'No God, no marriage,' judge in Kentucky tells atheist couple

'No God, no marriage,' judge in Kentucky tells atheist couple July 17, 2016

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is on the case of godly County Judge Executive Hollis Alexander, above, who recently refused to conduct a wedding ceremony for a non-religious couple.
According to the FFRF, Mandy Heath and her fiancé, Jon, were planning on getting married in Trigg County on July 22 at Alexander’s courthouse. Heath arranged with the county clerk to get the marriage license and have Alexander perform the legal formalities in his courtroom. The couple planned a family ceremony for the next day.
Heath insisted that the marriage be secular. But after she told the clerk of her wish to exclude religion, Alexander called Heath to inform her that he wouldn’t be able to perform the ceremony. When asked why, Alexander reportedly responded:

I include God in my ceremonies, and I won’t do one without him.

He then told the couple, who are not from Kentucky, that they should find another officiant.
On learning of his refusal. FFRF told Alexander that, under the US Constitution, he, as a government official, has an obligation to remain neutral on religious matters.
FFRF  Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel said in a letter to the judge:

The Supreme Court has established that the First Amendment mandates governmental neutrality between religion and religion, and between religion and non-religion. Moreover, it has stated, ‘the preservation and transmission of religious beliefs and worship is a responsibility and a choice committed to the private sphere’.

By refusing to provide secular ceremonies, Trigg County sends a message of religious endorsement. However, according to the Constitution, it is illegal to condition a government benefit on a religious test. By conditioning the receipt of a marriage license from Trigg County on an agreement to have a religious ceremony, the county is violating the rights of non-religious couples to equal access to government benefits.
Under Kentucky law, marriage may be solemnised by religious figures and government employees and officials, FFRF reminds Alexander. There is no requirement that such ceremonies be religious, since any such requirement would be unconstitutional.
The letter concluded:

As a government employee, you have a constitutional obligation to remain neutral on religious matters while acting in your official capacity. You have no right to impose your personal religious beliefs on people seeking to be married.
Governments in this nation, including the Commonwealth of Kentucky, are secular. They do not have the power to impose religion on citizens.
The bottom line is that by law, there must be a secular option for people seeking to get married.
In Trigg County, you are that secular option. The default ceremony offered by your office should be secular and people wishing to add in religion should be able to do so upon request. Not the other way around and certainly not to the exclusion of a secular option.
We request written assurances that future wedding ceremonies you perform will be secular. If citizens wish to have religious ceremonies, they can amend the ceremony as they see fit or get married in a church. I look forward to your written response.

Hat tip: Peter Sykes and Trevor Blake

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Broga

    Judge? How do these people become judges? Don’t they have some criteria that weeds out ignorant bigots?

  • barriejohn

    Barry: That link doesn’t seem to work properly. I think it’s the extra s in the address that buggers it up.

  • L.Long

    The problem here is that the Kentucky is a full member in the Theocratic States of America, so the judge is protected by that gov’mint. So doing the job or being fired is probably not going to happen. The various states have ALL encouraged bigotry of various types so not much will happen, unless the FFRF or ACLU or some such can sue the pants off them and make them PAY!!! ANd be very public about making them pay, maybe then some lazy free thinkers will get out to vote!

  • barriejohn
  • barriejohn

    There’s a more up-to-date photo of Horror Alexander here:

  • lonbo

    It looks like Hollis is not married.

  • Trike

    Sack him.

  • Rob Andrews

    @ Broga:
    Lower court judges are elected in most states of the USA.. There’s no requirement that a person be a lawyer. And in a few states you don’t have academic requirements to pass the bar examination, to be a lawyer, even IF you are a lawyer..
    So put the two together and as long as the guy is popular–says the right thing–he’s elected.

  • Rob Andrews

    I wonder if he makes witnesses sware on a bible to give testimony in his court too! And what would happen if a witness refused to take such an oath.
    Would he/she not be allowed to testafy at all? Or would the person be held in contempt and sent to jail?

  • Broga

    ‘Rob Andrews : Thanks. I know that in the UK judges are appointed by their peers. But to be given the position they have to be highly qualified, very knowledgeable in the law and, I would think, very intelligent. And yes, I know they sometimes make bizarre decisions and come from a narrow, largely public school, sector of society.

  • barriejohn

    Broga: I think we’re looking more at magistrates and justices of the peace than British judges here!

  • AgentCormac

    What Trike said. Just sack the god-bothering bigot. We all know there’s nothing xtians love more these days than the smell of yet another burning martyr, but it might just make a few of them think again if they understand that putting their superstitious claptrap before the law will result in them ending up on benefits.

  • David

    Marriage was created and regulated by the God of the Bible. This is a right endowed by our Creator. The judges should not be performing them at all and the courts should not be changing the definition of marriage to irreligious or homosexual. This was an example of the government courts disestablishing religion with their social engineering.
    The marriage license is just a certification that you are not already married and don’t have an STD. The marriage and the ceremony is religion. There is your separation of church and state.