Christian Persecution: Law Forces Ohio Minister to Officiate Same-Sex Wedding or Face $5,000 Fine

July 27, 2020
Law Forces Ohio Minister to Officiate Same-Sex Wedding or Face $5,000 Fine
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An Ohio Christian business owner and ordained minister filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday against Cuyahoga County over a law that requires her to officiate same-sex weddings in violation of her religious beliefs. Kristi Stokes, the plaintiff in the case, is an ordained minister and the owner of Covenant Weddings, from which she officiates weddings and composes wedding homilies, vows and prayers for such ceremonies. At issue is a Cuyahoga County law that prohibits discrimination in places of public accommodation on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression. The law presumably applies to Covenant Weddings because it defines a “place of public accommodation” as any “place for the sale of merchandise to the public, or any other place of public accommodation or amusement where the accommodation advantages, facilities, or privileges thereof are available to the public.” Stokes, an evangelical Christian, could be fined up to $5,000 per violation for not officiating at a same-sex wedding. Covenant Weddings is a for-profit business. The law also prohibits her from explaining her religious views on her business website. Alliance Defending Freedom is representing Stokes. “Because Kristi offers wedding services that celebrate marriage between one biological man and one biological woman, the County says she must also provide the same services for weddings that contradict her beliefs or Kristi commits illegal ‘discrimination,’” the suit says. “… In reality, Kristi gladly works with people regardless of who they are, including LGBT individuals. She just cannot officiate or bless every marital union.” Just as imams “should not be forced to officiate Christian weddings” and LGBT artists should not “be forced to” condemn same-sex marriage, Stokes should not be forced to officiate at a same-sex wedding, the suit says. “The County’s law has left Kristi with an impossible choice: disobey the law, defy her faith, […]

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