Idaho Ministers Take Stand For First Amendment Rights

An Idaho couple has taken legal action against their city this week, on the grounds that they have been unconstitutionally coerced into performing same-sex wedding ceremonies. 

Donald and Evelyn Knapp, married 47 years, have performed over 35,000 marriage ceremonies at their wedding chapel in Coeur d'Alene. In a public statement from their lawyers, the Knapps shared that they opened The Hitching Post wedding chapel because they felt called "to promote the welfare of their community by uniting others in marriage.

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In mid-October, a ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit that legalized same-sex marriage in Idaho took affect. A few days later, the couple declined a request to perform a same-sex wedding. They had done this numerous times before, but the difference this week was the ruling from the Ninth Circuit court. According to city officials, the Knapps are now violating an ordinance that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, and thus they are subject to compounding jail sentences and fines.

According to a recent Fox News article, the Knapps face fines of $1,000 and 180 days of jail time for every day they violate the ordinance. Therefore, each day the Knapps continue to decline to perform same-sex marriage, those numbers grow. If the couple refuses to perform same-sex ceremonies for one week, they risk going to jail for over three years and being fined $7,000.

Supporters of the city say that the caveat to First Amendment rights lies in the fact that The Hitching Post is registered as a for profit business, not as a church or place of worship. 

“I would think that the Hitching Post would probably be considered a place of public accommodation that would be subject to the ordinance,” said City Attorney Warren Wilson in a Spokesman-Review article.

The Knapp's lawyers, the Alliance Defending Freedom, said differently: “The city is on seriously flawed legal ground, and our lawsuit intends to ensure that this couple’s freedom to adhere to their own faith as pastors is protected, just as the First Amendment intended."

Do you think the Knapps should be protected under First Amendment rights? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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