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News >  Idaho

Christian right group targets Coeur d’Alene law

A fundamentalist Christian organization in Mississippi has spearheaded a protest of Coeur d’Alene’s anti-discrimination ordinance, resulting in thousands of emails and phone calls today to the mayor and to Idaho Gov. Butch Otter’s office. The American Family Association put an “action alert” on its website claiming that the city “is threatening two ordained Christian ministers with arrest if they refuse to perform wedding ceremonies for same-sex couples.” Mayor Steve Widmyer said he had received more than 2,500 identical emails since early this morning, and that his office has been inundated with phone calls as well. Otter’s office said it had received about 5,000 emails and 300 phone calls opposing the city’s ordinance, which was amended last year to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. The barrage of calls and emails misses the point that the city ordinance allows for an exemption for religious organizations, Widmyer said. “None of these people understand that we have an exemption,” he said. The Hitching Post wedding chapel on Friday filed a federal lawsuit against the city in anticipation that the city would use its anti-discrimination policy to force the chapel to perform same-sex weddings over the religious objections of owners Donald and Evelyn Knapp, who are ordained ministers. Same-sex marriage became legal in Idaho last week. On Monday, city attorney Michael Gridley said in a letter to the Knapp’s 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 post, which states, “Once again, homosexual bullies have targeted Christian-owned businesses in their attempt to silence all opposition to their sinful lifestyle.” AFA leaders have made controversial statements about homosexuality over the years, including that homosexuality led to the holocaust and that a “homosexual agenda” will bring about the downfall of America. In November 2010, the Southern Poverty Law Center designated the AFA a “hate group” for its “propagation of known falsehoods and demonizing propaganda.”
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