Two Christian ministers who own an Idaho wedding chapel were told they had to either perform same-sex weddings or face jail time and up to a $1,000 fine, according to a lawsuit filed Friday in federal court.
Alliance Defending Freedom is representing Donald and Evelyn Knapp, ordained ministers who own the Hitching Post Wedding Chapel in Coeur d’Alene.
“Right now they are at risk of being prosecuted,” their ADF attorney, Jeremy Tedesco, told me. “The threat of enforcement is more than just credible.”
According to ADF Media, the wedding chapel is registered with the state as a “religious corporation” limited to performing “one-man-one-woman marriages as defined by the Holy Bible.”
But the chapel is also registered as a for-profit business – not as a church or place of worship – and city officials said that means the owners must comply with a local nondiscrimination ordinance.
The ordinance, passed in 2013, prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and it applies to housing, employment and public accommodation.
Fox News reported, City Attorney Warren Wilson told The Spokesman-Review in May that the Hitching Post Wedding Chapel likely would be required to follow the ordinance.
“I would think that the Hitching Post would probably be considered a place of public accommodation that would be subject to the ordinance,” he said.
He also told television station KXLY that any wedding chapel that turns away a gay couple would in theory be a violation of the law “and you’re looking at a potential misdemeanor citation.”
Wilson confirmed to Knapp in a telephone conversation that even ordained ministers would be required to perform same-sex weddings, the lawsuit alleges.
The Hitching Post Wedding Chapel is across the street from the Kootenai County Clerk’s office, which issues marriage licenses.
The Knapps, both in their 60s and who themselves have been married for 47 years, began operating the wedding chapel in 1989 as a ministry.
They perform religious wedding ceremonies, which include references to God, the invocation of God’s blessing on the union, brief remarks drawn from the Bible designed to encourage the couple and help them to have a successful marriage, and more.