Govt Orders Ministers: Counterfeit Marriage or Jail

COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho – Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys filed a federal lawsuit and a motion for a temporary restraining order Friday to stop officials in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, from forcing two ordained Christian ministers to perform wedding ceremonies for same-sex couples.

City officials told Donald Knapp that he and his wife Evelyn, both ordained ministers who run Hitching Post Wedding Chapel, are required to perform such ceremonies or face months in jail and/or thousands of dollars in fines. The city claims its “non-discrimination” ordinance requires the Knapps to perform same-sex wedding ceremonies now that the courts have overridden Idaho’s voter-approved constitutional amendment that affirmed marriage as the union of a man and a woman.

“The government should not force ordained ministers to act contrary to their faith under threat of jail time and criminal fines,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco. “Many have denied that pastors would ever be forced to perform ceremonies that are completely at odds with their faith, but that’s what is happening here – and it’s happened this quickly. 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.”

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“The government exists to protect and respect our freedoms, not attack them,” Tedesco added. “The city cannot erase these fundamental freedoms and replace them with government coercion and intolerance.”

The Hitching Post Wedding Chapel is across the street from the Kootenai County Clerk’s office, which issues marriage licenses. The Knapps, both in their 60s and who themselves have been married for 47 years, began operating the wedding chapel in 1989 as a ministry. They perform religious wedding ceremonies, which include references to God, the invocation of God’s blessing on the union, brief remarks drawn from the Bible designed to encourage the couple and help them to have a successful marriage, and more. They also provide each couple they marry with a CD that includes two sermons about marriage, and they recommend numerous Christian books on the subject. The Knapps charge a small fee for their services.

Coeur d’Alene officials told the Knapps privately and also publicly stated that the couple would violate the city’s public accommodations statute once same-sex marriage became legal in Idaho if they declined to perform a same-sex ceremony at their chapel. On Friday, the Knapps respectfully declined such a ceremony and now face up to 180 days in jail and up to $1,000 in fines for each day they decline to perform that ceremony.

“The city somehow expects ordained pastors to flip a switch and turn off all faithfulness to their God and their vows,” explained ADF Legal Counsel Jonathan Scruggs. “The U.S. Constitution as well as federal and state law clearly stand against that. The city cannot mandate across-the-board conformity to its interpretation of a city ordinance in utter disregard for the guaranteed freedoms Americans treasure in our society.”

Virginia McNulty Robinson, one of nearly 2,500 private attorneys allied with ADF, is serving as local counsel on behalf of the Knapps in Knapp v. City of Coeur d’Alene, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho.

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.


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  • Commie Flusher

    Fag marriage is an abomination!

    • thisoldspouse

      So is tyranny, and that’s what’s being practiced here.

      What business of a local government, much less the federal government, is it what are the religious practices of ministers?

    • franklinb23

      “Fag”? Nice ….

      In any rate, I find it interesting that this couple has chosen to take the Bible at face value when it comes to homosexuality but discard what it says regarding women preaching.

      “We have seen that the explicit texts of Scripture forbid women
      to serve as pastors. ” http://www.sbclife.net/Articles/1998/05/sla5

      Do any of these folks have any interest in being consistent? Am I reaching for the stars, here?

      If this is a place of business and the couple is being asked to provide a valid civil license, then no, they can’t discriminate. If it’s a church, then no one can or should be able to force them to perform a specifically religious ritual.

      • http://www.americanclarion.com/ Bob Ellis

        The release says she is an ordained minister, but it doesn’t say whether she’s a preacher or not. There are numerous ways in which one can minister without preaching. I have a female family member who is an ordained minister, but she has never been a preacher or pastor.

        Regardless, one wrong would not excuse another wrong-especially a wrong which attempted to counterfeit the most important institution in any civilization: marriage.

        It would also not excuse unconstitutional government tyranny, violating the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and attempting to violate the conscience (and neither Christians nor anyone else forfeits their religious freedom or right of conscience because they own a business).

        The founders of our nation understood these things very well (what a shame these things are held in such utter contempt today):

        Government is instituted to protect property of every sort. . . . [and] conscience is the most sacred of all property. – James Madison

        No provision in our Constitution ought to be dearer to man than that which protects the rights of conscience. – Thomas Jefferson

        Consciences of men are not the objects of human legislation. – New Jersey Governor William Livingston, signer of the U.S. Constitution

        Security under our constitution is given to the rights of conscience. – John Jay, First Chief of U.S. Supreme Court, author of the Federalist Papers

        It is sufficiently obvious, that persons and property are the two great subjects on which Governments are to act; and that the rights of persons, and the rights of property, are the objects, for the protection of which Government was instituted. These rights cannot well be separated. – James Madison

        Conscience is the most sacred of all property. – James Madison

        The moment the idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence. If `Thou shalt not covet’ and `Thou shalt not steal’ were not commandments of Heaven, they must be made inviolable precepts in every society before it can be civilized or made free. – John Adams

      • DCM7

        “If it’s a church, then no one can or should be able to force them to perform a specifically religious ritual.”
        See how many SSM activists will say the same, and for how long.