UPDATE: Idaho City Reverses Decision to Force Pastor to Perform Gay Wedding Ceremonies

Posted on October 31, 2014 in Marriage, Religious Freedom by

Hitching Post wedding chapelThe city of Coeur d’ Alene in Idaho became the center of a major religious freedom battle after the city said it would force the pastor of a small wedding chapel to perform same-sex wedding ceremonies.

The Hitching Post is a for-profit wedding chapel that is owned and operated by devout Christians, the Knapps. After a non-discrimination ordinance was passed in the city the local city council told the Knapps they would have to perform same-sex ceremonies in order to comply with the ordinance.

The Knapps, in adhering to their religious convictions, said they would refuse to perform such ceremonies as they would violate their religious convictions. The city told them they could face massive fines and jail time for refusal. The Knapps didn’t back down.

After igniting national outrage the city has reversed their decision and said the Knapps will NOT have to perform same-sex ceremonies. A recent article at Christian Today says:

“Idaho’s Hitching Post wedding chapel won’t have to host same-sex marriage after all following a U-turn by the city authorities…The city originally said that the anti-discrimination law applied because the Hitching Post is a commercial enterprise. However, Coeur d’Alene city attorney Mike Gridley said that after further consideration he had determined that the ordinance did not specify whether an organisation (sic) had to be for profit or not. ‘After we’ve looked at this some more, we have come to the conclusion they would be exempt from our ordinance because they are a religious corporation,’ he said.”

This is great news, not just for the Knapps, but for anyone that believes people of faith should be able to live and do business according to their religious convictions. At no time should the government, local, state or federal, seek to force any person of faith to violate his or her deeply held religious convictions.

This is one time when I can agree with the ACLU. Leo Morales of the ACLU of Idaho agreed with the ruling and said the Knapps, because they are a religious organization, should be exempt from the city’s ordinance. Morales recognized that the “religious activity” of the Knapps was being protected (and rightfully so); but made clear that if they do “non-religious ceremonies” they would be in violation of the ordinance:

“However, if they do non-religious ceremonies as well, they would be violating the anti-discrimination ordinance. It’s the religious activity that’s being protected.”

Though this is a great turn of events for the Knapps and religious freedom, it’s not a reason to sit back and relax. Anyone that’s been paying attention to recent events knows that the “religious exemption” given to the Knapps can just as easily be taken away by the city. The problem with accepting “non-discrimination” ordinances with religious exemptions in them is that those exemptions often end up not being adequate enough to actually protect religious rights, or they end up being removed after the ordinance is accepted.

So while I am thrilled to see the rights of the Knapps being recognized, I urge caution and continued defense of religious freedom in order to ensure those rights are protected.

Groups like Alliance Defending Freedom continue to stand on the front lines of these battles, defending our rights. The situation in Idaho is no different. ADF attorneys representing the Knapps showed wisdom in their handling of the circumstances. Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco summed this situation up perfectly:

“The government should not force ordained ministers to act contrary to their faith under threat of jail time and criminal fines.”

Now, let’s see if Mayor Parker and the city of Houston get the message.

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