Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Ordination Event Works Around Tennessee 'Internet Married' Law

Posted By on Wed, Jun 19, 2019 at 10:57 AM

  • American Marriage Ministries/Facebook

On July 1, ”internet married” is over in Tennessee.

State lawmakers this year passed a bill that prevents online-ordained ministers from marrying couples. The new rule (Public Chapter No. 415) gives that power to a broader array of government officials. But demands more from “ministers” of any stripe.

”Under present law, in order to solemnize the rite of matrimony, a minister, preacher, pastor, priest, rabbi, or other spiritual leader must be ordained or otherwise designated in conformity with the customs of a church, temple, or other religious group or organization and such customs must provide for such ordination or designation by a considered, deliberate, and responsible act,” reads the bill summary.
  • American Marriage Ministries/Facebook

But American Marriage Ministries (AMM) will be in Memphis Monday for a free and easy (and legal, they say) workaround. The group, an official, nonprofit church, will provide in-person ordinations for anyone hoping to “internet marry” a couple. 
“With thousands of ministers stranded by the discriminatory Public Chapter No. 415, our ministers and the communities they serve are entitled to wedding ceremonies that reflect their values and beliefs, despite what the Tennessee legislature says!” reads a statement from AMM. “Without such ordinations, Tennessee couples will be forced into weddings officiated by religious leaders with differing values, or impersonal government weddings. Tennesseans deserve the choice, which online-ordination used to offer before the legislature revoked the rights of such ministers.”

The group will be at Shelby Farms Park Monday (6093 Great View Drive, #7 Chickasaw Pavillion), though the location is subject to change.
  • American Marriage Ministries/Facebook
AMM’s executive director Lewis King said, “our position is that the couple is best equipped to vet their wedding officiant, not lawmakers.”

Memphis Flyer: Why are you doing this?

Lewis King: We’re here because Public Chapter No. 415 discriminates against non-traditional Tennessee ministers, preventing thousands of our ministers from exercising their freedom of religion by officiating wedding ceremonies. While we are doing everything we can to get this discriminatory law repealed, it is important that we do right by our ministers. By providing in-person ordination and training, AMM is giving our ministers a way to remain in compliance with Tennessees’ marriage law and meet their obligations to couples across the state.

Our position is that the couple is best equipped to vet their wedding officiant, not lawmakers. The notion that the state can decide which religious officials are allowed to perform this spiritual ceremony is not only profoundly unconstitutional, it’s also patently misguided — getting ordained is a spiritual act, not something that can be regulated like a drivers license.
Solemnizing marriage is an important spiritual service of love, that requires getting ordained, spending hours working on a ceremony, practicing it, and then delivering it on the wedding day. The disregard that Public Chapter No. 415 displays is not only offensive, it’s also an indication of how out of touch Tennessee's legislature is with the way that Tennesseans practice their faith!

MF: How does it work?

LK: Spiritual practice is a personal choice. If someone is called to serve their community as a minister that officiates weddings, our role is to empower them to do so in a professional and meaningful way. We do that by ordaining folks as ministers, which gives them the legal standing to solemnize marriage and sign wedding certificates.

  • American Marriage Ministries/Facebook

As a nationally recognized church, we are able to ordain ministers, which gives them the legal standing to conduct certain ceremonies such as the solemnization of weddings. It's the same process, more or less, that all other churches use. Ours just happens to be much more user friendly, and less caught up in dogmatism because we want folks to be able to get ordained and get active in their communities on their own terms. That's why we've made it free and easy.

Getting ordained is only the first step towards becoming a marriage officiant. We also provide training and inspiration for our ministers, both online and with books that we publish. We guide our ministers through important steps like meeting with the couple and talking about what sort of ceremony they want, writing the script, practicing the ceremony and finally, how to lead the wedding ceremony when the big day comes.

  • American Marriage Ministries/Facebook
MF: Does it satisfy Tennessee law?

LK: We've carefully reviewed the latest version of Tennessee's marriage law, including consulting internal, and external legal counsel to make sure that our ordinations meet the letter and spirit of the law — and they do! The new law “prohibits persons receiving online ordinations from solemnizing the rite of matrimony.” AMM is registered in Tennessee as a foreign nonprofit corporation, and we are providing in-person ordinations and training to our ministers like every other state-sanctioned institution does.

MF: How is it free?

LK: It's free because prior to the passage of Public Chapter No. 415, we were a resource-lite organization. That's the beauty of the internet! We're a 501c3 non-profit, which means we aren't trying to get rich here, and as long as we can keep the lights on in our office, we're happy. We fund our organization through our online store, where we sell books, information packets, and commemorative certificates that folks can use to remember their big day.
  • American Marriage Ministries/Facebook
MF: Has this worked in other cities and states?

LK: Online ordination works, and we've got the numbers to prove it. Almost fifty percent of weddings in the U.S. last year were officiated by friends, family, and neighbors — ie. non-traditional ministers. Society has embraced this expression of spirituality. It's time for Tennessee's lawmakers to catch up. Most states welcome online-ordained officiants, and they have successfully officiated millions of weddings over the years. That's because other states respect the separation of church and state, and realize it's not their role to adjudicate how religious institutions conduct their internal affairs such as ordination.
We've never seen anything quite like Public Chapter No. 415, and we hope that Tennessee realizes how destructive this new law is and repeals it soon because if you aren't affiliated with a mainstream church, you're relegated to a government official as your officiant. The last thing a couple wants is for their wedding to feel like a trip to the DMV.

MF: Tell me, briefly, about AMM and how does this ordination event fit into its mission?

LK: We are a non-profit, interfaith and non-denominational constitutional church that is federally recognized by the IRS as a 501(c)3 Public Charitable Organization. Drawing on the freedom of religion clause in the United States Constitution, AMM provides free ordination, advocacy, and training for our ministers to ensure that all people have the right to get married and to perform marriage.
  • American Marriage Ministries/Facebook
We maintain that spirituality is an intensely personal path, and for many Americans, their wedding is an opportunity to express their values and beliefs. That's only possible if there's a minister that shares that worldview, and by offering free ordination, we ensure that the couple can call on those that are best suited to the task.

Our three tenets are:

1. All people, regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation, have the right to marry.
2. It is the right of every couple to choose who will solemnize their marriage.
3. All people have the right to solemnize marriage.
  • American Marriage Ministries/Facebook

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