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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Tied In The Hitching Post: Same-Sex Marriage In Idaho




Same-sex marriage does present a dilemma for many Christian believers. The whole debate about whether homosexuality is "sanctioned" as Christian love or not still rages. I imagine it will continue for a long time as strong arguments for and against performing same-sex weddings as Christian unions exist.

I am a strong believer in the right of churches and ministers to protect their specific beliefs. I also believe gays have every right to marriage, yet I believe legitimate denominations and Christian pastors have the right to refuse to marry whomever they deem does not meet their qualifications for union.

I think homosexual behavior is appropriate within the confines of a committed, loving, monogamous, lifelong, Christ-centered relationship while still respecting the views of those who follow the Bible in its morally authoritative belief that homosexual behaviors are wrong and who do not want to have same-sex marriages performed in their churches. After all, this is the land of the free and the cradle of liberty for all with decent intentions. There is room and headroom for all in America as God intended when he graciously blessed this land.

But, sometimes things get "fuzzy" ...

A Christian religious rights legal organization has filed a federal lawsuit against a northern Idaho city contending its anti-discrimination ordinance compels a wedding chapel to perform same-sex marriages. Gay marriage became legal in Idaho on October 15, 2014.

Two Christian ministers own a wedding chapel named The Hitching Post in Couer d’Alene, Idaho. The pair is facing some serious fines and even jail time for refusing to perform same-sex ceremonies. The lawsuit says that violates the couple's constitutional rights to religious freedom.

“Right now they are at risk of being prosecuted,” attorney Jeremy Tedesco from the Alliance Defending Freedom told a Fox News reporter. “The threat of enforcement is more than credible.”

Here's the rub ...


One argument: 

The Hitching Post Wedding Chapel, owned by Donald and Evelyn Knapp, an ordained couple, is not responsible for accommodating ceremonies that fall outside of their beliefs. A church can discriminate -- and they do so all the time -- even when it comes to weddings.

Another argument:

The Knapps are running a business, not a church. They are not "pastors," since they don't have a church. The Hitching Post is not a legitimate nonprofit religious corporation.

The ADF refers to this chapel as a "religious mission." In addition, they claim that the Knapps "have ensured that mission is respected by barring anyone but themselves and their employees from performing wedding ceremonies at, or on behalf of, the Hitching Post."

Until this legal case arose, the Hitching Post stated openly that civil ceremonies were available. They also offered ceremonies in other states and venues where they would help couples plan the wedding and find an officiant.

The Hitching Post has existed as a business for decades and had been used for wedding ceremonies for over 50 years. It is a business that the current owners purchased in 1989 which had been privately owned since it was founded in 1919. In one part of the ADF filing they admit this is the Knapp's "closely-held business," and not a ministry at all. 

(James Peron. "Is a Church Being Forced to Perform a Gay Wedding?" 
The Huffington Post. October 21, 2014)

Coeur d'Alene City Attorney Mike Gridley in a letter to the Alliance Defending Freedom says that because the wedding chapel is registered as a for-profit business, it would likely be violating city code if it turned away same-sex couples.

Gridley said the ordinance exempts not-for-profit religious entities, but not for-profit businesses.

The Hitching Post is registered as a for-profit limited liability company with the Idaho Secretary of State. However, on Oct. 6, the Knapps filed with the state as a religious organization. Gridley, in his letter to Alliance Defending Freedom, said that if the Knapps are "truly operating a not-for-profit religious corporation" they would be exempted from the city ordinance.

Gridley wrote that the city doesn't intend to prosecute legitimate nonprofit religious corporations.

"Their lawsuit was something of a surprise because we have had cordial conversations with them in the past and they have never disclosed that they have recently become a religious corporation," Gridley wrote.

("N. Idaho Wedding Chapel Sues Over Gay Marriage." Associated Press. October 21, 2014)

 
Here is some info straight from the Hitching Post Wedding Chapel website http://hitchingpostweddings.com/:

"Your wedding is one of the most important days of your life and we are honored that you’ve considered letting us share it with you.
Here at the Hitching Post, we strive to make each couple feel special by welcoming you into our facility and making your wedding day a positively memorable event. Whether this is your first marriage, a vow renewal, or a second chance at love, we would love to perform your wedding ceremony."

This is what the Hitching Post claims to be the difference between marrying at the Hitching Post vs. the Courthouse (Yet, the Hitching Post says the position of JP was eliminated in the state. ??):

"We strive to make your wedding experience memorable and personal for you. At the Hitching Post, ordained ministers will marry you using a traditional, religious ceremony. You are also able to choose which themed room you would like to have your ceremony in.

"After your marriage, we encourage our guests to come back and visit. Couples come back to show their children where they were married and some couples will return with their children when their children are ready to be married. We have even had some grandchildren of couples decide to make the Hitching Post where they would start their married life together, making it a family tradition.

"We are open six days a week and often available on Sundays and holidays. Please contact us to schedule a reservation. 

Pricing:
  • Monday – Thursday 9:00AM -5:00PM $92.00
  • Friday – Saturday 9:00AM -5:00PM $102.00
  • Holidays, after hours, Sundays – fees vary slightly
  • Gratuity to minister accepted

And beliefs?

"The Hitching Post specializes in small, short, intimate, and private weddings for couples who desire a traditional Christian wedding ceremony. We believe that every wedding is special and realize how important this day is to those who walk through our doors. 

"At one time Justice of the Peace officers performed the weddings at The Hitching Post until the position of JP was eliminated in the state. Weddings are now done by ministers at the Hitching Post 6 days a week plus many couples have opted to have their wedding ceremonies at other locations such as by the Lake, Local Parks, on Boats, families homes, Farragut State Park, (formerly Naval Station), Spokane, ski resorts, the mountains, on horseback, hot air balloon, roller coaster rides, etc. where we provide ministers for them. We also provide ministers to perform weddings done in other states when that is requested."

My Take

Any couple getting married -- straight or homosexual -- has the same basic rights in Idaho. Any credible, religious nonprofit church in the state has rights, too. However, the Knapps' Hitching Post Wedding Chapel looks and smells like a business, and it appears their claim of being upright, morally responsible Christians pastors smells fishy. And, as Judge Judy, says, "If it seems unbelievable, it usually is."

With the addition of Idaho, there are 26 other states that allow same-sex marriage. Opposition there has been strong. Consider the words of Idaho Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter about the Supreme Court's decision to uphold these marriages: 

"I disagree with the court's conclusion, which negates the 2006 vote of the people of Idaho, is contrary to the values of most Idahoans, and undermines fundamental states' rights. But we are a nation of laws. Idaho now should proceed with civility and in an orderly manner to comply with any forthcoming order from the 9th Circuit."

I fail to see a reason why any couple could not employ the business of the Hitching Post Wedding Chapel to tie their vows and expect equality. Laws and enforcement insure people follow proper procedures in the locales in which they have been enacted. If you are a Spud or a Spudette from Idaho, you have the right to get married, and I think the Hitching Post, as a marriage business, has the duty to serve the potatoes, no matter their sexual orientation.


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