AUTHOR: STEPHEN D. FOSTER JR. MAY 31, 2014 3:40 PM
Photo from Patheos
Marriage is a right that belongs to any consenting adults. But an over-religious court official in Virginia has a message for atheists and any other non-Christian: you have no right to get married if you don’t believe in God.
Bud Roth is a court appointed officiant in Franklin County, Virginia. He performs wedding ceremonies for couples who go to the courthouse to get married. Atheists, however, have no right to get married as far as he’s concerned.
When Morgan Strong and Tamar Courtney contacted the county courthouse to seal their love for each other after six years together, they were directed to Roth. Roth refused to perform the ceremony at the courthouse and only agreed to marry the couple if they tied the knot at his church. A deal was struck and the cost and date were set. Strong and Courtney would go through the legal part of the ceremony at Roth’s church. That’s when the whole situation turned ugly.
Roth asked the couple about their religious beliefs and upon hearing that he would be performing a ceremony for an atheist and an agnostic, turned the couple away. Why? Because they “didn’t know where God was.” That’s right, Roth refused to marry the couple out of sheer religious bigotry. Disappointed, Morgan and Courtney decided to discuss the situation with Roth and they kindly recorded the conversation.
Upon asking why Roth denied them their right to wed, he replied:
“Because she’s agnostic and you’re an atheist. I will not marry you. You don’t believe in God… I just don’t marry anyone who does not believe in God [or] believes that there is a God someplace. So I’m not going to talk the issue over with you and I’m not going to argue about it, okay? I’m just not going to marry you. Correct?”
The couple contacted the county clerk, who was floored by their story. She suggested they contact the judge who appointed Roth in the first place. So they wrote a letter to Judge William Alexander who didn’t see any problem at all with a court officiant refusing to marry a couple simply because they don’t share his religious beliefs. The judge referred the couple to the other court appointed officiant who agreed to perform the civil ceremony this coming Monday.
But this incident raises serious concerns. First, a civil servant is supposed to serve the public. That means anyone. As long as a couple has a marriage license, there shouldn’t be any problem. Second, religious discrimination is wrong no matter the venue, but for it to occur at a courthouse by a court official is totally unacceptable. People go to get married at a courthouse to avoid religious pomp and circumstance and because it’s quicker. They don’t go there to have religion shoved down their throats. That’s why my wife and I married at a courthouse. Not because we didn’t believe in a god, but because we didn’t want religion to dominate our day.
Roth was wrong to refuse to perform the ceremony just because Morgan and Courtney don’t share his beliefs. He was also wrong to require them to get married at his church. He’s a COURT-APPOINTED OFFICIANT, for crying out loud! He’s a courthouse employee. Therefore, anyone who wishes to marry at the courthouse should be married at the courthouse. Even if he’s the one asked to perform the ceremony. He’s paid by taxpayers to do this task. He’s not paid to drag couples to church or to refuse to marry a couple because of his own religious beliefs. Separation of church and state is clearly being violated here by both Judge Alexander and Roth. If Roth were a private citizen, then he could refuse to marry anyone. But in this case, he’s NOT a private citizen. The people of Franklin County, Virginia should be embarrassed and outraged by this and they should demand a change be made. Because once religious discrimination infects our courts, anyone is at risk to have their rights and freedoms trampled on by self-righteous pricks in the name of Christianity.