Atheists can’t preside over weddings in MN, but two lawmakers hope to change that

By Travis Gettys
Friday, April 4, 2014 11:31 EDT
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Minnesota lawmakers have offered bills that would allow atheists to preside over wedding ceremonies.

State Rep. Phyllis Kahn, a Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party member from Nicollet Island, introduced the first bill last month, and State Sen. John Marty, a Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party member from Roseville, introduce SF 2958 this week to amend the existing statute governing civil marriages.

The statute currently requires “ministers of any denomination” to file a copy of their credentials or authority from their spiritual group with the local county clerk.

The bills amend the statute’s language to include “any other celebrant,” adding a subheading that specifically identifies atheist or humanist officiants.

“Civil marriages may be solemnized by atheist or humanist celebrants who have been appointed by the boards of directors of self-identified atheist or humanist organizations that sponsor training for such individuals,” the bill reads.

Atheist or humanist groups that appoint celebrants must be registered as a nonprofit organization with the Minnesota Office of the Secretary of State and must hold tax-exempt status as an educational organization.

The measure was pushed by the Minnesota Atheists group, which also endorsed the addition of notaries public and temporary celebrants who wished to preside over only one ceremony, such as close friends.

By coincidence, another lawmaker introduced a measure that would allow notaries public to do so, but temporary celebrants are not included in any bills at this time.

Washington, D.C. and New Jersey allow secular wedding celebrants, and a secular group is fighting a court battle to overturn Indiana’s on non-religious wedding celebrants.

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