Religious freedom under fire: Ministers sue to remain free to reject gay marriage

As the push to legalize gay marriage has swept across America, there have been assurances that it would never interfere with religious liberty.

Well, apparently someone missed that memo.

A pair of Christian ministers who run a wedding chapel in Idaho say they came under fire for refusing to forgo their religious convictions and perform gay marriages, reported Todd Starnes of Fox News.

The couple, Donald and Evelyn Knapp, are the owners of Hitching Post Wedding Chapel in Coeur d’Alene. They claim that they are under threat of prosecution for turning away gay couples.

“Right now they are at risk of being prosecuted,” attorney Jeremy Tedesco who represents the couple told Todd Starnes of Fox News. “The threat of enforcement is more than just credible.”

According to a lawsuit the couple has filed in federal court, the Kapps face up to a $1,000 fine and possible jail time.

The wedding chapel, which is registered as a religious corporation, only performs “one-man-one-woman marriages as defined by the Holy Bible.” However, it is also a for-profit business and city officials say that means they must obey a local ordinance that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and is applicable to housing, employment and public accommodation.

“I would think that the Hitching Post would probably be considered a place of public accommodation that would be subject to the ordinance,” said city attorney Warren Wilson according to The-Spokesman Review.

Wilson told Knapp in a phone conversation that even ordained ministers would be required to perform same sex marriages, the lawsuit states.
“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.

None of that mattered until Oct. 15. That is the date the Ninth Circuit Court declared same sex marriages could commence in Idaho. On October, 17 the Knapp’s received a call inquiring about a same sex wedding.
When they turned the caller away, they were officially in violation of the law.

“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 also filed a temporary restraining order to halt the city’s enforcement of the law.

“The Knapps are in fear that if they exercise their First Amendment rights they will be cited, prosecuted and sent to jail,” Tedesco told Starnes.
Considering the fact that this comes on the same week the city of Houston violated the First Amendment rights of ministers by demanding copies of their sermons and you can see a frightening pattern developing of religious liberty under attack.

There is no word yet as to why same sex couples cannot simply choose another facility.

Carmine Sabia

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