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Eye On Boise

Christian group in Mississippi floods Idaho gov, mayor with protests over supposed arrest threat

A fundamentalist Christian organization in Mississippi is spearheading a protest that’s brought thousands of emails and phone calls to Gov. Butch Otter’s office and Coeur d’Alene Mayor Steve Widmyer’s office today, claiming the city is planning to arrest two ministers if they refuse to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies. It’s not true, but that hasn’t stopped the calls and emails.

“None of these people understand that we have an exemption,” Widmyer told S-R reporter Scott Maben today; you can read Maben’s full report here at spokesman.com. The owners of the Hitching Post wedding chapel in Coeur d’Alene, a for-profit business, said earlier this year that they’d shut down rather than perform wedding ceremonies for gay couples, as owners Donald and Evelyn Knapp, who are ordained ministers, oppose such ceremonies on religious grounds.

On Friday, the Alliance Defending Freedom in Lawrenceville, Ga., filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Coeur d'Alene on behalf of the Knapps, anticipating that now that same-sex marriage is legal in Idaho, the city would use its anti-discrimination ordinance to force the chapel to perform same-sex weddings. Yesterday, city attorney Michael Gridley said in a letter to the Knapps' attorneys that the city will not prosecute legitimate nonprofit religious corporations, associations and other organizations exercising First Amendment rights. Gridley, who asked that the Hitching Post drop its suit, pointed out that two weeks ago the business took steps to become a nonprofit religious corporation.

None of that is mentioned in the American Family Association’s post about the case, which states, “Once again, homosexual bullies have targeted Christian-owned businesses in their attempt to silence all opposition to their sinful lifestyle.” The Tupelo, Miss. group today posted a call to action for its members to contact Widmyer and Otter, under the headline, “City threatens to arrest ministers for refusing to marry gays.”



Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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