Update On “The Hitching Post,” The For-Profit Chapel Being Required To Hold Same-Sex Weddings

Emily Litella

“Never mind!”

From NPR in Boise:

The city of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, says the Hitching Post, a for-profit wedding chapel owned by two ministers, doesn’t have to perform same-sex marriages.The city has been embroiled in controversy ever since the owners of the Hitching Post sued the city. They say a city anti-discrimination law threatened to force them to marry same-sex couples now that gay marriage is legal in Idaho…Initially, the city said its anti-discrimination law did apply to the Hitching Post, since it is a commercial business. Earlier this week, Coeur d’Alene city attorney Mike Gridley sent a letter to the Knapps’ attorneys at the Alliance Defending Freedom saying the Hitching Post would have to become a not-for-profit to be exempt.

But Gridley said after further review, he determined the ordinance doesn’t specify non-profit or for-profit. “After we’ve looked at this some more, we have come to the conclusion they would be exempt from our ordinance because they are a religious corporation,” Gridley explained.

…Leo Morales of the ACLU of Idaho said the exemption makes sense as long as the Hitching Post primarily performs religious ceremonies. “However, if they do non-religious ceremonies as well, they would be violating the anti-discrimination ordinance,” Morales said. “It’s the religious activity that’s being protected.”

…The group that helped create Coeur d’Alene’s anti-discrimination ordinance says the Hitching Post shouldn’t have to perform same-sex marriages. The Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations says in a letter to the mayor and city council that the Knapps fall under the religious exemption in the law.

In other words, the result is as I said it would be, and as Professor Volokh opined that it should be.

The ethical thing, of course, would be for the Knapps to treat same sex couples as the loving human beings they are and marry them like they do any other loving couples. But when it comes to administering a religious ceremony, the State cannot force the Knapps to do what their beliefs don’t permit. Meanwhile, that’s some legal talent they are hiring in Idaho. “But Gridley said after further review, he determined the ordinance doesn’t specify non-profit or for-profit.” Upon further review? I’d think the city’s attorney would actually read the applicable statute before threatening a business and its owners without cause.

Oh, Mike? Upon further review, the Constitution doesn’t specify non-profit or for-profit either. But thanks for causing a thoroughly unnecessary controversy based on knee-jerk political correctness and sloppiness. Unless… you knew your theory was garbage all along, and were trying to bluff the Knapps into doing what you felt was the right thing, and their constitutionally guaranteed rights be damned. You wouldn’t do that, would you? I hope not. It would be unethical.


9 thoughts on “Update On “The Hitching Post,” The For-Profit Chapel Being Required To Hold Same-Sex Weddings

  1. They changed their minds since then. When they performed Hindu,,Civil, Jewish and Catholic services using outside officiants, they were fine with it.

    Now no longer. They’ve changed what was a public accommodation to a religious-based business.

    At the risk of being tediously repetitious, this was never about forcing speech.

    “”The city of Coeur d’Alene has been contacted by a huge volume of people inquiring about our anti-discrimination ordinance, passed in 2013 by the City Council. These contacts have been a reaction to a lawsuit filed by the owners of a local marriage chapel, the Hitching Post, which claims the city has taken inappropriate action against their business for their decision to not perform same-sex marriages. In fact, the city has received no complaints about the Hitching Post and we have never threatened them. If we did get a complaint we would investigate it like any other complaint to determine if there is a legitimate violation of a city code. If we investigate it and determine that they fall within our exemption for religious corporations, we would not pursue it further because they would be exempt.”

    Further, City of Coeur d’Alene spokesperson Keith Erickson made clear that the City has “never threatened to jail them, or take legal action of any kind.”

    • Deceit though. The statements to the media ARE a threat, just an unofficial one. If a city attorney makes public statements that I’m violating the law, I will and should take that as a threat.

    • “When they performed Hindu,,Civil, Jewish and Catholic services using outside officiants, they were fine with it.” And that’s the previous case discussed, the farm renting out their property for weddings and receptions. Obviously if the issue is outside officiants, there is no speech issue. If the home team is the only one doing the ceremonies, there is a speech issue if the state tries to order them what to say.

  2. According to the Alliance Defending Freedom

    The Knapps’ attorney said the city is about to be tested on its approach. He said the Knapps have been contacted by the police about a complaint filed on Thursday by a same-sex couple who were turned away at the Old West themed chapel.

    So we have the council saying one thing, the ADF saying another. It will be interesting to see who’s lying. The police should be able to produce records about the complaint that no-one but the ADF seems to know about. That is, if the NPR story is correct.

    There’s no mention of any such complaint in Case 2:14-cv-00441-REB

    The only mention is this Knapp Et Al v. City of Coeur D’Alene dated 10/17/14

    264. On October 17, 2014, a prospective customer called and asked if The Hitching Post would perform a same-sex wedding ceremony. In accordance with their sincerely held religious convictions and ministerial vows, Mrs. Knapp politely responded that The Hitching Post does not perform same-sex wedding ceremonies because it is a religious organization. She also informed the individual that the county clerk’s office could provide him a list of places where he could get married. The Knapps do not intend to change this decision.

    That is, an enquiry made the same day as the legal action commenced.

    Only the Hitching Post owners and employees may perform wedding ceremonies at the Hitching Post Chapel and other locations scheduled by the Hitching Post. Outside ministers may not perform wedding ceremonies at the Hitching Post Chapel or other locations scheduled by the Hitching Post. Brides and grooms may not invite outside ministers to perform such ceremonies. Outside ministers may come and stand alongside the Hitching Post owner or employee who performs the wedding ceremony. But only the Hitching Post owner or employee may perform the ceremony.

    However the website as of 10/07/14 said

    We also perform wedding ceremonies for other faiths as well as civil weddings“.

    This issue appears key:

    333.The Knapps also cannot effectively plan their business because of this imminent threat.
    334.The Knapps lease to use the Hitching Post Wedding Chapel ends October 31, 2014.
    335.If they sign a lease extension and Coeur d’Alene enforces Ordinance §9.56 against them, the Knapps will have to stop performing wedding ceremonies and will be stuck paying their lease without any source of income to do so. They cannot afford this.
    336.But if they do not sign a lease extension in the next few weeks, the Knapps will lose an extremely valuable location for their business and suffer the loss of their primary income source.

    Under those circumstances, an official and formal declaration by the council that as a religious business (now, regardless of what they may have been on the 7th) they are exempt from the provisions of Ordinance §9.56 is required. If the council refuses, then a court determination is appropriate.If the council gives such a letter, then attempts to renig, then there may be cause for an action in tort, as the Knapps relied on this advice before renewing the lease..

    IANAL of course. You are.

    Should this go to court, both parties would appear to be in violent agreement. The misleading advice apparently formerly given off-the-cuff regarding the business’s former status is irrelevant. In view of statements by the council based on the new status, to continue the action would be a WOFTAM.

  3. Observations

    Check with primary sources any reports issued by biased parties, such as the ADF and various LGBT blogs.

    The former apparently “gilded the lily” by mentioning a “police complaint”.

    The latter, regarding the nugatory nature of the penalty – $100 per incident, not per day – omitted this (according to the ADF)

    276. The Ordinance provides that a “violation of this chapter is a misdemeanor, punishable as provided in title 1, chapter 1.28 of this code.”
    277.Chapter 1.28 states that a misdemeanor is punishable “by a fine of not more than one thousand dollars ($1,000.00), or by imprisonment not to exceed one hundred eighty (180) days, or by both such fine and imprisonment.”
    278.Chapter 1.28 further provides that “[e]ach such person is guilty of a separate offense or liable to a separate penalty for each and every day during any portion of which any violation of any provision of the ordinances of the city is committed, continued or permitted by any such person, and he shall be punished accordingly.”
    279.Accordingly, the Knapps commit a separate and distinct misdemeanor each day they continue follow their religious beliefs and decline to perform a requested same-sex wedding ceremony.

    The code is at http://www.sterlingcodifiers.com/codebook/index.php?book_id=603

    9.56.040: EXCEPTIONS:

    A. Notwithstanding any other provision herein, nothing in this chapter is intended to alter or abridge other rights, protections, or privileges secured under state and/or federal law. This chapter shall be construed and applied in a manner consistent with first amendment jurisprudence regarding the freedom of speech and exercise of religion.

    B. This chapter does not apply to:

    1. Religious corporations, associations, educational institutions, or societies.

    OK, I think that’s enough. I’m in Canberra, Australia, not Idaho. I’m a sometime Rocket Scientist and Academic in Engineering,Pure Maths, Computer Science, and lately, Chemistry and Quantum Physics.

    I am not a lawyer. May I please leave the primary sources in the hands of someone who actually knows what they’re talking about.

    Editorial –

    The ADF has a long record of mendacity.

    The Knapps were either guilty of false advertising in the past, or lying by omission now.

    That’s moot, they’ve now arranged affairs so they’re immune under 9.56.040.B.1 even if they weren’t before (and I’d argue strongly that unless their employee manual had been radically revised recently) (as I suspect it has), and unless they were falsely advertising, they always were a de facto religious corporation

    The complaint is ridiculously overbroad, asking for rulings completely beyond the scope of the issue, and rent-seeking by the ambulance chasers of the ADF.

    The Knapps were merely being prudent initiating this “pre-emptive strike” because of the lease renewal issue.

    If I were a judge looking at the case, I’d say “Both sides agree the business is Immune under 9.56.040.B.1. This is a waste of court time. Costs to defendants as there was no complaint thus no standing despite the lease renewal issue. Case dismissed.”
    Or words to that effect.

    Though I’d more likely recuse myself on the grounds of perceived bias. The Caesar’s wife principle.

    • This is all good. My notes:

      1. The speech issue that Volokh puts first among his objections and that I think is more important than the religious freedom issue because it is more generally at issue is never dealt with in the matter’s resolution. Too bad.

      2. If the ACLU isn’t going to do its job, and in fact take the wrong side of a case like this, we should be grateful for the ADF, warts and all…

      3. Especially when, as I increasingly suspect, government authorities unethically and illegally issue threats they know are bullshit, to bend citizens to their ideological will, or to make a powerful constituency happy.

      4….which justifies, in my view, the overbroad complaint. If your adversary is going to cheat, you might as well raise all the way you can think of that they might cheat.

      5. The primary source experts are supposed to be government law enforcement officials. They willfully ignored 9.56.040, which is pretty big tamale. I doubt any good judge would rule as you suggest, since the city attorney issued repeated warning based on air. Citizens have a good reason not to wait until a growling state attack dog actually attacks, but to get the anti-pet spray and use it.

      6. Yes, the Knapps are assholes and bigots. The Constitution protects assholes and bigots from having forced speech required of them (indoctrination camps, for example) and being forced to knuckle under to those offended at their existence in the world. Thank goodness for that, because you never know when the culture will try to turn you into an asshole.

      7. The focus on whether they are “sincere” as a religious corporation is ridiculous when the issue is religious belief. If the law gives such corporations certain rights and privileges, and they can legally qualify for them, then they should be able to seek the status.

  4. Who’s a bigger asshole, the asshole with objectionable views according to some, or the asshole who abuses governmental power to crush views he finds objectionable? Sorry, there’s no way to characterize this attempt to bully based on a legal challenge that they should have known would not stand up as anything other than bullying. For standing up to bullying alone, three cheers for the Knapp’s. Three more for showing the ahem, tide has found its limits. A bullying liberalism that says that a Nativity scene in the public square is illegal but that a gay couple can force their way into your chapel and demand you bless their union under pain of the government shutting you down is so far from liberalism as to merit being called fascism.

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