The Indianapolis-based Center for Inquiry sued for the right to have members of the group – proudly proclaiming itself not to be a religion – legally recognized as qualified to perform marriages. But Judge Sarah Evans Barker ruled against them, saying that Indiana laws “do not deny equal protection to the nonreligious” and finding no “history of purposeful unequal treatment” of nonbelievers. This is the type of “accommodation of religious beliefs” meant to be covered by the First Amendment,” she said.
This gets to the heart of what marriage is. It can involve both religious significance and civic obligations, and the two often overlap. In fact, the way government and religions partner on marriage represents a mingling of government and religion we would not, in fact do not, tolerate under other circumstances. Of course, it’s only the civil part that counts as a matter of law. The state recognizes a union, collects a fee and issues a license. If those obligations have been met, it seems fair to ask, what difference can it possibly make who conducts the ceremony?When the government sees a problem, it seems to know only one solution: Throw money at it. And never mind if the money is spent as intended or achieves the promised results. Out here in the real world, people tend to be a little more careful with their money.
Martha’s House, a Bloomington shelter for the homeless, for example, is implementing a new code of conduct for residents that bars them from asking strangers for money. People who panhandle tend to use the money to buy alcohol or illegal drugs. People don’t have to stay at the shelter, but those who do must show they’re willing to help themselves.
There’s a lesson there, but don’t expect anyone in government to learn it.