove city council revoked a £13,000 grant to the facility.

After months of attempts to resolve the situation with the council, the Christian charity that runs the facility, Pilgrim Houses, is launching a lawsuit, backed financially by the Christian Institute’s Legal Defence Fund, on grounds of religious discrimination.

The council claimed that it was acting according to the requirements of the Labour government’s Equality legislation and Sexual Orientation Regulations. The council’s questionnaire asked residents, all over 80, to reveal whether they were lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or unsure of their sexuality. The council also had plans to invite the homosexualist activist organisation Stonewall to make a presentation at the home and had instructed the charity to include depictions of homosexuals in its promotional literature.

When residents refused to cooperate, saying the questions were “intrusive,” the council accused Pilgrim Houses of “institutionalised homophobia,” and revoked the grant. Because the home’s policies were based on Christianity, homosexuals were being excluded, the council claimed.

A council spokesman said, “We have never expected any residents to answer questions about their sexuality if they preferred not to do so.

“The Government specifically states the home must be open to the gay and lesbian community and that it must demonstrate this to qualify for funding. In the absence of any willingness to do this, funding has been withdrawn.”

Phil Wainwright, director of human resources for Pilgrim Homes, responded that residents had felt the questions to be intrusive and inappropriate. “They felt they had come to Pilgrim Homes because of its Christian ethos and were upset they were not protected from such intrusions.”

Pilgrim Homes chief executive Andrew Jessop said, “The council has taken overzealousness to the extreme. People in their 90s are very vulnerable and shouldn’t be treated in this way.”

Mike Judge of the Christian Institute said, “Brighton Council is displaying a very prejudiced and discriminatory attitude to the religious beliefs held by the elderly residents of the home run by Pilgrim Homes.

“After a lifetime of Christian service, these elderly men and women deserve to live in a restful environment which supports and nurtures their Christian faith. This case is the latest in a series of troubling incidents where the rights of Christians are seemingly being ignored in favour of ‘gay rights’.”