The religious right is spewing hate and lies, claiming that two ministers are being forced to marry same-sex couples--even claiming the ministers have been arrested. How is this possible?
Two ministers, Donald and Evelyn Knapp, own a for-profit wedding chapel in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, but say they cannot marry same-sex couples because of their faith. Now that same-sex couples can legally marry in Idaho, the Knapps face a possible issue.
Earlier this year, as you can see in this video, Donald Knapp (photo, above,) said he'd close the chapel rather than violate his faith. At the center of the controversy is their small town's anti-discrimination ordinance.
Bottom line, depending on how they've licensed their business, they likely would be exempt from the ordinance, but that hasn't stopped the maniacal anti-gay religious right who have hitched their wagons to the Hitching Post's story and are profiting from it -- because that's just what they do.
The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is a right-wing Christian law firm created by the same folks who brought you anti-gay groups like the American Family Association, the Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, Campus Crusade for Christ, and Coral Ridge Ministries, among others. It's headed by the guy who made his name investigating pornography during the Reagan years, under Attorney General Edwin Meese.
The ADF claims an 80 percent winning record, although it has lost many high-profile cases, including Bostic v. Rainey, which brought same-sex marriage to Virginia, Bishop v. Oklahoma, which did the same for Oklahoma, the Elane Photography case, which found that photographers cannot refuse to do business with same-sex couples, and most infamously, Perry v. Schwarzenegger, which ultimately brought same-sex marriage to California.
Now, the ADF has filed suit in Idaho, claiming two ministers who own a wedding chapel have licensed it as a religious business and therefore should be exempt from their local anti-discrimination ordinance.
The suit itself would appear to contain several incorrect statements, including the extent of the Knapp's liability, but we're not attorneys and can't speak to the merits of the case.
The ADF claims that last Friday the Knapps "respectfully declined" to perform a same-sex wedding "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."
Having read the City of Coeur d'Alene's anti-discrimination law, I am of the opinion that the fine is $100 to $1000 per instance, not per day, and only if the City chooses to impose a fine at all.
Meanwhile, the religious right and the far right media have gone to town on this story over the past few days, and the lies they're telling are atrocious.
A story Monday at the right-wing American News is titled: "City Arrests Pastors For Refusing To Perform Gay Weddings."
That's a lie.
A story at what appears to be Herman Cain's website, is titled, "Idaho city tells pastors: Celebrate gay weddings or face fines, jail time."
That's a stretch.
It has one word in its first sentence: "Fascism."
Bakers, photographers and florists are being forced to shut down their businesses unless they accede to demands that they join in the celebration of gay "marriages," [sic] but so far no one has faced jail time for putting commitment to the Word of God ahead of the demands of homosexuals and their cultural champions.
Until now. A couple in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho who own a wedding chapel there declined the request of a gay couple that they perform their "wedding." They [sic] couple did what gay couples seem to do a lot in these situations. They didn't just go find someone else. They complained to authorities, who are now threatening to throw the pastors in jail.
First, "being forced to shut down their businesses" is stretching the truth massively. If a business owner chooses to shut their business rather than follow the law of the state that licenses them to do business, that' not "being forced."
Second, there has not been any complaint filed, as of this writing, against the wedding chapel, known as "The Hitching Post."
Even the Alliance Defending Freedom seems to be fibbing.
"Two Ministers Ordered To Perform Same-Sex Wedding Face Jail, Fines," reads an article on the ADF's own website. That can only be true if indeed the Knapps were "ordered to perform [a] same-sex wedding." They have not been. Nor do they currently face jail time or fines.
Meanwhile, on Sunday, super-sleuth blogger and LGBT activist Jeremy Hooper reported that recently, the Hitching Post's website was changed from reading:
We also perform wedding ceremonies of other faiths as well as civil weddings.
The Hitching Post specializes in small, short, intimate, and private weddings for couples who desire a traditional Christian wedding ceremony.
But in an article published earlier today at none other than the Coeur d'Alene Press, the extent of the right wing's madness seems to have been exposed.
"When contacted by The [Coeur d'Alene] Press for comment, Don Knapp said the Hitching Post is not operating as a not-for-profit religious corporation."
So, now they have a problem.
Worse, so may the Alliance Defending Freedom.
Donald Knapp also told the Coeur d'Alene Press he doesn't even know the ADF attorney who has been emailing with the City of Coeur d'Alene.
And even worse for the ADF's case:
"We have never threatened to jail them, or take legal action of any kind," said city spokesman Keith Erickson.
So, from start to finish (or, til now, since the religious right sees this as a money-maker) this story has been built on one lie after another.