SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — The owners of a bed and breakfast in Illinois have been ordered to pay $80,000 after they declined to host a civil union ceremony for two homosexual men on the premises, and have been mandated to facilitate a celebration for the men at their facility within one year.
TimberCreek Bed and Breakfast in Paxton, Illinois is “an upscale Christian country bed and breakfast,” according to its website, and is situated in the midst of a small farming community. Owners Jim and Beth Walder also host church retreats, baby and bridal showers, business meetings and other events at the facility.
In 2011, Todd Wathen contacted TimberCreek via email to inquire if the bed and breakfast would be hosting civil union ceremonies after Illinois approved the unions that year via the “Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act.” Jim Walder replied that the facility had no such plans, and advised Wathen that “homosexuality is immoral and unnatural,” and that “it’s not too late to change your behavior.”
Three days later, Wathen filed a discrimination complaint with the Illinois Human Rights Commission. The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois (ACLU) also soon became involved and sought emotional damages for Wathen and his partner, Mark.
Now, Michael Robinson, an administrative law judge appointed by the Commission, has ordered Walder to pay $30,000 in damages to the men ($15,000 each), as well as $50,000 in attorney’s fees and more than $1,200 in costs.
Robinson also mandated that Walder follow the Illinois Human Rights Act by not declining further events, and that he additionally host Wathen’s celebration at the bed and breakfast within one year. The two men held a ceremony in their yard in 2011 after being declined; they did not seek other facilities as alternatives.
“We are very happy that no other couple will have to experience what we experienced by being turned away and belittled and criticized for who we are,” Wathen told reporters this week. “In addition, the monetary award represents a recognition by the judge that Mark and I suffered a real harm—that we were embarrassed and humiliated.”
However, in a statement issued to the Ford County Record, Walder has stated that he cannot comply with the order.
“To be absolutely clear, we cannot host a same-sex wedding even though fines and penalties have been imposed by the Illinois Human Rights Commission,” he said. “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,” Walder stated, quoting from Acts 5:29, which reads, “It is better to obey God than men.”
TimberCreek’s website further outlines that the Walders hold no malice toward those who identify as homosexuals, but that they cannot be personal participants and facilitators of other men’s sins.
“It is not an issue of fairness or equality, but an issue of right and wrong. We cannot be part of what God condemns,” it states. “Be assured that we are not lawless, hateful, judgmental, bigoted, or activists by any definition. We did not initiate the present controversy. We are not the ones who voted to change the 6,000 year-old definition of marriage. We are just small business owners trying to be consistent in following God’s word and living it out practically in our lives.”
“[The homosexual agenda] uses anti-discrimination laws as a bully club when dissenting Americans disagree with men trying to marry men, women marrying women, men changing to women, and women changing to men,” the site reads. “It basically says that God is confused by marriage, family and sexuality and that we need to correct His mistakes.”