Marriage equality comes to Idaho.
Part 2 of 6: Hitching Post Wedding Chapel: Totally
confusing reports in the media about a
violation of a local human rights ordinance
The term "LGBT" is a widely used acronym for the Lesbian,
Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender/Transsexual community.
The special case of the Hitching Post Wedding Chapel in the city of Coeur d'Alene, ID:
The Hitching Post was originally set up as a for-profit business by a couple, Donald and Evelyn Knapp. Both of them have been ordained and are now in their 60's. They perform weddings for a fee. Their Wedding Chapel appears to have fitted well the description of "public accommodation." That is, it sells both services and goods to the general public with the intent of making a profit. This business is in the city of Coeur d'Alene, which passed a human rights ordinance in mid-2013. It prohibits discrimination by public accommodations on the basis of a potential customer's race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, and other grounds.
However, perhaps in anticipation of the Circuit Court's decision to legalize same-sex marriage, and in response to the city's human rights ordinance, the Knapps:
- Registered the Hitching Post as a limited liability company (LLC) on 2013-SEP-12, and
- Signed documents indicating their intention to operate as:
"... a religious corporation owned solely by ordained ministers of the Christian religion who operate this entity as an extension of their sincerely held religious beliefs and in accordance with their vows taken as Christian ministers. The purpose of the Hitching Post is to help people create, celebrate, and build lifetime, monogamous, one-man-one-woman marriages as defined by the Holy Bible." 1
Judging by the media articles, most reporters were either unaware of this registration, or didn't consider it as important. As a religious organization, the owners of the Hitching Post were exempt from city's human rights ordinance and thus could refuse to marry same-sex couples for any reason. Previously, they would seem to match the definition of a public accommodation and thus would be subject to the human rights ordinance. [Public accommodations are typically profit-making companies that provide goods and services to the general public.]
Earlier in 2014: The Knapps were interviewed on TV:
The following KXLY-TV/You Tube video is titled: "Hitching Post owners will close before performing same-sex marriages:" It was posted during 2014-MAY when marriage equality was a hotly debated topic in Idaho. This was about five months before gay marriages became legal in the state.
During the interview, Donald Knapp said:
"I think the Bible’s pretty clear that homosexuality is not [God's] way, and therefore I cannot unite people in a way that I believe would conflict with what the Bible teaches."
He said that if he was legally required to marry same-sex couples, he would close or sell the business.
According to the interviewer, the Knapps had no problem if other marriage officiants came to their chapel and married same-sex couples there. But they feel that they cannot do perform that function themselves, because of their religious beliefs.
2014-OCT-20: Plentiful supply of misinformation about the Hitching Post Wedding Chapel emerges:
Articles in the religious media about the Chapel developed more twists and turns than a can of worms or plate of spaghetti.
- Conservative news sources generally reported that the owners of the Chapel were in imminent danger of being charged, arrested, fined and even thrown in jail because they had violated their city's human rights ordinance. Fines of $1,000 a day were mentioned. One source said that he owners had already been arrested. This was untrue because, as noted above, the Chapel had registered as a religious organization and was free to discriminate with impunity in spite of city's the human rights ordinance.
- Liberal news sources and LGBT groups generally reported that the Chapel was a public accommodation and would have to marry same-sex couples or risk being charged under the human rights ordinance. This was also untrue because the Chapel had registered as a religious organization and thus did not have to follow the ordinance.
It turns out that neither group was reflecting reality.
Many people who read misleading news published by conservative news sources were outraged:
- Five days after same-sex marriages became available in Idaho, an article appeared on American News' web site. Its headline states:
"... city arrests pastors for refusing to perform gay weddings." 3
This was certainly startling and very serious news. Fortunately, it never happened. No same-sex engaged couple had laid a complaint with the city. No arrests had been made. No charges had been made. No assessment of guilt had been made. No sentence had been set.
Nine months later, the incorrect headline was still in place, describing events that never happened and never could have happened. However, it probably resulted in many readers being very upset, alarmed, and worried.
- The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is a conservative Christian legal defense group that specializes in supporting the right of religious conservatives to discriminate on the basis of their religious faith. The ADF has often targeted women and the LGBT community. On 2014-OCT-20 -- the same date as the article in American News, -- the ADF published an article on their web site titled:
"Two ministers told to perform same-sex wedding face jail, fines."
It is apparently a very popular article because it attracted 1,220 comments during the following 26 days. The anonymous author of the article wrote that the Knapps:
"... now face up to 180 days in jail and up to $1,000 in fines for each day they decline to perform that ceremony." 4
This topic continues, and the confusion is cleared up in the next essay
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- "Hitching Post owners will close before performing same-sex marriages," You Tube, 2014-MAY-19, at: https://www.youtube.com/
- "City Arrests Pastors For Refusing To Perform Gay Weddings," American News, 2014-OCT-20, at: http://americannews.com/
- "Two ministers told to perform same-sex wedding face jail, fines," Alliance Defending Freedom, 2014-OCT-20, at: http://blog.alliancedefendingfreedom.org/
- "Ministers Told To Perform Same-Sex Weddings or Face Jail Time and Fines," You Tube, 2014-OCT-20 at: http://youtu.be/
- Steve St John, "Anatomy of a Right-Wing Fabrication: No Threat to Idaho Wedding Chapel," The Advocate, 2014-OCT-27, at: http://www.advocate.com/
Copyright © 2014 & 2015 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2014-OCT-23
Latest update: 2015-JUL-27
Author: B.A. Robinson