On Sunday, we reported that Donald and Evelyn Knapp, two Christian ministers in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, who refuse to perform same-sex weddings, could possibly be arrested and jailed. But, Dave Oliveria wrote Monday at the Spokeman-Review, the city attorney says the chapel may be exempt from the so-called anti-discrimination law.
“A federal lawsuit filed against the city of Coeur d’Alene late last week on behalf of the Hitching Post marriage chapel alleging the city would require the business to perform same-sex marriages requires clarification,” Coeur d’Alene spokesman Keith Erickson told Oliveria. “The anti-discrimination ordinance passed by the Coeur d’Alene City Council excludes religious corporations.”
According to Erickson, the Hitching Post “filed with the Idaho Secretary of State as a religious corporation on October 6, 2014,” several days before filing a lawsuit against the city. This, he added, “may exempt the business from the city’s anti-discrimination ordinance.”
On Monday, city attorney Mike Gridley sent a letter to Alliance Defending Freedom, the organization representing the Knapps, asking them to drop the lawsuit. In the letter, Gridley said if the Knapps “are truly operating a not-for-profit religious corporation they would be specifically exempted from the City’s anti-discrimination ordinance.” But, he added, if they are performing weddings for profit, they would be in violation if they refuse to perform gay weddings.
Gridley admitted his office has said in the past the Knapps “would likely” be governed by the ordinance if a complaint was made against them. Under the ordinance, the Knapps could face 180 days in jail and $1,000 per day in fines for refusing to perform gay weddings. Worse yet, the lawsuit filed Friday by the Alliance Defending Freedom said that “each day the Knapps decline to perform a requested same-sex wedding ceremony, they commit a separate and distinct misdemeanor, subject to the same penalties.” If they refuse to perform ceremonies in just one week, the Knapps could accrue up to three years in jail and $7,000 in fines, the complaint adds.
Gridley went on to say the lawsuit was “something of a surprise,” due to “cordial conversations” that took place in the past. He also told ADF the city “will not prosecute” legitimate non-profit religious organizations engaging in their First Amendment right of free speech and religion.
News of the lawsuit against the city has spread across the country, with many believing the potential action against the Knapps is simply the latest attack on Christianity by the radical pro-gay left. The same week the lawsuit was filed, the city of Houston issued subpoenas demanding five pastors hand over sermons that mention homosexuality, gender identity or Annise Parker, the mayor of Houston, who also happens to be gay.
As a result of the national outcry, Parker and the city attorney backed off, claiming they never saw the subpoena — a claim many say is laughable. The Family Research Council called Parker’s actions an “unprecedented assault” on freedom and started a petition demanding city officials “retract their demands and issue a clear statement in support of the free speech of all people.” So far, over 50,000 responses have been received.