By: Emily Conley
They said it would never happen.
Same-sex marriage has been legal in Idaho for all of 2 days, and two ministers already face jail and fines for declining to perform a same-sex wedding ceremony.
Donald and Evelyn Knapp own and operate the Hitching Post Wedding Chapel, a charming chapel in Coeur d’Alene conveniently located across from the county clerk’s office. Couples can get their marriage license at the clerk’s office, cross the street, and get married.
The Knapps, both ordained ministers in their 60s, began operating the wedding chapel in 1989 as a ministry. They perform religious wedding ceremonies, including 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.
Months before voter-approved protections for marriage were struck down in Idaho, city officials warned Donald and Evelyn privately and publicly that if those laws were struck down, a city nondiscrimination ordinance would require them to perform same-sex wedding ceremonies in their privately owned chapel, or they would face the consequences.
On October 17, 2014, 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.
“Many have denied the idea 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,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco.
Our attorneys filed a federal lawsuit and a motion for a temporary restraining order on October 17, 2014 to stop the officials in Coeur d’Alene from enforcing the nondiscrimination ordinance against the Knapps.
“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,” said Jonathan Scruggs, ADF legal counsel.
Makes you think of some other pastors who’ve been in the news: the “Houston Five,” were subpoenaed by the city to turn over any writings, correspondence, sermons, etc. that talked about homosexuality, gender identity, or the mayor, Annise Parker, who identifies as a lesbian.
We’ve read about the all-seeing, all-controlling, Big Brother government in everything from 1984 to The Hunger Games. But when the government tries to control more than just what people do, but their beliefs and morality – we should all recoil. This Big Conscience is a scary thing. A government willing to force pastors to act contrary to their religious beliefs will not think twice about forcing everyday citizens to violate their convictions, whether religious or nonreligious. Do we want government to control even what we may permissibly believe?
Our society is in danger of losing our diversity and our freedom, especially the freedom to abide by a conscience grounded in our own, rather than the government’s, moral truth.
1. Pray! Pray for this dear couple’s protection and that God would give them grace and courage under pressure.
2. Take a stand! If you, or someone you know, is having their right to freely live out their faith threatened, contact Alliance Defending Freedom and tell us the story.
3. Speak out! Share this story on social media. It seems like a small thing, but when you share it with your network, and they share it with theirs, we can create a swell of support. When we all speak out together, it’s hard to drown out.