Dear Mayor Steve Widmyer,
The recent activities, information, and misinformation surrounding The Hitching Post have inspired tension here in our beautiful city – and across the country. Activity like this was anticipated when I made it clear to the city council in May-June of 2013 that unfortunate repercussions would result from passing the unbalanced anti-discrimination ordinance 13-1011.
The reason this recent activity has emerged here in our community relates to the statewide/nationwide effort to redefine marriage between one man and one woman. This present distress could have been avoided if we as a nation/state would leave this 6000-year-old institution alone. Furthermore, the state should not be in the business of marriage. It is a long held religious institution.
The city ordinance was supposedly designed to protect the civil rights of persons of varying sexual orientations, i.e., the LGBT community. As we knew before the ordinance was passed, it is now evident that the ordinance protects the rights of one people group at the expense of others.
I stated in my arguments of May-June 2013 that our city did not need this ordinance because we did not have a problem with discrimination toward the LGBT community. Furthermore, I said that this ordinance will have implications affecting the rights of business owners who may have the desire to keep a moral standard and exercise their faith conviction by disallowing persons from participation or patronization of their privately owned establishments. Once again may I say – we are now facing what I warned the city officials would occur!
The ordinance the city adopted supports the idea that there is or was “homophobia” and/or discrimination against homosexuals imbedded in our community. This is simply untrue! The ordinance is unnecessary in the City of Coeur d’Alene. Furthermore, I told the city before the adoption of the ordinance that adopting such an ordinance would result in labeling all of us as bigoted and unrighteous toward other persons in our community. We now suffer this reality.
Although it now seems there is no need to write you on this matter (as The Hitching Post attention seems to be coming to a close) I still believe that this ordinance will inspire an exponential rise of litigation costing the city time and resources as it infringes upon the First, Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendment rights of every Coeur d’Alene resident.
The ordinance may appear to protect the rights of speech and religious freedom. However, at present it only protects the rights and freedoms of religious institutions, but not the rights of religious persons. This is unconstitutional and is not what we need here in our city. Furthermore, even as recently as this past week there was a suggestion that “ministers” be protected by the ordinance. This does not go far enough! All persons, of all faiths, need equal protection – not just ministers!
The 1st Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America protect religious freedom, and “…prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion,” or “impeding the free exercise of religion…”
The 14th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States says, “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States…” and in the due process clause the United States Supreme Court in Meyer vs. Nebraska declared that United States citizens are free, “to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience, and generally to enjoy those privileges long recognized at common law as essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men.”
While the present suit facing the city seems confined (for now) to violations of the 1st and 14th Amendments, I am now hearing from attorneys who are openly discussing filing suit on 13th Amendment grounds. Let me repeat that. The city may face additional suits by other business patrons on the grounds that they are having their 13th Amendment rights violated.
In Section 1 of the 13th Amendment we read, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”
Does the city have a plan should it be charged with violating the 13th Amendment by forcing involuntary servitude?
A quick glance at the website “www.Justice.gov” for The United States Department of Justice we read the definition for involuntary servitude.
“Summary: Section 1584 of Title 18 makes it unlawful to hold a person in a condition of slavery, that is, a condition of compulsory service or labor against his/her will... Section 1584 also prohibits compelling a person to work against his/her will by creating a "climate of fear" through the use of force, the threat of force, or the threat of legal coercion… which is sufficient to compel service against a person's will.”
Can there be any doubt that this ordinance provides an avenue for coerced labor – involuntary servitude? Can there be any doubt that the Knapps would have been victims of coercion if forced to participate involuntarily in service of others? And most importantly, can there be any doubt that the Knapps represent the first of what will almost certainly be many additional lawsuits against the city?
Furthermore, in the Constitution of the State of Idaho, adapted by a Constitutional Convention held at Boise City, in the Territory of Idaho, Aug. 6, 1889 we read: “Article 1 Declaration of Rights, Section 4: The exercise and enjoyment of religious faith and worship shall forever be guaranteed; and no person shall be denied any civil or political right, privilege or capacity on account of his religious opinions."
This city ordinance is in contradiction to Idaho State Law. This has been pointed out by our own Sherriff, Ben Wolfinger. It is also as stated above in contradiction to the United States Constitution.
As you know, I am pastor at Candlelight Christian Fellowship here in Coeur d’Alene and president of the Coeur d’Alene Ministerial Association - not merely a handful of ministers, but a representative group of literally thousands of people who attend our churches and make up a large percentage of the local electorate. Although I come to you in this capacity, I am not speaking to you on behalf of the whole. However, the great majority of our members did not believe, and do not believe we need this ordinance.
It grieves me that this has surfaced around the LGBT community because the ordinance is so much bigger than the problems they may face. This ordinance affects a broad spectrum of persons in our varying communities. For example, should a Jewish carpenter in Coeur d’Alene be unwilling to make wooden swastikas for an Aryan Nation group – the carpenter would be in violation. If a local pro-choice printer should be unwilling to produce pro-life materials for a pro-life rally they would be in violation. If a Muslim, Mormon, Jehovah’s Witness, Catholic, Atheist, or Humanist et al. were sought out to provide any service, housing, employment, or public accommodation to any group or person with whom they are unsupportive they would be in violation of this ordinance. This is simply unconstitutional, is ethically wrong, and is morally unrighteous.
Please seek to remove the ordinance.
Paul D. Van Noy, Pastor
Candlelight Christian Fellowship
Coeur d’Alene Ministerial Association