Sunday, November 9, 2014

Get Married By An Atheist

Just one of the many, many ways U.S. laws and cultural mores discriminate against those of us who are god-free and proud of it.

Ian Millhiser at Think Progress:
If you are religious, and you want to get married in Minnesota, the state will license the clergy of your faith to perform your ceremony. Minnesota law even contains special carve outs for individual faiths, such as Quakers, where weddings are not generally performed by ordained ministers. Yet, if a couple prefers a secular ceremony, their options are more limited. Couples who do not wish to be married by a “minister of any religious denomination” can only have their wedding performed by a short list of government officials — mostly judges, retired judges and court administrators. So religious couples can have a deeply personal ceremony at a venue of their choosing, performed by a religious official that they may already have a relationship with. Secular couples who prefer not to be married by a minister, by contrast, are likely to have fewer options unless they are personal friends with a judge.

A lawsuit filed by an atheist group and one of its members, however, could change this calculation. The suit makes several arguments claiming that “representatives of atheist organizations” should have the same right to solemnize marriages that ordained ministers have. Among other things, the suit relies on the Supreme Court’s 2005 holding in McCreary County v. ACLU that “the ‘First Amendment mandates governmental neutrality between religion and religion, and between religion and nonreligion.‘” It also quotes heavily from a recent federal appeals court decision “allowing certified secular humanist celebrants to solemnize marriages in Indiana.”


Additionally, the atheist group acknowledges that “obscure or fake religions” such as “the Universal Life Church and the Church of the Latter Day Dude, a religion of the Big Lebowski” offer online ordinations that can be used to get around the Minnesota law. Nevertheless, the group says, “many atheists who want to be certified as marriage celebrants do not want to engage in the hypocrisy of pretending they are ministers of phony churches.”

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