The owner of an Illinois inn says he won't be changing his business policy despite a hefty fine for refusing to host a gay couple's civil union ceremony.
Jim Walder, who owns TimberCreek Bed & Breakfast in Paxton, Illinois, was fined more than $80,000 by the Illinois Human Rights Commission on March 29, Reuters is reporting. Walder was ordered to pay $30,000 to Todd and Mark Wathen for emotional distress and $50,000 in fees to their attorneys.
In 2011, Walder refused to accommodate a civil union ceremony for the Wathens. In an email he sent to the couple, Walder argued, "Homosexuality is immoral and unnatural," according to The Windy City Times.
Todd Wathen said he was "very happy" with the outcome of the suit, and told The Springfield News-Gazette that the monetary award "represents a recognition by the judge that Mark and I suffered a real harm — that we were embarrassed and humiliated."
The Wathens ended up having a civil ceremony on June 4, 2011 in the backyard of their home, but "it wasn't what we wanted," Todd Wathen said. Same-sex marriage was legalized in the state of Illinois in 2014.
Meanwhile, Walder released a lengthy statement to The Huffington Post condemning the ruling, writing, "We may be out of step with an increasingly anti-Christian culture, but we are in compliance with God’s design and that is what ultimately matters."
He continued, "We are not looking for a fight. But when immoral laws are purposely passed (or deemed constitutional) that blatantly conflict with God’s word and when the heavy hand of government tries to force us as Christians to embrace sinful behavior, we have a moral obligation to resist and stand for Biblical truth."
"It is not an issue of fairness or equality, but an issue of right and wrong," the statement, which appears to have been removed from the site, read. "We cannot be part of what God condemns."
Walder's full statement can be read below:
Evidently religious freedom does not exist within the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act or the Illinois Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act.
In our opinion, neither the State of Illinois nor the U. S. Supreme Court has the authority to tamper with the definition of marriage. God alone created marriage and declared thousands of years ago that it was to be between a man and a woman. Not two men. Not two women. We may be out of step with an increasingly anti-Christian culture, but we are in compliance with God’s design and that is what ultimately matters.
To be absolutely clear, we cannot host a same-sex wedding even though fines and penalties have been imposed by the IL Human Rights Commission. Our policy will not be changing. We are not looking for a fight, but when immoral laws are purposely passed (or deemed constitutional) that blatantly conflict with God’s Word and when the heavy hand of government tries to force us as Christians to embrace sinful behavior, we have a moral obligation to resist and stand for Biblical truth. “It is better to obey God than men”. Acts 5:29.
Yikes. There’s no telling what will happen next at the TimberCreek Bed & Breakfast, but for a venue that deems itself one of the "most peaceful places you will ever discover," they're certainly causing an unfortunate ruckus.