Don and Evelyn Knapp of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, are civil rights pioneers - if you believe the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).
The Religious Right’s most visible legal arm filed a lawsuit against the city last Friday on behalf of the Knapps, who are ordained ministers in the Four Square Gospel church and run The Hitching Post wedding chapel. In a statement, the ADF referred to the chapel as a “religious ministry” and claimed that the Knapps had run afoul of Coeur d’Alene’s anti-discrimination ordinance by refusing to perform same-sex weddings.
“Months before voter-approved protections for marriage were struck down in Idaho, city officials warned Donald and Evelyn privately and publicly that if those laws were struck down, a city nondiscrimination ordinance would require them to perform same-sex wedding ceremonies in their privately owned chapel, or they would face the consequences,” the group asserted, and added, “On October 17, 2014, the Knapps respectfully declined such a ceremony and now face up to 180 days in jail and up to $1,000 in fines for each day they decline to perform that ceremony.”
It didn’t take the Religious Right long to respond to this alleged injustice. At Herman Cain’s website, Dan Calabrese branded the situation as “fascism” and claimed that Idaho authorities are actually threatening to jail the couple.
“If you are risking jail, not because you did anything to anyone, but because you refused someone else’s demand that you provide a service that is anathema to your faith - then we have a new civil rights crisis in this nation, and homosexuals are not the ones with the problem at all,” Calabrese wrote.
But there’s a bit more to the story than jack-booted government authorities and a persecuted pair of ministers. In fact, the Coeur d’Alene Press reports that there may be some problems with the ADF’s account. For starters, the newspaper says the Knapps have never actually been asked to perform a same-sex wedding; nor have they been threatened with arrest.
City officials did note they have privately communicated with the Knapps about the anti-discrimination ordinance, and informed the couple that if they did not register the chapel as a non-profit religious corporation, they could be subject to a fine and possible jail time if they violated the ordinance. They city’s argument seems to be that the chapel, as a profit-making business, is expected to adhere to public accommodation laws.