Ministers Forced to Perform Same Sex Weddings?

Ministers Forced to Perform Same Sex Weddings?

The Next Logical Step in the Gay Agenda

Donald and Evelyn Knapp, two Christian ministers who have owned and operated the Hitching Post Wedding Chapel in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, for 25 years, now face arrest and possible jail time for refusing to perform same-sex weddings, Fox News’ Todd Starnes reported Saturday. According to Starnes, the two were told by the city they must either perform the ceremonies or face up to 180 days in jail and $1,000 per day in fines.

“Worse,” said a lawsuit filed Friday by the Alliance Defending Freedom, “each day the Knapps decline to perform a requested same-sex wedding ceremony, they commit a separate and distinct misdemeanor, subject to the same penalties.” If the two refuse to perform ceremonies in just one week, they could accrue up to three years in jail and $7,000 in fines, the complaint adds.

“Right now they are at risk of being prosecuted,” attorney Jeremy Tedesco told Starnes. “The threat of enforcement is more than just credible.”

For some time, the complaint says, the city of Coeur d’Alene has publicly and privately threatened the couple if gay marriage ever became legal in the state. Earlier in October, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals invalidated Idaho’s marriage laws, making gay marriage legal in the state. Because the chapel is registered as a “religious corporation” that performs “one-man-one-woman marriages as defined by the Holy Bible” instead of a church, the ruling applies. Additionally, city officials say the chapel is a for-profit business meaning the owners must comply with local non-discrimination ordinances.

In 2013, the city passed an ordinance prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation. That ordinance applied to housing, employment and “public accommodation” and exempted religious entities. But city attorney Warren Wilson said in May the Hitching Post would likely be required to follow the ordinance.

Now the Knapps are faced with a Hobson’s choice — either follow the law and violate their religious beliefs or go to jail. According to the lawsuit filed Friday, the Knapps are being forced to “condone, promote and even consecrate something forbidden by their religious beliefs and ordination vows.”

Alliance Defending Freedom via Fox News

The chapel is also a for-profit business and city officials said that means the owners must comply with the local nondiscrimination ordinance.

That ordinance, passed in 2013, prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and it applies to housing, employment and public accommodation.

City Attorney Warren Wilson told The Spokesman-Review in May that the Hitching Post Wedding Chapel likely would be required to follow the ordinance.

“I would think that the Hitching Post would probably be considered a place of public accommodation that would be subject to the ordinance,” he said.

He also told television station KXLY that any wedding chapel that turns away a gay couple would in theory be a violation of the law “and you’re looking at a potential misdemeanor citation.”

Wilson confirmed to Knapp in a telephone conversation that even ordained ministers would be required to perform same-sex weddings, the lawsuit alleges.

“Wilson also responded that Mr. Knapp was not exempt from the ordinance because the Hitching Post was a business and not a church,” the lawsuit states.

And if he refused to perform the ceremonies, Wilson reportedly told the minister that he could be fined up to $1,000 and serve up to 180 days in jail.

Now all of that was a moot point because until last week gay marriage was not legal in Idaho.

The Ninth Circuit issued an order on May 13 allowing same-sex marriages to commence in Idaho on Oct. 15. Two days later – the folks at the Hitching Post received a telephone call.

A man had called to inquire about a same-sex wedding ceremony. The Hitching Post declined – putting them in violation of the law.

City officials did not respond to my requests for an interview nor did they respond to requests from local news outlets.

“The government should not force ordained ministers to act contrary to their faith under threat of jail time and criminal fines,” Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Jeremy Tedesco said. “The city is on seriously flawed legal ground, and our lawsuit intends to ensure that this couple’s freedom to adhere to their own faith as pastors is protected just as the First Amendment intended.”

 Alliance Defending Freedom also filed a temporary restraining order to stop the city from enforcing the ordinance.

“The Knapps are in fear that if they exercise their First Amendment rights they will be cited, prosecuted and sent to jail,” Tedesco told me.

It’s hard to believe this could happen in the United States. But as the lawsuit states, the elderly couple is in a “constant state of fear that they may have to go to jail, pay substantial fines, or both, resulting in them losing the business that God has called them to operate and which they have faithfully operated for 25 years.”

The lawsuit comes the same week that the city of Houston issued subpoenas demanding that five Christian pastors turn over sermons dealing with homosexuality and gender identity.

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