The Not-Quite-Right Reverend Naughton recently solemnized his sixth wedding of 2016. In the six years since I received my online ordination from the Universal Life Church, I have presided over twenty or so wedding ceremonies (and one memorial service.) Not too shabby for an atheist, eh?
During rehearsals and receptions, guests often ask me about my faith. I answer honestly, if not completely, by telling people that I do not subscribe to any particular religion or denomination. I hesitate to bluntly announce to perfect strangers that I am an atheist, not because I am ashamed or afraid, but because I do not wish to take the focus away from the happy couple by engaging in spiritual debates with their wedding guests.
I have been questioned by friends who sincerely wonder how an atheist can lead a prayer during a wedding or a reception without feeling like a hypocrite. It’s easy, really. If you believe that your god hears all prayers, then you must also believe that he or she will hear mine when I pray on your behalf. When I ask God to bless the union of a married couple and to guide them on the path that He has laid before them, I am ministering to the couple’s spiritual needs, and therefore I suffer from no misplaced feelings of hypocrisy or guilt. I’m simply performing my duty to the best of my ability.
Most of the couples I have assisted over the years requested my services because I am not religiously affiliated. Some of those couples were unaffiliated themselves. Others had difficulty finding a minister who was willing to hold an outdoor ceremony. And a few of them had a hard time finding a minister willing to solemnize their marriage because of who they were.
I am proud to say that I have performed wedding ceremonies for three same-sex couples, two interracial couples, and one same-sex, interracial couple—so far. I firmly believe that when two consenting adults are lucky enough to find their soulmates, they have the right to be married regardless of their race or gender. Love is love. Period.
When I contemplate the empty seat on the bench of the Supreme Court, I worry about the prospect of it being filled by someone who wants to strip away the rights of gay, lesbian, and transgender Americans who wish to marry the people they love. A reversal on marriage equality would be an affront to the notion of liberty and justice for all, and it would be a step backward, in the direction of the days when a husband and wife could be arrested in their own home for being married to someone of another race.
The coming election is one of the most important in our nation’s history for many reasons. The make-up of the Supreme Court is just one of many significant issues that hang in the balance on November 8. Another is religious freedom. One of the presidential candidates has vowed to make immigrants pass a religious test in order to enter our country. The founding fathers, the men who drafted the Constitutional amendment that reads in part, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” must be spinning in their graves. That same candidate has also said the press should be restricted from writing unfavorable things about him. For someone who so vociferously champions the unassailability of the Second Amendment, he sure isn’t much of a fan of the First.
I am a liberal newspaper columnist and an atheist minister who just united a same-sex, interracial couple in the bonds of Holy Matrimony. And that sound you just heard was a misogynist, racist, real estate mogul’s orange-tinted head exploding. You’re welcome, America.
By Travis Naughton