Courtroom interior_newWritten by Don Byrd

Two wedding chapel owners in Couer d’Alene, Idaho claim a local ordinance barring them from denying service to same-sex couples violates their religious freedom rights. Donald and Evelyn Knapp filed suit Friday, saying they are under threat of prosecution if they refuse to perform same-sex marriages at their business, the Hitching Post. Religious entities are exempt from the law, and the Knapps argue their business should qualify for the exemption.

The Spokesman-Review reports:

In May city attorney Warren Wilson told The Spokesman-Review that The Hitching Post, which is a for-profit business, likely would be required to follow the ordinance.

According to the lawsuit, a man called the business Friday to ask about a same-sex wedding ceremony and was turned down. The Knapps are now asking for a temporary restraining order against the city to stop it from enforcing the ordinance. Violation of the ordinance is a misdemeanor punishable by fines and jail time.

“The Knapps are thus under a constant, coercive and substantial threat to violate their religious beliefs due to the risk that they will incur the penalties of jail time and criminal fines for declining to speak a message and perform a wedding service that contradicts their religious beliefs and ministerial vows,” the suit reads.

Worth your time is a thoughtful post on this issue by R.R. Reno at his First Things. Reno says the Knapps may have a “legitimate claim to religious freedom,” but “[I]t’s not the same as requiring a church to perform same-sex weddings.”

You can read the complaint here.