On Saturday, the Coeur d’Alene Press reported that a Massachusetts woman filed a complaint against the Christian-owned Hitching Post in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, for allegedly refusing to conduct a same-sex wedding ceremony. According to the Press, the woman called from Massachusetts and told local authorities that “an old lady” said they would not perform the service because it violates their religious beliefs.
The city attorney, however, decided not to pursue the complaint, saying the Hitching Post is exempt from the city’s anti-discrimination ordinance. As we reported Tuesday, city attorney Mike Gridley said the Christian-owned business would be exempt if the owners did, in fact, file as a religious corporation with the Idaho Secretary of State’s office. According to Coeur d’Alene spokesman Keith Erickson, the Hitching Post “filed with the Idaho Secretary of State as a religious corporation on October 6, 2014,” days before filing a lawsuit against the city.
But as it turns out, there’s another “hitch” in the Massachusetts’ woman’s complaint. Police investigators learned the woman, identified as Annabella Panoz of Waltham, Massachusetts, was already married to another woman in Massachusetts, Maureen Dolan said. It appears the woman was simply filing a false, nuisance complaint against Donald and Evelyn Knapp, the two Christian ministers who own the chapel.
According to Evelyn Knapp, the woman called two times on Thursday — days after news broke that the Knapps could possibly face jail for refusing to perform same-sex weddings. Moreover, Knapp said, the woman never requested a wedding, so there was nothing for the chapel to refuse.
“Lynn said this female was yelling at her and calling her a ‘redneck’ and a ‘bigot,'” the police report said. Panoz, the complaint added, became “excited” after learning it was permissible for authorities to record the conversation without her permission and “quickly ended our call without notice.”
“On October 23, 2014, the Coeur d’Alene Police Department received a call from a married individual in Massachusetts complaining that she wanted to have a ‘ceremony’ at the Hitching Post in Coeur d’Alene but was refused,” Erickson told the Spokesman Review. “The complaint was investigated and referred to the city prosecuting attorney’s office on October 24, 2014, for review. After reviewing the allegations and investigation the prosecutor has declined to pursue criminal charges because the Hitching Post is a religious corporation that is exempt from the city’s anti-discrimination ordinance.”