Elvis Ministers But No Atheists Allowed: Las Vegas Refuses to Allow Atheists to Perform Weddings

300px-elvis_impersonators_recordIn Las Vegas, you can have an Elvis impersonator or a Liberace look alike marry you. You can have a shotgun wedding or a drive through divorce. However, if you want an atheist to marry you, you better get out of town. Sin City has not tolerance for atheists who want to help people tie the knot. That may be the subject of a new lawsuit on behalf of jilted wedding guy, Michael Jacobson, 64, who was refused a license for not being affiliated with a formal religious congregation.

Jacobson has faced discrimination for his atheism his whole life. In the Army, he was forced to put down Judaism (his family’s religion) on his dog tags because some religion had to be listed.

There are roughly 2,500 people licensed to perform marriage in the county and all are connected to a congregation — though some are as small as two people. The lawmakers insist that such duties must be “incidental” to other duties with the congregation — a laughable suggestion in a city with a huge industry of theme and joke weddings.

This would make for a great lawsuit if Las Vegas does not wise up. In my view, the city should lose faster than a drive through marriage by an Elvis impersonator on the strip.

For the full story, click here.

17 thoughts on “Elvis Ministers But No Atheists Allowed: Las Vegas Refuses to Allow Atheists to Perform Weddings”

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  2. C.L.:

    That is a great point. If the government allows a religious tenet to be impressed into every marriage, what about those who reject religion out of hand? I like the argument. Bravo.

  3. I wonder, if atheists can’t perform weddings because weddings should be reserved to the religious, won’t the next rule be that atheists can’t marry for the same reasons? This is the argument for why gays and other GLBTQ aren’t allowed to marry, “Marriage is a sacred institution.” In a way, though, forcing atheists into civil unions instead of marriages could help the cause of opening marriage up to everyone.

  4. Gyges, I’d say the same about funerals. I can understand that for some families, it’s important to focus on the deceased going on to a better world, but I come from a family where most people don’t believe in an afterlife, so it’s always better to celebrate someone’s life than it is to mourn their death.

    Back to weddings… I read an article a couple of years ago about the fact that American-style church weddings have become quite popular in Japan. There’s some controversy about it, because most Japanese are attracted to the pomp & circumstance of church weddings, not the religious ceremony… they don’t necessarily want a Christian minister to officiate, they want someone who looks like a televangelist to perform the ceremony. One missionary was quoted in the article as saying that he lost a lot of business to people with one of those $10 Universal Life Church credentials because he insisted on evangelizing during the ceremony.

  5. Jericho,

    My favorite weddings have all involved atheists. They’ve all had short ceremonies and long receptions.

  6. In all seriousness, if you’re an atheist, what’s there to wed anyway? Sounds like fried ice cubes to me. If you’re gonna have an atheist “wedding”, it should be easy to find something better to do than what these churches offer now, look at the pathetic success rate of the theist weddings!

  7. MAS,

    This movement is sunk! Las Vegas may represent Egypt, London and Paris but it will never have international waters. You can have near unfettered gambling on those and this competetion would be unacceptable.


    That was a great story!!!

  8. Elevator operators, in uniform, are authorized to perform marriage ceremonies, and the marriage is valid for as long as the ride lasts. No religious test is needed.

  9. Isn’t the whole ship-captains-can-officiate-weddings thing an urban legend?

    Jacobson has faced discrimination for his atheism his whole life. In the Army, he was forced to put down Judaism (his family’s religion) on his dog tags because some religion had to be listed.

    I can relate to this. Years ago, I was bitten by a dog and had to go to the emergency room… The receptionist was doing my paperwork and she asked me my religion. I said, “None”.

    She looked up and said in this exasperated tone, “You have to put something“.

    “Fine,” I told her, “put ‘none'”.

    Sir, you have to tell us your religion in case something happens.”

    I knew that wasn’t true, but I didn’t want to get a big argument over religion, so I said, “Church of Satan”.

    She wrote “none” in the space provided for my religion.

  10. As I understand it a captain must be in international waters to perform a binding marrage.

    This ruling makes more sense if you consider marrage to be an inherantly religious act, something that, while I disagree with, is a view held by many people.

  11. First of all trying to stop Americans from making a lot of cold hard cash real quick is absolutely illegal, especially in Las Vegas (see below).

    “Some of the state’s regulations hark back to the 1960s, when ministers were dumping their flocks to become wealthy “Marrying Sams,” according to the book “Las Vegas: An Unconventional History.”

    Do Sea Captains have to swear an oath to religion before they marry people in Las Vegas or only people who dress up as Sea Cap’ns?

    1. There is that ship at Treasure Island. One could claim to be the captain of that vessel (the English frigate sinks so that will only work for a short period of time for a quickie marriage).

  12. Elvis has left the building and he has left the city of Las Vegas until they start treating his fellow ministers properly. An atheist has the same rights of anyone else, even in Vegas.

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