An application to perform Humanist weddings has been denied by the BC Government after nearly a year of uncertainty around the BC Humanist Association’s new Humanist Officiant Program.
The BC Humanists, which represents atheists, agnostics, and non-religious in the province, submitted an application to register religious representatives in March 2012 and only just learned of the decision from a letter, dated January 31st, 2013, from Jack Shewchuck, CEO of the Vital Statistics Agency.
The Humanist Officiant Program is based on successful programs in Scotland – where Humanist weddings are on track to be the most common religious wedding by 2015 – and Ontario. Through the program, BC Humanists sought to register religious representatives to perform marriages for atheists, agnostics, and secular humanists. These ceremonies would enable couples to have the opportunity to choose a marriage ceremony informed by Humanist values.
According to the letter, the application was denied because the constitution of the BC Humanists states that “the purpose of secular humanism is to provide a valid alternative to existing religions and that humanism has no official dogma” and “the [BC Humanist] Association is an educational institution involved with ethics and morals.” The letter continues by suggesting that BC Humanist members apply to become marriage commissioners, based on vacancies posted by the government.
BC Humanist Association Executive Director Ian Bushfield, who submitted the application, is disappointed by the rejection and along with the Board of Directors is currently exploring their legal options.
The Marriage Act defines a “religious body” that is able to register representatives to solemnize marriages as “any church, or any religious denomination, sect, congregation or society.” According to the Act, the Association has three months to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court of BC.