ICC Note: Two ordained ministers in Idaho, Donald and Evelyn Knapp, are facing potential fines and jail time if they refuse to perform a same-sex wedding in the wedding chapel they have owned and operated for more than two decades. For the past several years pressure across the United States has been increasing on Christian owned and operated businesses to provide services for same-sex wedding ceremonies. Several business owners who have refused have been fined. The Idaho case however may mark a new and alarming development with the state declaring that the wedding chapel is a “public accommodation” and therefore falls under the states “non-discrimination” statute.
10/18/2014 United States (Daily Signal) – For years, those in favor of same-sex marriage have argued that all Americans should be free to live as they choose. And yet in countless cases, the government has coerced those who simply wish to be free to live in accordance with their belief that marriage is the union of a man and a woman.
Just this weekend, a case has arisen in Idaho, where city officials have told ordained ministers they have to celebrate same-sex weddings or face fines and jail time.
The Idaho case involves Donald and Evelyn Knapp, both ordained ministers, who run Hitching Post Wedding Chapel. Officials from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, told the couple that because the city has a non-discrimination statute that includes sexual orientation and gender identity, and because the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Idaho’s constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman, the couple would have to officiate at same-sex weddings in their own chapel.
The non-discrimination statute applies to all “public accommodations,” and the city views the chapel as a public accommodation.
On Friday, a same-sex couple asked to be married by the Knapps, and the Knapps politely declined. The Knapps now face a 180-day jail term and $1,000 fine for each day they decline to celebrate the same-sex wedding.
A week of honoring their faith and declining to perform the ceremony could cost the couple three and a half years in jail and $7,000 in fines.
The Knapps have been married to each other for 47 years and are both ordained ministers of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel. They are “evangelical Christians who hold to historic Christian beliefs” that “God created two distinct genders in His image” and “that God ordained marriage to be between one man and one woman.”
But as a result of the courts redefining marriage and a city ordinance that creates special privileges based on sexual orientation and gender identity, the Knapps are facing government coercion.
Governmental recognition of same-sex relationships as marriages need not and should not require any third party to recognize a same-sex relationship as a marriage. Government should respect the rights of all citizens. Indeed, a form of government respectful of free association, free contracts, free speech and free exercise of religion should protect citizens’ rights to live according to their beliefs about marriage.
The Knapps have been celebrating weddings in their chapel since 1989. Government should not now force them to shut down or violate their beliefs.