Natural Marriage in Idaho: Give It Arrest!
If homosexuals get their way, Pastor Donald Knapp won’t be behind the pulpit -- he’ll be behind bars. That’s the stunning development in Idaho, where the day liberals promised would never come is already here. Two ministers -- a husband and wife team -- have been told by their city government that refusing to “marry” a same-sex couple will send them straight to jail.
After 25 years of owning The Hitching Post wedding chapel, Donald and Evelyn are being faced with a situation neither of them thought possible: being imprisoned for their faith. Like the flood of state amendments steamrolled by activist judges, Idaho’s fell earlier this month. And with it, religious liberty. Fearing the worst, the Knapps reached out to Alliance Defending Freedom, concerned that their chapel would be targeted. Less than a week later, the battle was at their front door.
For Donald and Evelyn, there was never any question what the duo would do. Unapologetically Christian, the husband-and-wife team is overtly religious, marrying couples with faith-driven vows, and even offering marriage sermons on CD to newlyweds. That doesn’t matter to city officials, who had this marriage message for The Hitching Post: Conform or be punished. And not just any punishment, but 180 days in jail and up to $1,000 in fines for every day the ministers refuse to perform the ceremony.
“Right now,” said attorney Jeremy Tedesco, “they are at risk of being prosecuted. The threat of enforcement is more than just credible.” Unlike bakery owner Jack Phillips, who Colorado bullied with similar charges, the Knapps are both ministers. And while their chapel is considered a “religious corporation,” even it isn’t safe from the same-sex “wedding” march that threatens to put the First Amendment asunder.
FRC warned this moment was coming, but even we didn’t expect the government to move this quickly. “The other side insisted this would never happen -- that pastors would not have to perform same-sex marriages,” ADF’s Tedesco told Fox News’s Todd Starnes. “The reality is -- it’s already happening.” Government officials are making it clear that they’ll use their power to punish anyone who opposes the agenda of homosexual activists. It’s a scary turnaround for a nation founded on the same free exercise of religion, which is now punishable by six months in prison. When there are plenty of other options for homosexuals seeking a marriage license, why should they be able to use the power of government to force Christians to participate?
Eugene Volokh, in today’s Washington Post, tries to tackle this Left’s conundrum and agrees that there’s no way around the obvious: somebody’s rights have to give. “Compelling ministers to speak words in ceremonies that they think are immoral is an unconstitutional speech compulsion. Given that the Free Speech Clause bars the government from requiring public school students to say the pledge of allegiance… the government can’t require ministers -- or other private citizens—to speak the words in a ceremony, on pain of either having to close their business or face fines and jail time.”
Remember when President Obama sat down and told ABC News that “churches and other faith institutions are still gonna be able to make determinations about what their sacraments are -- what they recognize”? Neither does he. Or, for that matter, the rest of his party, which is lighting the same-sex unity candle with the same match it’s taking to the Constitution.
Everything’s Bigger in Texas – Including the Push-back!
If anyone understands what Donald and Evelyn are going through, it’s the Houston’s pastors. Like the Knapps, they’ve found themselves on the wrong side of political correctness, and the consequences are a demand for their private communications, their free speech -- or both.
Mayor Annise Parker’s reign of terror over city pastors continues -- despite a head-fake on the subpoena filing late Friday. Instead of sermons, the Mayor is demanding ministers’ “speeches,” along with 17 other forms of private communication from pastors who dare to preach the Bible’s definition of human sexuality. In what one pastor calls “political thuggery,” the city is trying to gag Christians with a message of “you speak up, you pay.” Khanh Huynh, a Vietnamese pastor who was also targeted by the city, said he thought he’d escaped communism when he left Vietnam.
“I never, in my entire wildest dreams thought this would happen to us here in America,” he said on Saturday’s edition of Fox News’s “Huckabee.” Pastor Steve Riggle was adamant about his response. “We are going to stand up and say no,” he insisted. “Religious liberty should be sacred.”
That’s exactly the message we’ll try to convey at I Stand Sunday on November 2 at Steve Riggle’s Grace Community Church in Houston. Together with pastors across the city, we’ll let Houston -- and America -- know that we aren’t giving up the First Amendment without a fight. Join “Duck Dynasty’s” Phil and Alan Robertson, Governor Huckabee, David and Jason Benham, Dr. Ronnie Floyd, Dr. Rick Scarborough, and Fox News’s Todd Starnes, for a watershed moment for religious freedom in America.
Mark your calendar now to join us in Houston on Sunday evening November 2. If you can’t be there, then do the next best thing: register your church or yourself at our website, istandsunday.com, and take a stand for our religious liberty!
A (Brian) Grim Outlook on Religious Liberty
Speaking of religious freedom, Dr. Brian Grim believes it’s good for business -- and this Wednesday, October 22, at noon, he’ll be at FRC headquarters to explain why. Despite the crackdown on Christians here at home, religion is growing and will continue to grow globally, with about 9-in-10 people projected to be affiliated with religion in 2030. At the same time, though, there’s been a dramatic rise in the level of religious restrictions and hostilities (many of which have been highlighted in the Update!).
In 2007, fewer than 30% of countries had high restrictions on freedom of religion or belief, but by 2012, this figure jumped to 43% according to the Pew Research Center. For the past decade, Dr. Grim has led these ambitious global studies of religion.
This week at FRC, he’ll discuss the results of his research that empirically show that religious freedom, when protected by governments and respected by citizens, results in better business and economies. And, at the same time, the research also shows that business respect for and encouragement of religious freedom pays dividends in peace and stability as well as provides benefits to the bottom line. Don’t miss this important event! Click here for details.
** If you’re a regular Update reader, then you know what FRC’s Rob Schwarzwalder means when he says, “Homosexual Marriage: A Watershed Issue for Evangelicals.” Check out his piece on Christian Post today. Also, don’t miss the latest from the Bob Morrison-Ken Blackwell duo in Townhall, “A Thousand Times More Dangerous Than ISIS.”
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.