Virginia atheist couple: Court-appointed officiant told us we had no right to get married

Image. The Raw Story
A court-appointed official in Virginia refused to perform a wedding ceremony for a couple because they don’t believe in God.

By Travis GettysThe Raw Story

Tamar Courtney and Morgan Strong planned to get this married after six years together, and they’d hoped a friend would be able to officiate, reported the Friendly Atheist blog.

But that friend had trouble obtaining his license, so the couple turned to Franklin County – where a judge referred them to two court-appointed officiants.

The first official they called, Bud Roth, said he would not perform the ceremony at the courthouse, although he didn’t specify why, but said he would marry them at his church.

Although neither of them believes in God, the couple agreed to go through the legal portion of the ceremony at Roth’s church and then planned to celebrate later with friends and family.

After they agreed on the cost, location, date, and time, Roth asked Courtney about their religious denomination.

She admitted she was agnostic and Strong was an atheist, and she said Roth told them they didn’t have the right to marry because they “didn’t know where God was.”

Strong was so incredulous he set up a recording and called Roth himself to ask why they’d been denied service.

“Because she’s agnostic and you’re an atheist,” Roth said on the recording. “I will not marry you. You don’t believe in God.”

He told Strong that was his decision but insisted he was not judging the couple.

“I just don’t marry anyone who does not believe in God [or] believes that there is a God someplace,” Roth said. “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?”

He suggested Strong contact the other court-appointed officiant to see if he would perform the ceremony.

The Franklin County clerk was speechless when Courtney called her about the issue, and she told the couple to write a letter to the judge who had appointed the officiants.

The clerk told the Friendly Atheist that Judge William Alexander said he had appointed Roth to perform religious ceremonies in the county and the other officiant for civil ceremonies.

She said the judge found no problem with Roth’s decision, and the clerk said she wasn’t sure whether the couple had asked courthouse staffers to direct them to a non-religious officiant.

Strong and Courtney will be married Monday by the second officiant, and they plan to hold a formal ceremony June 29 with their loved ones.

[Image: Closeup of hands of bridal couple with wedding rings via Shutterstock]