Free to Believe

Jim and Beth Walder

TimberCreek Bed & Breakfast: Paxton, Illinois

In 2011, Jim Walder, the Christian owner of TimberCreek Bed & Breakfast declined a request to host a civil union ceremony at his venue. In response, Todd and Mark Wathen, the couple identifying as homosexual who made the request, filed a civil rights complaint with the Illinois Human Rights Commission alleging that the Paxton, Illinois business had discriminated against them.

Same-sex marriage did not become legally recognized in Illinois until June 1, 2014. However, Walder indicated that he didn’t plan to change TimberCreek’s policy to match the state’s redefinition of marriage.  “As long as I own TimberCreek, there will never be a gay marriage at this venue,” he said in an interview with Illinois’ News-Gazette.

Like most states with same-sex marriage laws, Illinois’ laws do not clearly protect business owners with moral objections.  “I totally support exemptions for everyone doing business in the wedding industry regarding civil unions or gay marriage,” Walder said.  “Our current legal predicament could be the predicament of other businesses in Paxton”—like caterers, photographers, cake bakers, or wedding planners. 

Walder indicated that the complaint caused them to lose a few weddings, but “that’s OK,” he explained.  “Overall, our business is up substantially since the [couple] filed their complaint.  We hosted 26 weddings last year.”

At time of publication, complaints had been filed with the Illinois Attorney General’s office and the Department of Human Rights, alleging violations of the Illinois Human Rights Act, but no further action had been taken.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Christian News Network