Anti-gay groups are playing the case up big time by claiming it proves what they have been saying all along - that marriage equality will force Christian ministers to marry same-sex couples under the penalty of law.
Or in the words of the Family Research Council:
If homosexuals get their way, Pastor Donald Knapp won’t be behind the pulpit -- he’ll be behind bars. That’s the stunning development in Idaho, where the day liberals promised would never come is already here. Two ministers -- a husband and wife team -- have been told by their city government that refusing to “marry” a same-sex couple will send them straight to jail.
After 25 years of owning The Hitching Post wedding chapel, Donald and Evelyn are being faced with a situation neither of them thought possible: being imprisoned for their faith. Like the flood of state amendments steamrolled by activist judges, Idaho’s fell earlier this month. And with it, religious liberty. Fearing the worst, the Knapps reached out to Alliance Defending Freedom, concerned that their chapel would be targeted. Less than a week later, the battle was at their front door.
For Donald and Evelyn, there was never any question what the duo would do. Unapologetically Christian, the husband-and-wife team is overtly religious, marrying couples with faith-driven vows, and even offering marriage sermons on CD to newlyweds. That doesn’t matter to city officials, who had this marriage message for The Hitching Post: Conform or be punished. And not just any punishment, but 180 days in jail and up to $1,000 in fines for every day the ministers refuse to perform the ceremony.
However, once you get past the hysteria and the hyperbole generated by the Family Research Council, their cohorts at Fox News (particularly propaganda artist Todd Starnes), the Heritage Foundation, and their vast connection of folks on twitter and right-wing blogs willing to push this story, you get a bit alarmed at the deception taking place here.
According to Zack Ford from Think Progress:
Back in May, when a federal judge first overturned Idaho’s ban on same-sex marriage, the Hitching Post Chapel in Coeur d’Alene expressed concern about the possibility of having to marry same-sex couples. The wedding chapel located just across the street from the Kootenai County Courthouse recognized that it would be subject to the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance, which requires that public accommodations (like businesses) offer service equally regardless of sexual orientation. Now that marriage equality is the law in Idaho, the Hitching Post owners Donald and Evelyn Knapp have filed a federal lawsuit for the right to discriminate.
At the time, Coeur d’Alene City Attorney Warren Wilson explained, “If you turn away a gay couple, refuse to provide services for them, then in theory you violated our code and you’re looking at a potential misdemeanor citation.” Wilson clarified that religious entities are exempt under the city ordinance, but apparently told Mr. Knapp at the time that the Hitching Post was not exempt because it is a business, not a religious corporation like a church. As same-sex couples began marrying last week, the Hitching Post did apparently turn away a same-sex couple.
And just who was this same-sex couple? We don't know.