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Do Wedding Officiants Have the Freedom to Decide What Ceremonies They Perform?

By Sarah Kramer posted on:
July 23, 2020

Kristi Stokes has always had a heart for service. It’s her way of glorifying God, and it is evident in every aspect of her life. For example, as a young adult Kristi taught and served as a missionary in Zimbabwe. She has also long worked with those facing homelessness in Cleveland and even held formal positions in youth ministry, music ministry, and as an associate pastor in her church.

When she was asked to officiate a family member’s wedding in 2018, she jumped at the chance.

Through her experience officiating that wedding, Kristi realized that she loved being able to use her talents to bless couples getting married and celebrate the covenant they were making to each other and God.

That’s why she decided to start Covenant Weddings. Through Covenant Weddings, Kristi officiates weddings and writes custom vows, prayers, and homilies for wedding celebrations.

But as she developed and grew her business, Kristi found out something troubling about her local laws. In Cuyahoga County, there is a law that would force her to celebrate and participate in ceremonies that violate her beliefs.

That’s why Alliance Defending Freedom has filed a lawsuit on Kristi’s behalf, challenging this unconstitutional law.

Under the law, if Kristi officiates weddings between one man and one woman, she must also officiate same-sex weddings. If Kristi refuses to violate her faith in this way, she faces heavy financial penalties. On top of that, the law does not even allow Kristi to explain which weddings she can officiate on her own website!

While Kristi would gladly work with anyone, she cannot agree to officiate and verbally celebrate weddings that promote messages contrary to her beliefs.

And she shouldn’t have to.

Other ministers and religious leaders carefully consider which services they perform. If they do not have that freedom, what is to keep the government from forcing an Imam or a Rabbi to perform a Christian wedding or from forcing an LGBT artist to sing at a church conference devoted to celebrating marriage between a man and a woman?

We must have the freedom to participate in ceremonies we choose, proclaim messages we agree with, and practice the beliefs we hold most dear.

A tolerant and pluralistic society like ours demands it.

Sarah Kramer

Sarah Kramer

Digital Content Specialist

Sarah worked as an investigative reporter before joining the Alliance Defending Freedom team.

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