Officials in the town of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho are under fire today for trying to force two ordained Christian ministers to perform same-sex weddings under threat of fines and jail time.
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is reporting on the case of Donald and Evelyn Knapp, both ordained ministers who run the Hitching Post Wedding Chapel, who were told by city officials that refusal to marry same-sex couples in their chapel would violate the city's public accommodations statute if these "marriages" become legal in the state. They have, and on Friday, the Knapps respectfully refused to perform such a ceremony in their chapel. As a result, they are now facing jail time of up to 180 days in jail and fines up to $1,000 for each day they decline to perform that ceremony.
In response, ADF lawyers filed a federal lawsuit and a motion for a temporary restraining order to stop the city from forcing the couple to comply with city requests in violation of their religious beliefs.
“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.”
Tedesco added: “The government exists to protect and respect our freedoms, not attack them. The city cannot erase these fundamental freedoms and replace them with government coercion and intolerance.”
According to the ADF, the Knapps, who have been married for 47 years, are both in the 60's and have been operating the wedding chapel since 1989 as a ministry. They perform a Christian marriage rite for a small fee and give newlyweds materials on the Christian understanding of marriage.
The case, Knapp v. City of Coeur d’Alene, has been filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho.
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