Court Upholds Indiana's Ban on Secular Wedding Officiants

Court Upholds Indiana's Ban on Secular Wedding Officiants


A federal court in Indiana has rejected atheists' requests to preside at wedding ceremonies, saying only clergy or public officials are licensed to solemnize marriages, the Religion News Service reports. A lawsuit filed by the Indiana chapter of the Center for Inquiry argued that an Indiana law requiring marriages to be "solemnized" -- made official by signing a marriage license -- only by clergy, judges, mayors or local government clerks violated the Constitution. The New York-based secular humanist organization claimed barring "secular celebrants" from solemnizing marriages provided preferential treatment to religious celebrants. But Judge Sarah Evans Barker of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana ruled Nov. 30 that since marriage has religious roots, government regulation of marriage is therefore an act of religious accommodation -- not endorsement -- and protected by the Constitution. She also noted that Indiana's law did not limit who may marry the plaintiffs, but only who may sign their license. The Center for Inquiry has promised an appeal of Barker's ruling.

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