Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Idaho Chapel Stretches Truth about Fines & Arrests over Gay Wedding Refusals

Remember the Hitching Post Lakeside Chapel that recently filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Coeur d'Arlene with the assistance of Alliance Defending Freedom? The commercial wedding chapel is suing over a public nondiscrimination ordinance that bars local businesses from discriminating against customers on the basis of sexual orientation -- as well as race, gender, religion, etc. The chapel's owners claimed that they were contacted by a gay person for a wedding. They say they turned away that customer and now the city is going to fine them out of assistance and send them to jail.

Only problem? None of this actually seems to have happened:
City officials in Coeur d'Alene say they have not received any formal complaints that the Hitching Post wedding chapel has violated the city's anti-discrimination ordinance by refusing to solemnize same-sex marriages...

In response to the lawsuit, the city released a copy of a letter City Attorney Mike Gridley sent Monday to David A. Cortman, senior legal counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, an Arizona-based, conservative Christian "legal ministry." The ADF is representing the Knapps in their lawsuit. In the letter, Gridley confirmed the details of a telephone conversation he says he had Monday with Cortman.

Gridley wrote that his office has responded in the past to questions from the Knapps about their business - registered as a for-profit limited liability company with the Idaho Secretary of State's office. He admitted that the Knapps were told by his office that if a complaint was filed against them for refusing to provide service to gay individuals seeking to marry, they would likely be in violation of the city's ordinance, based on their corporate status. Violation of the anti-discrimination law is a misdemeanor with a fine as steep as $1,000, and as long as six months in jail

Gridley also noted that on Oct. 6, the Knapps filed an LLC operating agreement with the state indicating that the Hitching Post is a "religious organization." He told the Knapps' attorney in the letter that if the Knapps are "truly operating a not-for-profit religious corporation" they would be specifically exempted from the city ordinance...
Gridley wrote that the city will not prosecute legitimate nonprofit religious corporations, associations, educational institutions, or societies or other exempt organizations or anyone else as a result of their lawful exercise of their First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and religion.

In addition to exempting those groups, Gridley wrote that the anti-discrimination ordinance states that it "shall be construed and applied in a manner consistent with First Amendment jurisprudence regarding the freedom of speech and exercise of religion."

When contacted by The Press for comment, Don Knapp said the Hitching Post is not operating as a not-for-profit religious corporation. He also said he does not know ADF Attorney David Cortman.
To summarize, nobody has complained to the city of Coeur d'Arlene about being discriminated against by the Hitching Post. A religious law firm filed has filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of the wedding chapel, but the wedding chapel denies any knowledge of this. They apparently filed to become a non-profit religious organization two weeks ago, but now deny that they are operating as a religious non-profit.

Oh, and it looks like they have scrubbed their website to remove evidence that they have solicited by religious AND non-religious weddings. You really need to check out this link.

No comments: