In order to perform a wedding ceremony in Nevada, as in many other states, you must be part of some congregation.
Humanist celebrants in American can get around this by saying they are part of The Humanist Society which has tax status as a religious group.
But some atheists don’t want to go that route. We’re atheists, not religious, they say. By denying atheists the right to preside over a wedding, you’re breaking the law.
One atheist is trying to do something about this:
Michael Jacobson, a 64-year-old retiree who calls himself a lifelong atheist, tried this year to get a license to perform weddings. Clark County [Nevada] rejected his application because he had no ties to a congregation, as state law requires.
So Jacobson and attorneys from two national secular groups — the American Humanist Assn. and the Center for Inquiry — are trying to change things. If they can’t persuade the state Legislature to rework the law, they plan to sue.
“… I’m not going to do it by saying I belong to a religious organization,” he said. “That’s a sham, because atheists are not religious.”
Jacobson filled out an application to perform marriages, but sidestepped the questions on religion. County Clerk Shirley Parraguirre said she had little choice but to reject it.
But Bob Ritter, an attorney for the American Humanist Assn., argued that when a celebrant marries a couple, he is acting as an agent of the state. Therefore, it’s unconstitutional to block someone from holding that position based on his religion — or lack of it, he says.
It’s amazing that just about anyone and everyone can get a license to perform marriage ceremonies in Vegas — but atheists are refused this courtesy.
What chance do you think this lawsuit has of succeeding?