Atheist Group that Wants to Officiate Secular Weddings Challenges Indiana’s Marriage Law

An atheist organization has filed suit against the state of Indiana, claiming that current marriage laws prohibit atheists from performing wedding ceremonies.

The Center for Inquiry (CFI), headquartered in New York, says that it brought the challenge on behalf of John Keil and Michelle Landrum, who are to be wed next year. The couple, being atheists, wishes to be joined in matrimony by a “secular celebrant,” but states that the law only recognizes clergy or government workers as officiators.

“As an organization, the Center for Inquiry desires that its secular celebrants perform weddings for all those who request such wedding, both members and nonmembers,” the lawsuit outlines. “The Center for Inquiry-Indiana believes this to be an important community service for persons desiring to have a meaningful, but nonreligious, wedding.”

The group says that although some judges may be atheists, it wants more freedom to perform weddings and host them in any location that the couple desires — rather than in a judge’s chambers or other office.

Brian Corbin, spokesperson for Attorney General Greg Zoeller, says that the lawsuit is unnecessary, as the law’s purpose is to both recognize clergy as officiators, and to provide alternatives for those who wish not to be wed in a religious service.

“With marriage solemnization, the State has chosen to remain sensitive to the traditional practices of groups for whom marriage is a special, indeed commanded, institution-a rationale that does not apply to CFI,” Zoeller wrote in the state’s reply brief. “CFI’s relatively short history and organizational indifference to marriage are instructive in this regard, as they demonstrate that CFI has no traditional association with marriage, and no philosophy that incorporates marriage in any significant way.”

The case was heard in District Court this week, but a ruling has not yet been issued.

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