Secular Group Challenges Indiana’s Religious Privilege in Solemnizing Marriages

For Immediate Release: May 9, 2012
Contact: Paul Fidalgo, Communications Director - (207) 358-9785

The Center for Inquiry (CFI) filed a complaint in the United States District Court challenging an Indiana law that privileges religious institutions in the solemnizing of marriages. Indiana code 31-11-6-1 specifies that marriages in Indiana may be solemnized only by a small number of secular elected officials and a large number of clergy or other persons associated with religious organizations.

CFI, a national organization advocating on behalf of science and secular values, believes the law is unconstitutional on the grounds that it allows all manner of religious leaders to celebrate marriages, and allows persons of faith to be married by religious leaders of their choice, while denying these opportunities to persons who desire a nonreligious celebration by a Secular Celebrant. This represents a preference for religion over non-religion in violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, and denies rights secured by the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

“I have had many couples contact me over the years who are not religious and are seeking someone to solemnize their marriage who represents their life stance,” said Reba Boyd Wooden, Co-Director of the Secular Celebrant program for Center for Inquiry and Executive Director of Center for Inquiry-Indiana. “Some are religious but simply do not want a religious wedding. Some have family of different religions, and want a secular wedding to avoid conflicts. Indiana couples should have this option.”

Center for Inquiry established a program to train Secular Celebrants in December 2009. Currently there are 23 Secular Celebrants who have been trained and certified by CFI. Eight are from Indiana and others hail from 10 other states and the District of Columbia. However, since Center for Inquiry is not a religious organization, these Secular Celebrants cannot solemnize marriages in Indiana or any place in the United States under this certification alone.

Kenneth J. Falk, Legal Director of ACLU of Indiana is the lead attorney and Steven Fox, Legal Director for Center for Inquiry, Inc. is the co-counsel on the case. Plaintiffs in the case are Center for Inquiry, Inc., Reba Boyd Wooden, John Kiel, and Michelle Landrum.

For more information about the Center for Inquiry Secular Celebrant program go to:

The official complaint is available here: 

# # #

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 the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, and the Council for Secular Humanism. The Center for Inquiry strives to foster a secular society based on reason, science, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. Visit CFI on the web at