Idaho couple Donald and Evelyn Knapp, ordained ministers and owners of the Hitching Post Lakeside Chapel of Coeur d'Alene, are facing thousands of dollars in fines and possible jail time for refusing to host gay wedding ceremonies, which the city claims violates its anti-discrimination ordinance. The couple has since filed their business as a religious organization, which means they might be saved by an Idaho law that protects religious freedom.
Jeremy Tedesco, senior legal counsel for the Scottsdale, Arizona-based Alliance Defending Freedom legal organization, told The Christian Post that while Coeur d'Alene has an ordinance saying that under "public accommodation" businesses cannot discriminate, state law offeres a possible exemption for the Knapps.
"In addition to our federal claims (i.e. First Amendment), our complaint brings a cause of action under the Idaho Free Exercise of Religion Protected Act," Tedesco said. "[Under] Idaho Code § 73–401 et seq., this state law says 'government shall not substantially burden a person's exercise of religion ...'" more >>
The Washington Post this week drew attention to a new Pew poll indicating that a majority of Americans believe it's time to move away from the policy of mandatory minimum sentencing in nonviolent criminal cases. Many people probably don't realize that in the American legal system, judges aren't actually permitted to do their jobs and judge. Their authority is curtailed by statutes that prescribe minimums for how much time a person must serve for certain crimes. This policy is particularly pernicious in situations where the crime is of a nonviolent nature, as are most minor drug offenses. The poll results represent a significant shift in public opinion since 2001, when the American public was about even split in their opinion of mandatory minimum sentencing. Like so much of our bloated federal apparatus, the prison system is flailing under the weight of an unfunded mandate. There are simply too many prisoners, and not enough resources to meet the demands of their incarceration.
When it comes to criminal sentencing, politicians and policymakers walk a tightrope. They don't want to appear to be soft on crime, but at the same time they want to demonstrate a pragmatic, effective use of public resources. One recalls how George H. W. Bush bludgeoned Michael Dukakis in the 1988 Presidential campaign with the Willie Horton case, a lamentable miscarriage of justice that garnered national attention. In 1974, Horton fatally stabbed a gas station attendant and dumped his body in a trashcan. Convicted of murder, Horton was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole and incarcerated in a Massachusetts prison. He was released in 1985 as part of a weekend furlough program but never returned, instead fleeing to Maryland where he raped a woman after brutally assaulting her boyfriend. He was later captured, tried, and sentenced in Maryland by a judge who refused to return him to Massachusetts stating, "I'm not prepared to take the chance that Mr. Horton might again be furloughed or otherwise released. This man should never draw a breath of free air again."
Politicians across the country didn't miss the lesson of that campaign, and ever since they have wanted to appear tough on crime. The reality, however, is that we simply can't afford to lock up every criminal who runs afoul of the criminal justice system. In 2011 the Atlantic ran a piece on the skyrocket cost of incarceration in America. At that time, one year at Princeton cost $37,000, while a year at a New Jersey state prison cost $44,000. Clearly, this is an untenable situation. So, in an era of tight budgets, how should our government mete out justice effectively and efficiently? I offer four very simple, common sense solutions: Lock them up, Tie them down, Dry them out, and Make them pay. more >>
A group working to protect Christians from blasphemy laws has said that international pressure on Pakistan is needed to overturn the death penalty handed to Christian mother of five Asia Bibi. Christian leaders in Pakistan have vowed to continue appealing the case and fighting for the mother's life.
"We continue to hope because, as Christians, our faith nourishes hope. We continue to pray for Asia Bibi and for her release, so that the Lord protects and comforts her. But there are many elements that are not conducive to optimism," said Haroon Barkat, director of the Masihi Foundation, in an interview with Fides News Agency on Tuesday.
Barkat, whose group works in Pakistan to protect Christians falsely accused of blasphemy, added that "international pressures and mobilization can be useful" in influencing the case. He said that above all, "the political will of the government and of the highest authorities in Pakistan is needed" to put an end to the many false blasphemy cases where Christians in Pakistan are persecuted. more >>
Tavis Smiley raised a lot of eyebrows this weekend when he spoke on ABC-TV's "This Week" news show, hosted by George Stephanopoulos. Smiley pointed to double-digit unemployment in the Black community under President Obama and said: "If you're Black or Brown, other than saving the Democrats' hide, what inspires you to go out and vote?"
Economic empowerment for minority families is surely a vital issue, a hardy perennial in off-year elections. But it's not the only issue. Minority voters have always been concerned with Civil Rights. And this year is no exception.
In Houston, Texas, we have seen a bizarre twist on traditional Civil Rights play out. The Mayor of Houston, Annise Parker, has been waging an uncivil war on people who oppose the far-reaching homosexual rights ordinance she powered through the City Council. That ordinance was widely criticized by Houston lay people and pastors, It would endanger protected Civil Rights already covered by the First Amendment, i.e., freedom of religion, critics of Mayor Parker's ordinance said. more >>
Two Christian ministers who own an Idaho wedding chapel were told they had to either perform same-sex weddings or face jail time and up to a $1,000 fine, according to a lawsuit filed Friday in federal court.
Alliance Defending Freedom is representing Donald and Evelyn Knapp, ordained ministers who own the Hitching Post Wedding Chapel in Coeur d'Alene.
"Right now they are at risk of being prosecuted," their ADF attorney, Jeremy Tedesco, told me. "The threat of enforcement is more than just credible." more >>
A church and state watchdog group has warned that the recent controversy over Houston city officials subpoenaing sermons from pastors may create a major conservative fundraising effort.
Rob Boston of Americans United for Separation of Church and State wrote that Houston's legal move against pastors who oppose their recently passed LGBT ordinance will create a conservative backlash.
Writing for the Washington, D.C.-based group's blog "Wall of Separation," Boston argued that the incident "will launch a thousand right-wing fund-raising letters." more >>