This is not a post about gay marriage.
This is a post about religious liberty, guaranteed by the Constitution, which is under attack. This is the latest development:
Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, city officials have laid down the law to Christian pastors within their community, telling them bluntly via an ordinance that if they refuse to marry homosexuals, they will face jail time and fines.
The dictate comes on the heels of a legal battle with Donald and Evelyn Knapp, ordained ministers who own the Hitching Post wedding chapel in the city, but who oppose gay marriage, The Daily Caller reported.
The Knapps, who politely told a gay couple that they would not allow them to marry in the Hitching Post chapel, face six months in jail and a fine of $1,000 a day for every day that they refuse to allow a gay wedding in their chapel.
When gay marriage was emerging as an issue, proponents were likely to insist that people who opposed it on religious grounds were not going to be coerced into doing something they found morally objectionable. But that was then; now the city of Coeur d’Alene is saying that the Knapps are in violation of a municipal non-discrimination ordinance.
The Daily Signal sums up what is wrong with the situation in which the Knapps find themselves:
Governmental recognition of same-sex relationships as marriages need not and should not require any third party to recognize a same-sex relationship as a marriage. Government should respect the rights of all citizens. Indeed, a form of government respectful of free association, free contracts, free speech and free exercise of religion should protect citizens’ rights to live according to their beliefs about marriage….
It’s unclear how the city could claim that forcing the Knapps to perform a same-sex wedding is a compelling government interest being pursued in the least restrictive way. There are numerous other venues where a same-sex couple could get married. Indeed, there is a county clerks office directly across the street from the chapel.
States must protect the rights of Americans and the associations they form—both nonprofit and for-profit—to speak and act in the public square in accordance with their beliefs. It is particularly egregious that the city would coerce ordained ministers to celebrate a religious ceremony in their chapel. The Alliance Defending Freedom has filed a motion arguing that this action “violates [the Knapps’s] First and 14th Amendment rights to freedom of speech, the free exercise of religion, substantive due process, and equal protection.”
To put the Knapps' plight into perspective, let me offer an analogy: I happen to belong to a Church that does not perform weddings for divorced people. You may think that’s nuts. Okay, fine. But do you believe that the city government has the right to tell us that this is discriminating and shut down churches? That, in effect, is what the government is doing to the Hitching Post chapel. James Madison would be appalled.