Federal court guts Indiana law requiring clergy to officiate atheist weddings
A federal court ruled on Monday that non-religious people getting married in Indiana cannot be required to have a member of the clergy officiate their wedding, Religion News Service reported.
The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals determined that the state law, which dates back to the 1850s, violated the First Amendment rights of atheists, humanists, or members of religions that do not celebrate specific deities, like Taoists and Shintos.
“It is irrational to allow humanists to solemnize marriages if, and only if, they falsely declare that they are a ‘religion,'” Judge Frank Easterbrook wrote in the court’s decision. “It is absurd to give the Church of Satan, whose high priestess avows that her powers derive from having sex with Satan, and the Universal Life Church, which sells credentials to anyone with a credit card, a preferred position over Buddhists, who emphasize love and peace.”
The court ruled that Indiana must follow in the steps of states like Florida, Maine and South Carolina in mandating humanists to become notaries public in order to be allowed to perform weddings. RNS reported that around 24 “secular celebrants” around the country are certified as officiants.
The activist group the Center for Inquiry (CFI), which brought the Indiana case before the court and offers certification training for “secular celebrants,” praised Easterbrook’s ruling in a statement.
“This is a major victory for all secular Americans, who despite being part of the fasted-growing belief demographic in the United States, still suffer from discrimination and the special privileges accorded religion,” the group’s president and CEO, Ronald A. Lindsay, stated. “It is deeply satisfying that the judges of the 7th Circuit have recognized that nonreligious Americans are entitled to the same rights as religious Americans.”
[Image: “Couple At Outdoor Wedding Ceremony,” via Shutterstock]