Can A Church Be Forced To Conduct A Marriage Ceremony?


In Bismarck the family of a disabled couple – the man in the wheel chair, his would-be wife with mental disabilities – are upset with a church because the pastor there wouldn’t marry the couple, arguing that they aren’t ready.

The couple is now getting married at another church, and the sister of the wife-to-be “says the church should be “inclusive and accepting of everyone,” according to the Associated Press.

This is an interesting topic, especially in light of states like Minnesota legalizing gay marriage. Does a given couple have the right to demand that a specific church marry them?

I don’t think they do.

My wife and I faced a similar situation. I’m an atheist, and she was a Catholic (she’s since converted to Lutheranism). She wanted a religious ceremony, but that wasn’t something we could get, because I wasn’t going to be dishonest about my beliefs and no religious leader was going to marry a non-believer. And nor should they have to. So we settled for a secular ceremony presided over by a justice of the peace.

Would we have had a right to demand that a church marry us, despite my being an atheist? Not any more than we’d have the right to walk into a vegetarian restaurant and demand that they make us a hamburger.

But I wonder, with the states legalizing gay marriage, how far we are away from lawsuits against churches that won’t perform gay marriage. I support gay marriage, but I don’t think the right of gays to enter into social contracts with one another extends to forcing churches to perform marriage ceremonies for them.

Yet, I think that’s probably where we’re heading in our entitled society.