Ministers Risk Arrest for Refusing to Perform Same-Sex Marriage Ceremony

The non-discrimination statute applies to all “public accommodations,” and the city views the chapel as a public accommodation.

In a story raising concerns over first amendment rights related to same-sex marriage laws, a wedding chapel in Idaho is under fire for refusing to accommodate gay couples looking to get married. 

Donald and Evelyn Knapp, two ordained ministers who own the Hitching Post Wedding Chapel in Coeur d’Alene, are facing jail time and up to $1,000 in daily fines if they continue to refuse to perform same-sex ceremonies, according to a lawsuit filed by their attorneys at Alliance Defending Freedom.

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. 

According to the Daily Signal, the fines could really stack up for the the Knapp's if they insist on continuing to exercise their freedom of religion:  

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 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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