Idaho Ministers Must Perform Homosexual Weddings Or Go To Jail. In America (UPDATED 10/23/14)

“For profit wedding chapels are in a position now where last week the ban would have prevented them from performing gay marriages, this week gay marriages are legal, pending an appeal to the 9th Circuit,” Warren Wilson with the Coeur d’Alene City Attorney’s Office said….

“If you turn away a gay couple, refuse to provide services for them, then in theory you violated our code and you’re looking at a potential misdemeanor citation,” Wilson said.

“…I think that term is broad enough that it would capture (wedding) activity,” city attorney Warren Wilson said.

Similar laws have applied to florists, bakeries and photographers that have refused to work on same-sex weddings in other states, Wilson noted.

“Those have all been addressed in various states and run afoul of state prohibitions similar to this,” he said. “I would think that the Hitching Post would probably be considered a place of public accommodation that would be subject to the ordinance.”

Eugene Volokh

After all, protecting religious liberty and the rights of conscience does not infringe on anyone’s sexual freedoms. No one has a right to have the government force a particular minister to marry them. Some citizens may conclude that they cannot in good conscience participate in same-sex ceremonies, from priests and pastors to bakers and florists. They should not be forced to choose between strongly held religious beliefs and their livelihood.

Ryan Anderson

UPDATE 10/20/14

The Knapps are filing suit against the city.

UPDATE 10/21/14

Jonathan Turley says that the Knapps have a case.

UPDATE 10/23/14

The City of Coeur d’Alene has apparently decided that the Knapps need not perform homosexual weddings (or face prosecution).

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  1. OK, your post title says “Ministers”, but the lead-off quote says “For profit wedding chapels…”, and then digging into the links shows that this story has nothing to do with ministers, but rather for profit wedding chapels, one of which happens to be a business owned and operated by a married couple of ministers. Obviously, the “solution” to this problem is to sell or close the wedding chapel business, and the ministers would presumably remain free to selectively marry only those whom they deem fit for marriage, in their church.

    Now, pastors are usually “government-ordained” administrators of the civil contract of marriage. Will the government eventually come after them and deny/revoke marriage licenses for pastors who refuse to do gay weddings? Probably. But this is not it.

    And even when they do, so be it. For the sake of conscience, pastors can stop doing weddings altogether, and close their church facilities for all kinds of weddings as well. There’s no reason Christians can’t get married at the justice of the peace, or in a public park, or in a hotel ballroom, etc. Marriage is not a sacrament, so there’s no biblical necessity or precedent for pastors or churches to be involved.

    See also Ryan Guyer’s short remarks here (audio/mp3)

    • Ruben,

      I’m not prepared to give up my constitutional liberties. Yes, that these folks operate a business adds a layer of ambiguity but it is also the case that they are ordained ministers. As Volokh notes, if we say nothing when a city comes after them, then more traditional, ecclesiastical ministers are next:

      Note that, if the law can be applied against the Knapps, public accommodation laws could also equally be applied to ministers who provide freelance officiating services in exchange for money. The particular Coeur d’Alene ordinance might not apply there, since it covers only “place[s],” and that might be limited to brick-and-mortar establishments; but similar ordinances in other places cover any “establishment,” and if a wedding photography service is an “establishment” then a minister who routinely takes officiating commissions would be covered as well. And the logic of any rejection of the Knapp’s Free Speech Clause claims and Idaho RFRA claims would apply just as much to the itinerant officiant as to the one who has his own chapel.

    • Well (as I said), I got no problems if traditional ecclesiastical ministers are forbidden to officiate weddings. God didn’t put that in their job description.

      • The Church Order of the URCs says:

        Article 48
        Scripture teaches that marriage is designed to be a lifelong, monogamous covenantal union between one man and one woman. Consistories shall instruct and admonish those under their spiritual care who are considering marriage to marry in the Lord. Christian marriages shall be solemnized with appropriate admonitions, promises, and prayers, under the regulation of the Consistory, with the use of the appropriate liturgical form. Ministers shall not solemnize marriages that conflict with the Word of God.

        Article 49
        A Christian funeral is neither a service of corporate worship nor subject to ecclesiastical government, but is a family matter, and should be conducted accordingly.

        Article 50
        The Consistory shall maintain accurate membership records which include names and dates of baptisms, professions of faith, marriages and deaths of members of the congregation.

        The PCA BCO says:

        CHAPTER 59
        The Solemnization of Marriage
        59-1. Marriage is a divine institution though not a sacrament, nor peculiar to the Church of Christ. It is proper that every commonwealth, for the good of society, make laws to regulate marriage, which all citizens are bound to obey insofar as they do not transgress the laws of God (Acts 5:29).
        59-2. Christians should marry in the Lord; therefore it is fit that their marriage be solemnized by a lawful minister, that special instruction be given them, and suitable prayers offered, when they enter into this relation.
        59-3. Marriage is to be between one man and one woman, in accordance with the Word of God.
        59-4. The parties should be of such years of discretion as to be capable of making their own choice; and if they be under age, or live with their parents, the consent of the parents or others, under whose care they are, should be previously obtained, and well certified to the minister before he proceeds to solemnize the marriage.
        59-5. Parents should neither compel their children to marry contrary to their inclinations, nor deny their consent without just and important reasons.
        59-6. Marriage is of a public nature. The welfare of civil society, the happiness of families, and the credit of Christianity, are deeply interested in it. Therefore, the purpose of marriage should be sufficiently published a proper time previously to the solemnization to it. It is enjoined on all ministers to be careful that, in this matter, they obey the laws of the community to the extent that those laws do not transgress the laws of God as interpreted by the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church in America; and that they may not destroy the peace and comfort of families, ministers should be assured that, with respect to the parties applying to them, no just objections lie against their marriage.
        59-7. The minister should keep a proper register of the names of all persons whom he marries, and of the time of their marriage, for the perusal of all whom it may concern.

    • There are ministers of churches already being supeoned to deliver their sermons on gay marriage (an oxymoron) and there is a case in Britain where a minister is being offered jail or to perform a same sex marriage. To ignore the first steps, really we are multiple steps is to either be naive or to be complicit. Time to call a spade a spade. I will say that when the church made a deal with the devil in the form of the state for tax exemption, we gave up our duty to the word of God.

  2. “There’s no reason Christians can’t get married at the justice of the peace, or in a public park, or in a hotel ballroom, etc. Marriage is not a sacrament, so there’s no biblical necessity or precedent for pastors or churches to be involved.”


    And I don’t understand why a gay couple (who hate God’s clearly-defined marriage ordinance) would want to be married by a minister who believes opposite about said biblical marriage ordinance.

    • “And I don’t understand why a gay couple (who hate God’s clearly-defined marriage ordinance) would want to be married by a minister who believes opposite about said biblical marriage ordinance.”

      Because that minister, licensed by the state to perform marriages, is required by the state to file a certificate of marriage with the state, making that union official according to the state and granting the happy couple all of the benefits of state-sanctioned marriage – tax benefits, legal contract benefits, etc. – and also the social benefit of being able to say “we are married” (I.e. our relationship is normal and in no way sinful), which is what they want. They don’t care what the minister (who can grant them the secular state’s certificate) believes. They want the certificate and all that it implies, both legally and socially.

  3. Compare and contrast.

    Situation one: pastors are not allowed to officiate any weddings (which the bible does not require them to do).

    Situation two: citizens are not allowed to consume alcohol (which the bible does not require them to do, except arguably for the Lord’s Supper).

    I would say the Christian is required to celebrate the Lord’s Supper with wine, otherwise he is required to submit to the unjust, overreaching civil law.

  4. The current federal administration’s use of the phrase “freedom of worship” rather than the constitutional “freedom of religion” seems to be working its way through the culture. The squeeze is on, not so slowly any more, to restrict religion to purely “religious” activities inside the walls of the church. The list of “religious” activities within the church itself always gets smaller, though.(Exempt from scrutiny, of course, are certain churches who actively support a particular political party and its candidates. They always get a pass.)

  5. Hmmm. Looks to me like the Volokhster might be toning it down a bit and hedging his bets. Free speech and hatespeech cannot coexist constitutionally and that’s supposed to be his specialty. Previously, though the archives seem to have been deleted, the VC was adamant about informing us of the latest and greatest milestones in achieving special marital rights for the lesbian and sodomite set. And the pink nazis were out in full force in the comments section.

  6. Christian,

    I understand the legal part but my point was why wouldn’t the couple want to make it “easier” by getting married by a “minister” who believes what they believe. RubeRad nailed it: “Only one reason: to make a stink and force a court case.”

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