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Knapp v. City of Coeur d’Alene

Knapp v. City of Coeur d’Alene

Last Updated: 4/22/2021

Overview

What's at stake

  • The freedom to live consistently with one’s religious beliefs
  • The freedom of ministers to decline to officiate same-sex weddings that violate their religious beliefs

Summary

Donald and Evelyn Knapp have been happily married for 47 years. They are both ordained Christian ministers who believe that biblical marriage is good for society. The Knapps believe that God has called them to promote the welfare of their community by uniting others in marriage – in fact, they have officiated thousands of weddings and seen countless lives blessed through the good of marriage.

It was this sense of calling that inspired the Knapps to begin operating the Hitching Post Wedding Chapel in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, in 1989. The purpose of the wedding chapel is “to help people create, celebrate, and build lifetime monogamous, one-man one-woman marriages as defined by the Holy Bible.” Because their religious beliefs affect everything they do, the Knapps only perform wedding ceremonies consistent with their religious beliefs.

In 2013, Coeur d’Alene adopted an ordinance that prohibits a “public accommodation” from denying “any person because of sexual orientation and/or gender identity/expression, the full enjoyment of any of the accommodations, advantages, facilities or privileges of any place of public resort, accommodation, assemblage, or amusement.” Each day and each occurrence that a person is in violation of the ordinance constitutes a separate misdemeanor offense punishable “by a fine of not more than one thousand dollars ($1000.00), or by imprisonment not to exceed one hundred eighty (180) days, or by both such fine and imprisonment.”

On May 13, 2014, a district court ruled against Idaho’s laws affirming marriage and required that marriage licenses be issued to same-sex couples.  Shortly thereafter, City officials in Coeur d’Alene made multiple public statements indicating that the Hitching Post Wedding Chapel was a public accommodation and would be subject to the ordinance if its ministers declined to perform a same-sex wedding. Don Knapp learned of these statements, became deeply concerned, and called the City on two separate occasions to confirm whether The Hitching Post would violate the ordinance if they declined to perform same-sex wedding ceremonies.  The City responded both times that they were subject to the ordinance and its penalties.  The district court’s order had been on hold for several months, but on October 7, 2014, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling and Idaho was ordered to begin issuing same-sex marriage licenses on October 15, 2014.

Because the city threatened the Knapps with application of the law and because the Knapps will not violate their religious beliefs, the Knapps faced an impossible choice: suffer escalating fines and jail time for following their religious beliefs and ordination vows or forsake their religious beliefs and ordination vows and perform same-sex wedding ceremonies.

Because of the great threat to the Knapps’ religious freedom, Alliance Defending Freedom filed a lawsuit against the city.

The City initially responded to the lawsuit by confirming that the Knapps were subject to the ordinance because they ran a for-profit business.  After a few days of intense public outcry and media scrutiny, however, the city changed its position and said that it will not apply the policy against the Hitching Post.  But the city has not made any change to the law to protect the Knapps or other owners of for-profit businesses who want to live and work consistently with their religious beliefs; therefore, the lawsuit is ongoing. 

Our role in this case

Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys represent Donald and Evelyn Knapp and filed a federal lawsuit on their behalf. The case is ongoing. 

Resources

Legal Documents

Court
Title
Date
{"docs": [{"Court": "TrialCourt", "Title": "Complaint", "FileName": "https://adflegal.blob.core.windows.net/mainsite-new/docs/default-source/documents/legal-documents/knapp-v.-city-of-coeur-d-alene/knapp-v-city-of-coeur-d-alene---complaint.pdf", "Date": "10/17/2014 3:13:44 PM"}, {"Court": "TrialCourt", "Title": "Decision on motion to dismiss", "FileName": "https://adflegal.blob.core.windows.net/mainsite-new/docs/default-source/documents/legal-documents/knapp-v.-city-of-coeur-d-alene/knapp-v-city-of-coeur-d-alene---decision-on-motion-to-dismiss.pdf", "Date": "3/25/2016 3:13:44 PM"}, {"Court": "TrialCourt", "Title": "Motion and brief for temporary restraining order", "FileName": "https://adflegal.blob.core.windows.net/mainsite-new/docs/default-source/documents/legal-documents/knapp-v.-city-of-coeur-d-alene/knapp-v-city-of-coeur-d-alene---motion-and-brief-for-temporary-restraining-order.pdf", "Date": "10/17/2014 3:13:44 PM"}]}

Biographies

Matt Sharp

Senior Counsel, State Government Relations National Director

Matt Sharp serves as senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, where he directs the Center for Legislative Advocacy.

Jeremy Tedesco

Senior Counsel, Senior Vice President of Corporate Engagement

Jeremy Tedesco serves as senior counsel and senior vice president of communications for Alliance Defending Freedom.

Jonathan Scruggs

Senior Counsel, Director of the Center for Conscience Initiatives

Jonathan Scruggs serves as senior counsel and director of the Center for Conscience Initiatives with Alliance Defending Freedom.

Kevin Theriot

Senior Counsel

Kevin Theriot serves as senior counsel and vice president of the Center for Life with Alliance Defending Freedom


Additional Resources

 

Photo: Donald and Evelyn Knapp

Photo: Hitching Post Wedding Chapel

Photo: Hitching Post Wedding Chapel in its current location in the 1950s

Photo: Hitching Post Wedding Chapel before it moved to its present location

 
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