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Missouri Family E-News

November 25, 2014

        
Idaho Pastors Win Battle Over "Gay" Nuptials  

An Idaho pastor and his wife have won a showdown with the city of Couer d'Alene over demands that they preside over same-sex union ceremonies.

Donald and Evelyn Knapp, who are both ordained Pentecostal ministers, have operated The Hitching Post Lakeside Chapel in Coeur d'Alene since 1989.

City officials had previously informed the Knapps that they must perform same-sex "weddings" at their chapel, or face the potential of a $1000 fine for each day of violation and up to 180 days in jail.

City attorneys said the failure by the couple to do so would violate the city's non-discrimination ordinance, which prohibits bias against persons based on so-called "sexual orientation" and "gender identity."

City officials said the Knapps must comply because The Hitching Post is operated as a for-profit corporation.  The Knapps responded by filing suit in federal court arguing that the edict was a violation of their First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion.

The Knapps stated publicly that they would shut down The Hitching Post before they would take actions contrary to what the Bible teaches.

Following a controversy that attracted national headlines, city officials have reversed their position.   They now say that the Knapps' lakeside chapel is exempt from the ordinance because the business is a "religious corporation."

In their lawsuit, the Knapps asserted that they believe that "God created two distinct genders in His Image" and "that God ordained marriage to be between one man and one woman."

The weddings conducted by the Knapps are distinctly Christian in nature.  Scriptures are read during the ceremonies, and couples are provided with sermons on Christian marriage and recommended books on the subject.

Jeremy Tedesco, senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, says the city's treatment of the ministers is a predictable result of the "special rights" laws pushed by homosexual advocates.

"We've been told that pastors would never be forced to perform ceremonies that are completely at odds with their faith.  Yet that's exactly what is happening here, and it is happening this quickly."

Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council, says that the Hitching Post case reveals the true intentions of the so-called "marriage equality" movement.

"Americans are witnesses to the reality that redefining marriage is less about the marriage altar, and more about fundamentally altering the freedoms of the other 98 percent of Americans."

  

Listen to the Broadcast Version of the Jeff City Update online at 
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Springfield Residents 
Win Public Vote on  
"Gay Rights" Bill  
 
Springfield, Missouri residents have wasted no time in their efforts to repeal a new "gay rights" ordinance that would threaten the religious freedom and privacy of Christian families, ministries, and private businesses.

The Springfield City Council passed the ordinance in mid-November which grants special rights to homosexuals and "transgendered" individuals.  The ordinance purports to prohibit discrimination based on so-called "sexual orientation" and "gender identity."

Municipal law in Springfield enables citizens to force a public referendum on a newly enacted city ordinance if a sufficient number of signatures are obtained from city residents.  Opponents needed to collect a total of 1,144 signatures.  Local churches and conservative groups acted quickly to obtain more than twice that number (2831) in less than a month.

The City Clerk's office certified on November 11th that the necessary number of signatures had been validated.  Last night the Springfield City Council decided by default to place the "gay rights" ordinance on the April municipal ballot for a public vote.  The Council had the choice of reversing their previous vote in the face of the strong public backlash, but chose to stand firm in their allegiance to the goals of homosexual rights activists.

Dick Hardy, one of the organizers of the petition drive, says that the ordinance must be repealed to preserve religious freedom in the Springfield community.  "This ordinance will deprive private citizens of their right to exercise their First Amendment freedoms in their business practices.  It also will open the door for biological males, including heterosexual sexual predators, to legally use women's restrooms."

The new ordinance revises the city's Human Rights Code to ban discrimination based on "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" in employment, housing, and public accommodations.  As a result of the changes, Christian ministries, Christian charities, and Christian non-profit organizations could be prosecuted for failing to hire professed homosexuals or "transgendered" individuals, despite their vocal opposition to Biblical standards and Christian doctrine. 

Independent Christian schools could also be subject to lawsuits for failing to hire avowed homosexuals or cross-dressers as teachers in the classroom.  City Council members eliminated language that would have preserved the prerogative of religious organizations to give employment preference to adherents of their own religious denomination.  Springfield is home to several large Christian ministries, including the international headquarters of the Assemblies of God fellowship.

The most sinister portion of the new ordinance is a change to the "public accommodations" section of the Human Rights Code.  This new requirement would make it unlawful to withhold or deny services to any person based on "sexual orientation" or "gender identity."  Similar provisions in state and local laws across the country have been used in punitive fashion to target and harass Christian business owners who have declined to support homosexual ceremonies and "celebrations."

Bakeries, florists, and photographers have been prosecuted and found guilty of "sexual orientation" discrimination for failing to bake cakes for, provide flowers for, or take photographs of same-sex union ceremonies.  Human rights officers and judges have thumbed their nose at the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment by declaring that Christian business owners must forfeit their religious beliefs to engage in public commerce.

The most universally repulsive consequence of the new ordinance is the action by the City Council to turn all public bathrooms in the city into unisex facilities.  Any restroom in a public building or a building open to the public must now be accessible to individuals of the opposite gender.  That means that men can invade women's restrooms merely by asserting that their "gender identity" that day is that of a woman.

While the actions of the Springfield City Council have been oppressive enough, they have yet to rival the police-state tactics employed by the city of Houston, Texas in a similar scenario.  In that community, openly lesbian Mayor Annise Parker* pushed through a similar "gay rights" ordinance.  Citizens revolted in massive fashion in large measure due to the unisex bathroom issue.  They branded the bill the "sexual predator protection act."

Pastors in the city organized efforts to secure signatures to place the issue on a public referendum.  Over 55,000 signatures were collected, well over the 17,000 required.  Yet the city attorney invalidated many of the signatures, claiming there were "technical problems" with the petitions.  Organizers of the petition drive then went to court challenging the arbitrary action of city officials to discredit signatures that had been submitted in accordance with the law.

As the legal process of discovery unfolded in the litigation, attorneys for the city enraged the community by issuing subpoenas for the sermons and private communications of five area pastors.   In addition to sermons and sermon notes, city attorneys sought access to pastors' e-mails, text messages, electronic files, calendars, and "all communications" with members of their congregations on the topics of homosexuality and "gender identity."

Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council, sharply condemned Mayor Parker's abusive actions.  "This is nothing less than political intimidation.  It is about a mayor using her bully pulpit to try to silence the pulpits of Houston."

Christiana Holcomb, Litigation Counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, says that the actions by Houston officials are unprecedented.  "The city council and its attorneys are engaging in an inquisition designed to stifle any critique of its actions.  Political and social commentary is not a crime; it is protected by the First Amendment."

Even Peter Kirsanow, a member of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, came to the defense of Houston area pastors.  "This [action] impairs their right to petition the government, forces them to comply with a patently overbroad discovery request, and singles them out for opprobrium--thus chilling future religiously informed speech." 

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee responded to the controversy by urging pastors all across the country to send Mayor Parker their sermons as well.  The Mayor's office has also received hundreds of Bibles sent by churches across the nation.

Mayor Parker now says that she is no longer seeking copies of the pastor's sermons.  She says she backed down not to "satisfy" the pastors, but because the subpoenas "were no longer serving Houston."  However, the city has reportedly not abandoned its efforts to obtain access to other pastoral communications.

Back here in Springfield, Missouri, we commend the many citizens of the community who responded with diligence and vigilance to the anti-Christian actions of the Springfield City Council.  It is heartening to see a major city in the heart of Missouri's Bible Belt stand up vigorously to the reckless agenda of homosexual rights advocates.

We salute the work of Dick Hardy and Calvin Morrow, who were leaders of the petition drive effort, and ask your continuing prayers for them.  We will keep you posted on the actual campaign to repeal the ordinance as it gets underway.

*We normally do not reference the private sexual behavior of public officials.  However, in the case of Mayor Parker, she has made it a centerpiece of her crusade on this issue, saying it was a "personal matter" for her. 
 

Joe's Signature