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Jan 14 2014

Secular Celebrants Coming to New Jersey?

While everyone else is paying attention to the bridge scandal in New Jersey that has Gov. Chris Christie scrambling for cover, the state legislature is likely to pass a law allowing secular celebrants to solemnize marriages. The state senate voted overwhelmingly in favor of the bill:

But, under a bill scheduled for a vote in the state Senate today, you wouldn’t need to even pretend to be religious.

“It gives another group of people the right to perform marriages,” said state Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen), a sponsor.

Under New Jersey law, ministers of all religions along with judges, magistrates, mayors, deputy mayors, council members and various other public officials can perform marriages.

The bill would add another category: People certified by the secretary of state who have taken a weekly “civil celebrant course” from a non-denominational or educational non-profit organization for six months and paid a $50 to $75 fee.

The lower house passed a similar but not identical bill in 2012 and will now have to approve the amended one. I would certainly hope Christie would sign it once passed.

13 comments

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  1. 1
    Gregory in Seattle

    Maine, North Carolina and Florida have something even better than secular celebrants: in those states, marriage is nothing more than a notarial act (specifically, a special kind of jurat.) As such, any notary public may solemnize a marriage, no minister, judge or celebrant needed.

  2. 2
    Gregory in Seattle

    Maine, North Carolina and Florida have something even better: in those states, marriage is nothing more than a notarial act (specifically, a special kind of jurat.) As such, any notary public may solemnize a marriage, no minister, judge or celebrant needed.

  3. 3
    dmcclean

    A weekly course for 6 months?

  4. 4
    Modusoperandi

    dmcclean “A weekly course for 6 months?”
    What, you think you can just walk in off the street and get your [marriage] badge and [marriage] gun?

  5. 5
    matty1

    I understand in the Netherlands pretty much anyone can become an officiant, there is an oath not to misuse the authority and I think some kind of register for local authorities to keep track but otherwise no qualifications. It seems to actually be common for people to have relatives officiate.

  6. 6
    Pierce R. Butler

    Which bridge do these secular celebrants intend to come to New Jersey on?

    Are they bringing at least a day’s supply of food and water?

  7. 7
    uzza

    Can’t the county clerk do this already?

  8. 8
    hunter

    Modus @6: you can be ordained online for free by filling out a form. And any ordained minister can perform marriages is pretty much every state.

    You don’t even have to walk in off the street.

  9. 9
    hunter

    Oops — typo — means Modus @4

  10. 10
    tomcoward

    “Can’t the county clerk do this already?”

    The problem is that there are so few county clerks. In Portland, Maine, where I work and have performed several weddings over the years, there are at least 1,500 notaries, any of whom can solemn a marriage with no further qualifications needed.

  11. 11
    NitricAcid

    It used to be the case in Alberta where anyone could apply for a short-term license to perform marriages, so our marriage was officiated by my uncle. Apparently, they’ve changed the rules since then.

  12. 12
    gridlore

    My marriage was performed by a family friend with almost no religious content. My sister’s marriages was officiated by our brother, who is deeply involved with the Ordo Templis Orientalis. Bot marriages are happy and successful.

    Glad to see New Jersey moving forward. It’s not who does the ceremony, it is the commitment of the people involved.

  13. 13
    Modusoperandi

    gridlore “Bot marriages are happy and successful.”
    Of course. They’re programmed that way.

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