Couple Claims Inn Wouldn’t Allow A Non-Religious Wedding Ceremony

Image courtesy of HerArtSheLoves

We’ve heard of disputes alleging religious discrimination by businesses against customers, but often those situations involve the customer having a religious belief or view, instead of the absence of religion altogether. That’s the issue at hand in a charge leveled on behalf of a Wisconsin couple filed against an Illinois inn that they claim wouldn’t let them hold a non-religious wedding ceremony.

The two say they were refused a wedding ceremony at that bed and breakfast in Galena, IL after they said they didn’t want to include religion in their nuptials, the American Civil Liberties Union, which has taken up their cause, says in a press release: the woman is Jewish and the man is Christian, so they wanted to make both their families comfortable and just take religion out of the equation.

They wanted to get married there because it was where they’d gotten engaged, and had already mailed in their deposit when they met with the owner. The couple says he told them he wouldn’t let them have a non-denominational ceremony.

“He just kept saying that he wouldn’t allow it,” the man told WGN-TV. “That he would only allow services that mentioned God or religion.”

The ACLU filed a charge of discrimination on their behalf with the Illinois Department of Human Rights, arguing that the inn is considered a public accommodation under federal law, and as such, it should be open to the general public and not discriminate on the basis of race, color or religion.

“This type of discrimination is exactly what the Illinois law was designed to prevent,” said Rebecca Glenberg, senior staff attorney at the ACLU of Illinois. “As a public business, open to all, the Inn cannot impose religious requirements on my clients or others, especially not at their own wedding.”

The owner of the inn says he’s shocked, but blamed his actions on a rule by the City of Galena. City officials, however, said it regulates land use, but doesn’t get involved with “religious matters,” WGN-TV reports.

The couple married at another venue this month, and say they hope that the state will order the inn to stop discriminating against others.

“Through the intervention of some good friends, we were able to keep our date and had a lovely wedding,” the woman said. “But we don’t want anyone to go through this humiliation in the future – that is why we filed this complaint.”

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