ACLU Won’t Pursue Legal Action Against Idaho Wedding Chapel, Says It Provides Religious Services

The ACLU has declined to pursue legal action against The Hitching Post wedding chapel in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho because the chapel only provides religious services.

Donald and Evelyn Knapp, owners of the Hitching Post Lakeside Chapel, were facing possible jail time and enormous fines that would have put them out of business because they do not offer same sex wedding services at their facility. The Knapps are ordained ministers in the International Church of the Four Square Gospel. The denomination’s teaching holds that marriage is between a man and a woman.

Leo Morales, ACLU Idaho’s interim director said Thursday that the organization would reconsider the decision not to sue “if the chapel were to offer secular services, such as providing flowers or cakes, or holding nonreligious ceremonies.”

While I am glad that the ACLU has decided not to pursue this case, Mr Morales’ caveats constitute an attempt to impose an undue limitation of First Amendment rights by threat of lawsuit. Are churches going to be forced to forgo all sales on their premises or the use of their facilities for “non-religious” purposes or face lawsuits trying to shut them down?

Does this mean that churches who open their buildings for AA meetings or hold bake sales to raise money for a new gym are running the risk of being drug into court?

For that matter, what about allowing church buildings to be used as polling places? Do you want to raise your taxes to build government facilities for elections in every precinct in this country? Or maybe, in small towns, we could just put the voting booths out in a field. I am quite certain that a failure to provide sufficient and accessible polling places constitutes a violation of the core Constitutional right of this nation: To engage in free elections.

I’m glad that the ACLU actually did something that appears to be in support of the First Amendment, but I’m extremely leery of them or any other organization using the threat of lawsuit to limit First Amendment rights in the way Mr Morales seemed to be attempting to do.

Meanwhile, Jeremy Tedesco, senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, the legal firm defending the Knapps, says that the ACLU is “terrified … that the ordinance has been used in exactly the way we said it would be. The ACLU wants nothing to do with the worst possible set of facts that could result from one of these ordinances.” The ordinance Mr Tedesco is referring to is the non-discrimination ordinance by which the Knapps were being threatened.

From The Blaze:

The American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho announced Thursday that it will not wage a legal challenge against Hitching Post Wedding Chapel, the for-profit business in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, that could be in violation of a local non-discrimination ordinance for its ardent refusal to marry same-sex couples.

Leo Morales, the ACLU’s interim executive director, said that chapel owners Donald and Evelyn Knapp — both ordained ministers — recently changed their business status to become a “religious corporation,” according to the Associated Press.

Morales made these comments during a press conference Thursday, noting that the newdesignation would likely exempt the family from performing gay marriage ceremonies so long as Hitching Post — which will remain a for-profit business — exclusively performs faith-based weddings.

“As long as a entity is conducting a religious activity, that is accepted. That should be accepted under the nondiscrimination law in Coeur d’Alene,” Morales told TheBlaze Friday. “Once that entity begins to offer other services that are secular services, we believe it then falls under the category of public accommodation.”

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