Criminalizing Innocent Christian Behavior
Where are all the atheist freedom lovers we always hear about? It's time for them to start standing up for religious liberty.
The left and militant gay movement are getting bolder and bolder, and too many Christians are stewing in their apathy.
It seems that with each passing month, this senseless tyranny advances. The latest is that two Christian ministers in Idaho, Donald and Evelyn Knapp, have allegedly been ordered to perform same-sex wedding ceremonies at their chapel or face fines or jail sentences.
This nightmare began Oct. 7, when the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals invalidated Idaho's marriage laws and legalized same-sex marriage in that state, which allowed Idaho county clerks to begin issuing same-sex marriage licenses a week later. On Oct. 17, the Knapps declined a request to perform a same-sex wedding ceremony.
According to a lawsuit filed by the Knapps, the city of Coeur d'Alene is "unconstitutionally coercing" them to perform these weddings at their Hitching Post Wedding Chapel in violation of their religious beliefs, their ordination vows and their consciences. City Ordinance Section 9.56 bars sexual orientation discrimination in public accommodations, which forces the Knapps to choose between betraying their religious convictions and following them and facing up to 180 days in jail and up to $1,000 in fines. According to their complaint, they arguably commit a separate and distinct misdemeanor each day they refuse to perform such ceremonies, with the potential criminal penalties piling up cumulatively.
Let's not brush over this as if it's an immaterial matter to the Knapps or other Christians. Their belief in marriage as between one man and one woman is deeply rooted in their biblical faith — and not just in the Old Testament, as some have speciously argued.
When the Pharisees asked Jesus whether it is lawful to divorce one's wife for any cause, he replied, "Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, 'Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'?" (Matthew 19:4-5). Jesus was quoting Genesis 1:27, lest there be any confusion that there is conflict between the testaments.
The point isn't whether you or I believe this, though I do. It's whether the Knapps believe it — and they do. Their attorneys' complaint clearly states that they "are ordained Christian ministers who believe biblical marriage is good for society. Not only have they been happily married for 47 years, they have married roughly 35,000 couples and seen countless lives blessed through marriage.
Is that good enough for you? For our society? For the city of Coeur d'Alene? For the state of Idaho? For the United States of America?
In the old cases involving Jehovah's Witnesses saluting the flag and young men declaring themselves conscientious objectors to the draft, the question was the sincerity of their beliefs. But increasingly in our society, the sacred and not-so-sacred beliefs of everyone but Christians are protected while Christians are deemed intolerant pariahs who must be forced to conform to behavior repugnant to their beliefs.
Notice who the aggressors are here. Notice who is being intolerant. Why can't same-sex couples who want to marry under the newly minted law find ministers who have no objection to the procedure? Are they seeking the vindication of their rights or trying to force their beliefs on other people to the point of compelling them to deny their own?
Unless we have lost our collective mind and the state of Idaho and federal government have cashiered their respective constitutions, this can't conceivably be a close case. As the complaint states, the ordinance is unconstitutional as applied to the Knapps, as it violates their right to free speech, their free exercise of religion, their right to equal protection under the law, their due process rights and the applicable Idaho statute, the Free Exercise of Religion Protected Act.
Do you remember when many of us warned that the same-sex marriage movement wasn't just about living and letting live, that it would inevitably encroach on the religious liberties of Christians and others who don't agree with this newly created institution? We also warned that this would involve not just societal pressure but the power of state coercion, and we're already here. The left's denials that religious liberty was in jeopardy were as trustworthy as President Obama's assurances that Obamacare would not violate the conscience rights of religious groups — which is to say, not at all.
The sheer acceleration of the left's militancy should horrify people. Just last week, these actions seemed like a realistic but distant threat, but today they're already happening.
Many of us keep warning our fellow Christians (and other freedom lovers) that their apathy and refusal to fight for their rights in the public square is going to bite them where it hurts. Could it be that this, along with other disturbing developments around the country, will wake them up? We shall see.
David Limbaugh is a writer, author and attorney. His latest book is "Jesus on Trial: A Lawyer Affirms the Truth of the Gospel." Follow him on Twitter @davidlimbaugh and his website at www.davidlimbaugh.com. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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