Our First Amendment rights do not end where the doors of our business open.
- Bryan Fischer
Co-author of Idaho Marriage Amendment Stands Behind Hitching Post Ministers
"It’s no big deal. Calm down. They’re not really going to jail."
That’s the message the Left has been sending to those outraged over the alarming situation of Donald and Evelyn Knapp, who have been threatened with steep fines and jail time for declining to perform a same-sex wedding ceremony in their Hitching Post Wedding Chapel in Idaho. The couple of 47 years believes in traditional, biblical marriage between one man and one woman but their faith has made them the target of the government.
American Family Association (AFA, www.afa.net) is standing with the couple, who has now filed a lawsuit against officials in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, for unconstitutionally demanding they violate their religious beliefs by performing same-sex marriages.
“The fact is that Americans have been encouraged for centuries to realize the American dream and start their own business, be their own boss and exercise their freedoms,” said Bryan Fischer, AFA’s Director of Issue Analysis who co-authored the 2006 Idaho Marriage Amendment that upheld natural marriage in the state’s constitution. “Yet, Americans who do that and realize that dream are now being told they do not have the freedom to operate their business according to their faith, morals and deeply held beliefs. Those who aggressively push for homosexual marriage say they want the ‘freedom’ to marry—how ironic and hypocritical that one of their primary tactics for getting this ‘freedom’ is attacking the freedom of those who disagree with them.”
Idaho’s 2004 ban on same-sex marriage was ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge earlier this year. When the Supreme Court refused to consider the state’s appeal on Oct. 10, Idaho become one of more than 30 states where it is legal for gays and lesbians to wed.
The Washington Post reported last week that if the pastor couple did, in fact, violate the ordinance—a misdemeanor—they would be subject to a 180-day jail term and $1,000 fine for each day they decline to perform the same-sex wedding. The Post also quoted city attorney Warren Wilson earlier this year, who told a local television station that the for-profit wedding chapel would likely be required to follow the ordinance. “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.”
“Americans do not have to choose between owning their business and exercising their constitutionally protected rights and freedoms,” Fischer continued. “You do not have to turn in your Constitution to do business in America. It’s absurd that anyone would even make this claim, but that’s exactly what the city of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho is doing. Our First Amendment rights do not end where the doors of our business open.”
The Daily Signal also reported that “a week of honoring their faith and declining to perform the ceremony could cost the couple three and a half years in jail and $7,000 in fines.”