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this is true in most states

What does religion, or more specifically, having a congregation, have to do with being a civil witness to the civil contract of marriage?

Nevada, like many states, has restrictions on who can solemnize wedding ceremonies, and essentially act as state witnesses, and these restrictions are entirely based on religion. In some states, like Ohio, you have to be "ordained", but an internet ordination from the Universal Life Church, will do. A "church" that has such vague requirements about "doing good" that atheists can easily pass the paperwork. (That's right, you are talking to a Reverend, and don't you forget it!) But other states, like Pennsylvania, have no such restriction. Any layman off the street can fill out a form and be a witness for a wedding, at least one at a time, without any religious affiliation whatsoever. (Though, as I recall--and I haven't looked at it for a while--there were tougher restrictions for someone who wanted to do this more regularly.) Finding someone to do it, though, is a different matter.

But what does being a witness to the civil contract of marriage have to do with religion? And why should I have to go to a religious person with "a congregation", or with a registered church, in order to obtain the recognition of this civil contract? (And since atheists can't be elected to office in most areas, going through a JP is indirectly going through religion in 99.99% of the cases.) I mean, really... is this related to the (insane) notion that atheists can't be trusted to tell the truth? What other logic could there be to justify this?

After my brother had to get married in a Catholic church, in a ceremony that was just plain ridiculous from an atheist perspective, I am more committed than ever to getting married--if I ever get married--in a truly non-religious ceremony. Even, 'so help me God' is unacceptable.

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