For Immediate Release
Contact: Paul Fidalgo
Phone: (207) 358-9785

CFI’s Secular Celebrants Authorized to Solemnize Marriages in Indiana

August 07, 2014

Note: This is a revision of a previous statement which mistakenly stated that an appeal of the court’s decision was not forthcoming, which in fact has not yet been determined. We apologize for the error

The Center for Inquiry (CFI) applauds a federal court’s invalidation of an Indiana law barring CFI-trained Secular Celebrants from solemnizing marriages, as a result of an order approved by the judge. CFI is grateful that the state’s attorney general has declined to seek to delay the decision. Although the case remains under review by the Indiana Attorney General’s Office for possible appeal, and the state has 90 days to reach its decision, it is our sincere hope that the state will agree to the wisdom of the court’s decision and allow 90 days to pass without launching a request for discretionary review by the Supreme Court. 

Judge Frank Easterbrook of the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit declared in the case’s final judgment that the state is required to treat secular worldviews “the same way it treats religion.” Wrote Easterbrook, “Atheists don’t call their own stance a religion but are nonetheless entitled to the benefit of the First Amendment’s neutrality principle, under which states cannot favor (or disfavor) religion vis-à-vis comparable secular belief systems.”

Judge Easterbrook also reasserted the importance of secular Americans’ sincere commitment to their worldview, and why they are right to be unwilling to pretend to be “religious” by way of some mail-order ordination to skirt the law.

“The state’s willingness to recognize marriages performed by hypocrites show[s] that the statute violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment as well as the First Amendment,” he wrote. “It is irrational to allow humanists to solemnize marriages if, and only if, they falsely declare that they are a ‘religion.’ … A marriage solemnized by self-declared hypocrite would leave a sour taste in the couple’s mouths; like many others, humanists want a ceremony that celebrated their values, not the values of people who will say or do whatever it takes to jump through some statutory hoop.”

“We’re delighted to have the equal status of the nonreligious recognized and finally made official in Indiana,” said Reba Boyd Wooden, Director of the CFI Secular Celebrant program and plaintiff in the case. “Our Secular Celebrants stand ready to accommodate any couple—religious or nonreligious—who desire a secular ceremony, whether it be a private solemnization or a large wedding in front of family and friends.”

Added Wooden, “Everyone at the Center for Inquiry is grateful to Ken Falk, Legal Director of ACLU of Indiana, for seeing this litigation through to such a positive conclusion.” 

Barring a request for discretionary review by the Supreme Court, Indiana is now the first state, to allow CFI’s Secular Celebrants to solemnize marriages on equal grounds with ordained ministers—in Marion County at least. In 2013, the District of Columbia became the first place in the United States to include nonreligious celebrants when it passed a statute stating that “Civil Celebrants” would be authorized to solemnize marriages, defining a civil celebrant as a person of a secular or non-religious organization who performs marriage ceremonies.

The final judgment is available here:  

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The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is a nonprofit educational, advocacy, and research organization headquartered in Amherst, New York, with executive offices in Washington, D.C. It is also home to both the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and the Council for Secular Humanism. The mission of CFI is to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. CFI‘s web address is


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