Focus on the Family President, Jim Daly, Asks: Why Are Two Idaho Pastors Being Threatened with Fines of $1,000 Per Day?

Jim Daly
Jim Daly

Meet Donald and Evelyn Knapp.

Both in their late 60s, the Knapps have owned and operated the Hitching Post Wedding Chapel in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho since 1989. In that time, they’ve performed more than 34,000 weddings. The chapel is conveniently located across from the Kootenai County Clerk’s office, which issues marriage licenses.

The Knapps are more than wedding chapel owners, though. They’re also ordained ministers from the Foursquare Church, an evangelical denomination. They take the tenets of their faith and denomination seriously, including the belief that marriage is a union of one man and one woman.

In fact, they’ve turned down numerous requests over the years to perform same-sex ceremonies, including one as recently as October 17.

And that’s when their “troubles” began.

The city of Coeur d’Alene has a public accommodations law that pits the Knapps’ constitutional religious freedoms against newly created rights based on sexual orientation. The city recently informed the Knapps that under that law, they would have to perform same-sex ceremonies if and when such unions became legal in Idaho.

A couple weeks ago, that happened when the federal courts imposed same-sex marriage on the state, and county clerks began issuing licenses on October 15.

The city’s public accommodations ordinance does not include a religious exemption for Christians like the Knapps, making it a crime for them to stand on religious principles concerning marriage. For each day they refuse to perform a same-sex ceremony, they are subject to fines of up to $1000 and 180 days in jail. So if they refuse for a week, they face a fine of $7000 and more than three years in jail. If they refuse for a year, they could go to jail for 180 years and be fined $365,000.

By comparison, if you were found guilty of assault with intent to commit murder in Idaho, your maximum sentence could only be 14 years.

Since the Knapps were forewarned by the city that non-compliance would be dealt with as a criminal offense under the city ordinance, they enlisted the help of our friends at the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), and filed a federal lawsuit in Idaho on October 17. A court hearing will be held soon on the couple’s request for a court order preventing the city from prosecuting them under the ordinance.

Idaho officials are defending their pursuit of the Knapps based upon the fact the Hitching Post Wedding Chapel is not a traditional church. They contend that because the Knapps live off the proceeds they realize from the wedding ceremonies they perform, they should be subject to the city’s public accommodations ordinance.

I couldn’t disagree more strongly.

Click here for more.

SOURCE: Focus on the Family
Jim Daly

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