February 2020 Church & State Magazine | AU Bulletin

A national humanist organization is appealing a federal court decision holding that nonreligious celebrants can be barred from officiating at weddings in Texas.

Under Texas law, only judges and members of the clergy may preside at weddings. The Center for Inquiry (CFI), based in Amherst, N.Y., is representing two secular celebrants who are seeking the right to perform legal weddings in that state.

A federal court ruled against CFI earlier this year, holding that only government officials or religious leaders are capable of ensuring that weddings are performed with proper solemnity.

“Texas claims that only religious celebrants or judges can be trusted to treat weddings with the solemnity and respect they deserve,” said Nick Little, CFI’s vice president and general counsel. “This completely fails to square with the long-accepted practice of allowing those with fly-by-night online or mail-order ordinations, such as from the Universal Life Church or the Church of Body Modification, to solemnize marriages without any formal training.”

Added Little, “All we want is for our celebrants to be allowed to serve our community, without lying and pretending to follow a religion they do not believe in.”

The case, CFI v. Warren, will be appealed to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.