Atheist Seeks Same Access to Altar as Fake Liberaces, Elvises
December 16th, 2008 by TiamatsVision
“In a city launched by shotgun weddings and quickie divorces, which offers the chance to be wed by faux Liberaces, King Tuts and Grim Reapers, there remains at least one nuptial taboo: you can’t be married by an atheist. Michael Jacobson, a 64-year-old retiree who calls himself a lifelong atheist, tried this year to get a license to perform weddings. Clark County rejected his application because he had no ties to a congregation, as state law requires. So Jacobson and attorneys from two national secular groups — the American Humanist Association and the Center for Inquiry — are trying to change things. If they can’t persuade the state Legislature to rework the law, they plan to sue.
Jacobson, who spends most afternoons reading online or dining at a nearby buffet, is an admittedly reluctant plaintiff. But he’s willing to fight on principle, recalling one time he couldn’t: In the 1960s, the Army demanded that his dogtags note his religion. He reluctantly chose Judaism, which reflected his ancestry if not his beliefs.
“One of the things I like to do is stand up and say I’m a non-believer, so you know you’re not alone,” he said recently. For years Mel Lipman, a friend of Jacobson’s and the American Humanist Association president, had presided over non-religious weddings in Las Vegas. But he belonged to the Humanist Society, a secular branch of the Humanist Association whose tax status as a religious group satisfied the clerk’s requirements.
When Lipman and his wife moved to Florida this spring, Jacobson decided to become the Las Vegas atheist celebrant. “But I’m not going to do it by saying I belong to a religious organization,” he said. “That’s a sham because atheists are not religious.”