Atheist group fights for right to solemnize marriages in Indiana

By Eric W. Dolan
Tuesday, October 23, 2012 19:43 EDT
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Married couple via Shutterstock
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The Center for Inquiry in a federal court on Monday challenged a state law they say privileges religious institutions in the solemnizing of marriages.

The group strives to offer an ethical alternative to religion based on secular humanism and has trained its members in how to officiate marriages.

“The Center for Inquiry-Indiana has members in Indiana who would like to be married by a person who has completed the secular celebrant program and is therefore authorized by the Center for Inquiry-Indiana to solemnize marriages,” the group said in a legal complaint. “Additionally, non-members have requested that secular celebrants perform their weddings because the non-members do not desire to have religious weddings, but wish to have meaningful secular ceremonies.”

However, Indiana law stipulates that marriages can only be solemnized by particular government officials and religious figures.

The Center for Inquiry alleged that the law violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by favoring religion over non-religion.

Solicitor General Thomas Fisher argued that allowing the Center for Inquiry to solemnize marriages would force the state to allow virtually any organization to solemnize marriages. “It’s pretty difficult to find a neutral rule that limits who can solemnize but still include CFI,” he said.

“CFI’s relatively short history and organizational indifference to marriage are instructive in this regard, as they demonstrate that CFI has no traditional association with marriage, and no philosophy that incorporates marriage in any significant way,” a legal brief filed by the Indiana Attorney General’s office states, according to the Christian Post. “With marriage solemnization, the State has chosen to remain sensitive to the traditional practices of groups for whom marriage is a special, indeed commanded, institution-a rationale that does not apply to CFI.”

[Married couple via Shutterstock]

Eric W. Dolan
Eric W. Dolan
Eric W. Dolan has served as an editor for Raw Story since August 2010, and is based out of Sacramento, California. He grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and received a Bachelor of Science from Bradley University. Eric is also the publisher and editor of PsyPost. You can follow him on Twitter @ewdolan.
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