Indiana law allows Satanists to perform marriages, but not Buddhists

July 16, 2014

An Indiana law is “irrational” and “absurd” for allowing Satanists to perform legal marriages while making it a crime for Buddhists and humanists to do the same, a federal appeals court said this week.

It’s been a rough few months for state marriage laws around the country, which judges have repeatedly struck down for not allowing same-sex couples to marry each other.

Indiana allows neither, limiting marriage powers to religious clergy and certain public officials like mayors, court clerks and judges. Indiana’s statute specifically includes the faiths of Islam, Baha’i and Mormonism — but omits many others, such as Buddhism, Rastafarianism and Jainism. Indiana law also makes it a crime for non-sanctioned celebrants to purport to carry out a legal ceremony.

The Center for Inquiry — a humanist group whose leader is barred from performing legal ceremonies because she is not considered “clergy” under law — sued Indiana to argue that the state’s law unfairly gives marriage powers to certain religions and not to secularists.

Despite its sweeping disdain, the court panel ruled narrowly, however, and instructed a federal judge who had previously denied to institute an injunction to issue an order allowing certified secular humanists to perform legal wedding ceremonies.

The panel, though, did gently hint that perhaps Indiana lawmakers might consider tweaking the law to allow notaries to perform weddings.