Modern Indulgence: A Critique of Chapels and their Syncretic Nature

The institution of marriage has a great deal of weight within society both culturally and politically. The definition of marriage is “the legally or formally recognized union of a man and a woman (or, in some jurisdictions, two people of the same sex) as partners in a relationship.”[1] It has often been cited by feminist thinkers that the personal is the political, and this is especially true with marriage. It has influence in both the personal and private spheres of life, which is why many entities within our society have a vested interest in having their views on this institution reflect those beliefs at the expense of others.

This is the case with the Hitching Post Lakeside Chapel of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, a wedding chapel that does not actually represent a faith based centre of worship, but is in actuality a “for-profit religious corporation”, whose owners filed a federal lawsuit to stop the city of Coeur d’Alene from enforcing its non-discrimination law. This was in response to a gay couple entering their Chapel and seeking to be legally recognised through marriage at their Chapel, which Evelyn and Donald Knapp, the owners of this establishment (who are ordained Christian ministers) refused to do. As previously mentioned, they are instead suing for the right to discriminate under the auspices of religious freedom due to their belief that the institution of marriage is strictly between a man and a women.

State and federal laws generally exempt religious institutions from having to perform gay marriages. Yet the Hitching Post Lakeside Chapel is not a church or a synagogue or a mosque but a private business: therefore, it cannot hide discriminatory practices under the auspices of religious freedom. The syncretic ties between religion, politics and law are pervasive; the Knapps seek to project their discriminatory beliefs through their business, which straddles the line between a religious institution and a business. As such, they sought to protect these beliefs through appealing to the Constitution. You cannot claim to be a private business and then refuse to obey the laws governing such establishments. As the article clearly states,

“These entrepreneurs have chosen to incorporate as private businesses, with all the legal rights and privileges that entails. That means they have to follow the laws that apply to private businesses. Don’t [want] to marry everyone who [is] entitled to marry legally under the law? Then don’t run a wedding business.”[2]

It is this sort of blatant politically maneuvering that threatens the sanctity of our laws concerned with equality. Individuals are granted the right to believe in whatever deity or denomination they wish, so long as they do so under what is permissible under those laws. Seeking to circumvent these laws using the very authority that is supposed to protect citizens against such discrimination is naked self-interest, a rot that if allowed to propagate would lead to wider discrimination under the auspices of freedom. For that reason, the actions of the Knapps are unjustifiable in a free and just society, and cannot be allowed to become precedent. The justification for erecting arbitrary barriers between people is to satisfy their own insecurities, by making those who do not fall into their own paradigm the “Other”, and thus not worthy of inclusion within their society. That is an archaic model of thought, one suited better to the Dark Ages then the world today.






One thought on “Modern Indulgence: A Critique of Chapels and their Syncretic Nature

  1. This situation highlights how politics and religion was interconnected in the past and how the remnants of that is still being felt despite secular progression. Marriage is not only a purely religious observance, but have significant civil and legal effects. In additional, many people without religious association are given the rights to marriage. While many still argue that marriage and religion is inseparable, the laws in this city do not believe so.

    In this case it seems like the owners are trying to have their cake and eat it too. They want to run a for-profit private business, but also receive the freedoms and benefits that come with being a non-for-profit religious institution. With prior precedence one would assume that such discrimination would not hold up in court, but as with all cases there is a chance for appeal regardless of outcome. I don’t believe that the Knapps will win their case as it should be determined to be illegal before getting close to the Supreme Court.

    On another note, I do find it interesting that the article mentions the Hobby Lobby case. The article clearly states, probably correctly, that they will use Hobby Lobby as reference for their case. However the article also states that the Hobby Lobby case won’t apply and won’t help the Knapps win their case. Still the Hobby Lobby case does highlight the precarious position that the courts are in between balancing religion and civil rights.



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