A Libertarian Split Over the Hitching Post Case

A Coeur d’Alene, Idaho couple, Donald and Evelyn Knapp, are the new cause celebre of the Christian right, symbols of a supposedly strong-arm government forcing religious opponents of marriage equality to participate in and sanction same-sex weddings.

But the zeal with which the Knapps’ lawyers are pursuing their case has led some valuable religious right allies on religious exemptions to raise questions about the case: libertarians.

By way of background, read Daniel Silliman’s piece here at RD on the case:

[W]ith the assistance of the Alliance Defending Freedom, the Knapps sued the city of Coeur d’Alene to keep it from enforcing an anti-discrimination ordinance, passed in 2013, prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation in housing, employment and “public accommodation.” It’s not clear that “public accommodation” applies to for-profit wedding chapels, but following a federal court ruling that overturned the state’s ban on same-sex marriages, Coeur d’Alene’s attorney said it might.

Zack Ford at Think Progress reported that the Knapps recently changed their business model so they would fall within the religious exemption to the anti-discrimination law, with a legal document “which enshrines all of the religious values offered in the complaint as part of the business. They similarly added a new Employee Policy and Customer Agreement stipulating that the Hitching Post will only perform unions ‘between one biological male and one biological female.’” Additionally, while the Hitching Post used to offer “wedding ceremonies of other faiths,” as Jeremy Hooper documented, the website was recently changed to offer only “a traditional Christian wedding ceremony.”

Sarah Jones of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State notes the city has not threatened the Knapps with arrest or imprisonment, adding “Americans United has been clear all along: No church can be compelled to offer religious services to same-sex couples. The First Amendment protects against that.” But because the Hitching Post is a for-profit business, it is not entitled to the religious exemption granted under the local anti-discrimination law.

Libertarians, while either agnostic on or for marriage equality, have long taken the religious conservatives’ side on exemptions for clergy and other religious actors from being required to perform or participate in same-sex wedding ceremonies. But the overzealousness of the Knapps’ legal team has led some to question the wisdom and utility of the case.

Andrew Sullivan, noting, based on Hooper’s reporting that the business has long been willing to perform non-Christian ceremonies, argues that the Knapps are blurring the lines on religious exemptions, and “this case looks like a deliberate provocation.”

Walter Olson of the Cato Institute’s Overlawyered blog, writes that he has “learned through hard experience not to run with stories from ADF” without “seeking additional corroboration.” He’s sympathetic to the Knapps’ cause, but not to the way they have presented their case:

While I hope the Knapps succeed in establishing their exemption from this law, I am still shaking my head at the ADF’s framing efforts, which via Starnes set off a predictable panic about dangers to religious liberty (see also, last week, on the Houston pastors subpoena). In this instance, those efforts amount to something very akin to hiding the ball, including (as cited by Sullivan) the quiet legal revamping of the business onto a religious basis in recent weeks and the silent removal of extensive language on its website that until earlier this month had promoted the chapel as a venue for civil, non-religious wedding ceremonies.

Now, the Knapps are free (or should be, in my view) to change their establishment’s business plan overnight to one that welcomes only ceremonies consistent with Foursquare Evangelical beliefs. But shouldn’t their lawyers be upfront that this is what’s going on? . . . .

Let’s be blunt. ADF, which was involved in helping the Knapps revamp their enterprise onto a religious basis, is by the omissions in its narrative encouraging alarmed sympathizers to misread the situation.

Olson notes in an update that the city of Coeur d’Alene maintains that only if the Hitching Post is organized as a non-profit will it be entitled to the religious exemption under the anti-discrimination law. Even those who support an exemption (as Olson does), if not ADF’s framing, maintain that the for-profit/non-profit distinction should not be a bar to the exemption, citing the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act. In other words, like in the Hobby Lobby case, even for-profit business run by religious people should be entitled to an exemption from this law. (How that will play out in court remains to be seen.)

The libertarians are on the Knapps’ side; they just object to the deceptive and breathless framing of their lawyers. It will be interesting to see if the libertarian lament has any impact on the framing of future cases.


  • SWhaption6548@gustr.com' Frank6548 says:

    Christian rights are the new civil rights of our age.

  • reedjim51@gmail.com' Jim Reed says:

    Those who were fighting for White Supremacy are now fighting for Christian primacy.

  • asmorrell@gmail.com' Andre M says:

    Frank, the anti-evangelist, making a fool of himself and turning people away from God.

    Such an equivalency is super-gross and betrays a deep ignorance of history and what rights actually are.

  • frjesusgaylord@yahoo.com' FrJesusGaylord says:

    It’s pretty obvious he wants to be King of Hell some day.

  • dakotahgeo@hotmail.com' George M Melby says:

    Christian rights do NOT include Christian bashing of other peoples’ rights, Christian or non-Christian. Based only on their actions, these religious extremists are not Christians at heart… they are christian extremists of the Four Square ilk!

  • dakotahgeo@hotmail.com' George M Melby says:

    Wants to be? He’s the Obama of Hell right now. All apologies to our great President. I only quoted the angry right wing zingers, lolol.

  • dakotahgeo@hotmail.com' George M Melby says:

    Frank 6548 is a marauding troll from other websites for adult use. He goes under different pseudonyms, starting with Hooper/Susie Sotar/Paul621/Brad/Frank6548 and any number of other angry old conservative extremists. He’s to be pitied, but a great entertainment with a morning cup of coffee and a crossword puzzle.

  • reedjim51@gmail.com' Jim Reed says:

    In one way he is the same as all the posters, he occasionally provides good opportunities to write a response.

  • SWhaption6548@gustr.com' Frank6548 says:

    You continue to display your cluelessness. Well done!

  • asmorrell@gmail.com' Andre M says:

    Frank, you’re making a fool of yourself again. Give it a rest. It’s getting sad and it’s shaming the name of Christ.

  • truktyre@hotmail.com' Craptacular says:

    There you go again, Frank, mixing up “privileges” and “rights.” Christian “rights” are the same as everyone’s, regardless of religious affiliation. What we see here are attempts to enshrine privileges as rights.

    I bet the ’60’s were tough for you, too, Frank.

  • dakotahgeo@hotmail.com' George M Melby says:

    I think ‘ol Hooper/Frank has had trouble with every decade he’s lived

  • rtoltschin@gmail.com' RexTIII says:

    ADF and The Hitching Post, have thrown integrity right out the window, creating a classic cause for headline news out of a phony situation. It appears they’ve gone ‘not for profit’ – as things are now, a sort of religious (christian’s only thank you very much) wedding chapel. Life must be good as profit is generally important for most people who operate a ‘facility’ designed for things like ‘weddings.’ As far as who is ‘aligning’ with the position of ADF and the Hitching Post, just more of the same who speak out of both sides of their brain and mouth – failing to understand the basic principles of a secular society. As it stands and most likely will stand – in Idaho, in spite of the erosion out of the Hobs Lobs folks, For Profit will remain a business which must comply with non discrimination laws. There is nothing to ‘win’ here – for anyone – yet this is keyed up as a ‘battle’ by the extreme right – over religion, and a version of religion which provides no strength to Society.

    Fortunately, the Youth of the World are so far BEYOND all of this as a matter of life is life, while angry old religious (especially white) folk are waging a pointless war to save the world before they check into the next phase which awaits us all. Dead.

    I don’t know much about the Knapps – successful or not in their previous ‘for profit’ business – weddings of ALL KINDS their business model. This seems a rather ridiculous path for them to be taking – martyrdom – national attention, but a complete dead end, come the time when the page is turned. And we all know – the pages turn rapidly in todays world.

    Perhaps they will sell their ‘spot’ to a couple of people or someone who actually enjoys working in the world of Weddings and providing a great place for anyone and everyone who would like to get ‘purchase’ their product. It’s really so simple.

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