Atheists May Not Perform Marriage Ceremonies, Federal Judge Rules

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

A federal judge in Indiana has denied a group of atheists the right to perform marriage ceremonies, claiming the Constitution reserves this right for clergy members.


Judge Sarah Evans Barker rejected the arguments of the Indianapolis chapter of the Center for Inquiry (CFI), which sued so it could marry people.


CFI, a national organization that promotes secular humanism, criticized Barker’s ruling for "its casual acceptance of the privileging of religion."


The judge insisted the First Amendment ensures the right of priests and ministers to perform marriages. If CFI wants to marry people, it must register itself as a religious organization, according to Barker’s ruling.


“If we would declare ourselves a religion, then we could do it,” Reba Boyd Wooden, executive director for the Indiana CFI chapter, told the Indianapolis Star. “But we’re very adamant we’re not a religion.”


The American Civil Liberties Union supported CFI’s case, and may help it file an appeal.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Judge Turns Back Secularists' Bid to Perform Marriages (by Bill McCleery, Indianapolis Star)

Judge Rejects Atheist Bid for Right to Perform Marriages (by Eric Berman, WIBC)

Court Upholds Indiana's Marriage Solemnization Statute Over Objections of Secular Celebrant (Religion Clause)

Center for Inquiry v. Marion Circuit Court (pdf)


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