Since we know with one-hundred percent certainty that none of the scare stories about the ramifications of marriage equality told by the Religious Right will ever come to pass, it’s only natural that wingnuts are simply making up stories about anti-religious discrimination in order to further their cause. It’s not like their intended audience is intellectually curious enough to fact-check them, or to even understand how religious freedom works.
All over the religious right news world this week, we are hearing hysterical stories of an Idaho couple, both ordained ministers, being threatened with jail if they don’t officiate same-sex weddings. The most easily led of them are claiming that the Big Gay Left was lying the whole time when they said they would never force churches to officiate gay and lesbian weddings. It’s so boring that the record has to be corrected, but it does.
The couple in question, Don and Lynn Knapp, are indeed both ordained ministers. Remember, please, that Kathy Griffin is also an ordained minister. Elvis impersonators in Las Vegas (who are currently trying to uphold the sanctity of spontaneous drunken nuptials by keeping them gay-free) are ordained ministers. If I was in the mood, I could get ordained on the internet this week. I bring up these sorts of ministers because they have more in common with the Knapps than actual pastors who lead religious congregations. The Knapps run a roadside wedding chapel called The Hitching Post. It is a for-profit corporation, and as such, has to abide by all local laws that apply to for-profit corporations.
David Badash points us toward some of the right-wing stories on the Knapps, who have stated that they are not willing to perform same-sex weddings in their place of business:
A story Monday at the right-wing American News is titled: “City Arrests Pastors For Refusing To Perform Gay Weddings.“
That’s a lie.
A story at what appears to be Herman Cain’s website, is titled, “Idaho city tells pastors: Celebrate gay weddings or face fines, jail time.”
That’s a stretch.
Of course, the Alliance Defending Freedom, the ambulance chasers of anti-gay wingnuts with made-up sob stories, has gotten in on the act:
First, “being forced to shut down their businesses” is stretching the truth massively. If a business owner chooses to shut their business rather than follow the law of the state that licenses them to do business, that’s not “being forced.”
Second, there has not been any complaint filed, as of this writing, against the wedding chapel, known as “The Hitching Post.”
Even the Alliance Defending Freedom seems to be fibbing.
“Two Ministers Ordered To Perform Same-Sex Wedding Face Jail, Fines,” reads an article on the ADF’s own website. That can only be true if indeed the Knapps were “ordered to perform [a] same-sex wedding.” They have not been. Nor do they currently face jail time or fines.
Gosh. It’s almost as if the religious right needed a sensational story and just simply made one up.
The ADF has filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Knapps, but it turns out absolutely none of the things the right is claiming have even remotely happened. Moreover, the Knapps claim they don’t even know these ADF attorneys:
City officials in Coeur d’Alene say they have not received any formal complaints that the Hitching Post wedding chapel has violated the city’s anti-discrimination ordinance by refusing to solemnize same-sex marriages.
A lawsuit filed in federal court Friday on behalf of Don and Lynn Knapp, ordained ministers and owners of the Hitching Post, claims the couple’s constitutional rights to religious freedom are being violated by the city, through the city’s anti-discrimination ordinance, because it compels them to officiate over gay marriages.
News of the lawsuit sparked national headlines over the weekend, primarily from conservative media, claiming that the city is threatening to arrest the Knapps.
“We have never threatened to jail them, or take legal action of any kind,” said city spokesman Keith Erickson.
But if a complaint is received, Erickson said it would be handled the way all such complaints are.
“The city will look into it and take whatever action is necessary,” he said.
In response to the lawsuit, the city released a copy of a letter City Attorney Mike Gridley sent Monday to David A. Cortman, senior legal counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, an Arizona-based, conservative Christian “legal ministry.” The ADF is representing the Knapps in their lawsuit.
Violation of the anti-discrimination law is a misdemeanor with a fine as steep as $1,000, and as long as six months in jail.
Gridley also noted that on Oct. 6, the Knapps filed an LLC operating agreement with the state indicating that the Hitching Post is a “religious organization.” He told the Knapps’ attorney in the letter that if the Knapps are “truly operating a not-for-profit religious corporation” they would be specifically exempted from the city ordinance.
When contacted by The Press for comment, Don Knapp said the Hitching Post is not operating as a not-for-profit religious corporation. He also said he does not know ADF Attorney David Cortman.
That last line sure is a kicker! It’s quite simple: if the Knapps are running a not-for-profit ministry, they are exempt from local nondiscrimination laws. If they are running a for-profit corporation (and they are), they have to abide by them.
Of course, Jeremy Hooper discovered that this couple very recently offered their services for all kinds of weddings — Christian, those of other faiths, non-religious, etc. — but that they mysteriously changed their website to emphasize that they are in business for people who want “traditional Christian” weddings right about the time Idaho was getting marriage equality. I guess that helps along their process of painting themselves as victims.
David Badash sums it up:
So, from start to finish (or, til now, since the religious right sees this as a money-maker) this story has been built on one lie after another.
How utterly typical. As I said above, their intended audience will lap up their lies, but their intended audience shrinks every single day. It’s hard to see how they think this is a winning strategy in the long run.
The Alliance Defending Freedom sums it up in their own way:
Makes you think of some other pastors who’ve been in the news: the “Houston Five,” were subpoenaed by the city to turn over any writings, correspondence, sermons, etc. that talked about homosexuality, gender identity, or the mayor, Annise Parker, who identifies as a lesbian.
Yep, that religious right victimhood story is built on a pile of lies as well. Lies are all they have left.