Why the Government Should get out of the Marriage Business

Bruce Reyes-Chow officiates a wedding Photo: Here I am officiating my sister, Deanne’s, wedding.

This past December my wife, Robin, and I celebrated 20 years of marriage. That chilly 1990 December morning at Ocean Avenue Presbyterian Church, before God and our community, we boldly and tearfully exchanged vows proclaiming our commitment to one another in marriage. Oh wait, that wasn’t REALLY the marriage, at least not in the eyes of the state. Not until the witnesses and officiant signed our licence were we “officially” married. Religious blessing or not, the civil rights we enjoy because we got hitched did not begin until that license was signed and received by the county registrar.

In my world and understanding marriage, however, we were married when we exchanged vows and “I do” and we were joined legally when the license was signed and received. This separation is very clear to me and I believe that our nation’s current marriage debates exist because we have confused and combined the two. Now I am not the only person that thinks this relationship is not only awkward, but constitutionally inappropriate. And while I applaud President Obama’s recent decision regarding the Defense of Marriage Act, I for one believe that the government should get out of the marriage business all together.

I offer a few thoughts . . .

Civil Unions make sense. - Our government is responsible for the civil rights of its citizens. Moral codes will always be part of a national dialogue, but the only reason that the government should be interested in the bonds between two people is to regulate issues of taxes, property, contractual obligations, etc. and NOT the religious/spiritual nature of relationship. The civil relationship, should two people choose to enter into this kind of agreement is purely legal and not about a spiritual bond of marriage.

Defining marriage is a no-win situation. - Let me be as clear as I can be. There is not one “Biblical” definition of marriage. Yes, there are examples of one man and one woman who are married, but even my kids know that there are also examples of marriage that go far and beyond the limits of one. I am shocked when Christian leaders talk about the Bible, especially in a civil context, as if is clear on the subject of marriage. This debate about and continued use of this “Biblical marriage” interpretation to inform civil relationships will lead nowhere and further blurs the separation of church and state.

Marriage is deeply spiritual - First, I know that there are many who believe that marriage as an institution, religious or civil, is a bankrupt social construct. And there I times I see some marriages and kind of agree, but call me old-fashioned, I still believe in the beauty of the institution of marriage. It would be all the better if the government left the marriage part to the religious community. In my understanding of Biblical marriage, scripture invites us into deep and intimate relationships with one another, two individuals, who seek to commit their lives to one another growing individually and together into God hopes them to become. Other religious traditions will bring a different perspective, and barring destructive practices, should be allowed to exercise their marriage perspectives.

I am not an agent of the state. - While I do enjoy saying the words, “By the power given to me by . . .” that is mostly out of nostalgia for the classic wedding experience and my secret desire to be a cop, neither of which is reason enough for me to officiate weddings on behalf of the state. In no other part of my life as a pastor am I asked to be an agent of the state. Yes I am responsible to the state when it comes to reporting abuse, but even then I do not act on behalf of the state in any other part of the process. This blurring between church and state is a relationship whose time has passed, if it ever had a time in the first place.

So there you have it, my quick thoughts on marriage, civil unions and why the government should leave the marriage life of its citizens to someone else.

I look forward to what will surely be a spirited conversation. If you would like to engage in real time, please feel free to reply to me on twitter via @breyeshow or visit me on my facebook page.

35 comments

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  • Lyall  

    A bit more-
    Most people who are connected with the ‘legal profession’, whether in Australia, U.S.A., Canada etc. will have heard of the British jurist Sir William Blackstone (quite a brilliant man). (jurist = 1. legal scholar; 2. public official authorized to make decisions on questions brought before a court). You can find his ‘Commentaries on the Laws of England’ (1765-1769) on the web.
    Some interesting snippets from his Book 1, Chapter 15 titled “Of Husband and Wife” reads, “…OUR law considers marriage in no other light than as a civil contract. The Holiness of the matrimonial state is left entirely to the ecclesiastical law: the temporal courts not having jurisdiction to consider unlawful marriages as a sin, but merely as a civil inconvenience. …” and “In the civil law the husband and wife are considered as two distinct persons; and may have separate estates, contracts, debts, and injuries:”.
    This is ‘straight from the horse’s mouth’. He is saying that marriage outside of a civil contract is a civil inconvenience, or, to rephrase this, civil marriage brings civil conveniences (which are benefits). See Luke 22:25-26 re benefactors.

  • Lyall  

    We all have the need for friendship & fellowship, and the need to belong to something, whether it is a family, social group or church etc. As we approach adulthood, the need for a spouse or partner surfaces, and with many, a degree of need to belong to a nation (patriotism) surfaces.
    Patriotism conjures up thoughts of love, loyalty, support & pride for one’s nation, with the need to identify with like minded people. Patriotism is often associated with the word ‘nationalism, where most people like to be thought of as good & faithful members (citizens) of that nation. Patriotism is a good quality to exhibit, yet blind patriotism is a stumbling block to coming to know the truth.
    When people are confronted with information opposing their fundamental beliefs about the foundations and so-called laws of ‘their’ nation they will generally ‘switch off’ (as stated earlier) in defense of ‘their’ nation. The truth is not always convenient to our beliefs, agendas, prejudices, way of life & comfort zones. Myths, lies and common beliefs can become substance of faith and so can’t be challenged by facts. Very large myths & lies can actually be accepted by the majority of people.
    An extract from Hitler’s Mein Kampf document reads “… It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation.”
    Christians can be told that the so-called laws in ‘Australia’ and ‘U.S.A.’, including those referring to marriage, do not even apply to them unless they consent to them, yet they will not consider it, but would rather conclude that such a messenger is, for example, delusional, deceived or on a hobby horse.
    Criticism nearly always accompanies new information if it is controversial, but that ‘goes with the territory’.
    The governments of ‘Australia’ and ‘U.S.A.’ are today’s major lying ‘scribes’. The Bible clearly states that Satan is an evil, rebellious, deceitful and subtle being with a will to rule the world, and what better way to rule than through governments, those entities that so many people remain faithful to. Not all governments are ordained by God. Once again see Hosea 8:4.
    The main-stream media are today’s major lying ‘mouth pieces’ for the governments and unfortunately some churches are also unknowingly lying ‘mouth pieces’ for Satan.
    Rev. 21:8 “…. and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.”
    I don’t condone anarchy, but because the governments, their courts and the statutes bring a reasonable amount of peace and security to people’s lives, this does not of itself justify the governments, their courts and the statutes as being ordained by God.

  • Lyall  

    I don’t know what process you might suggest to get the Federal government out of the marriage business as a first step. Perhaps you mean to lobby the government to have the statutes changed?
    As far as born-again Christians are concerned, getting any governments out of Christian marriage starts with education. Born-again Christians need to take the initiative and get the governments out of their marriage as my wife & I did, and for those intending to marry, they need to ensure that they’re not deceived into signing any government documentation.
    When my wife & I came to know the truth, we asked God for forgiveness for involving the government in our marriage when we signed documentation per the Marriage Act 1961 & Marriage Regulations 1963, Commonwealth of Australia. We just no longer recognise ‘our’ marriage certificate.
    Applying for a marriage license and signing government documentation is totally voluntary.
    We voluntarily applied for a license and signed the documentation because that seemed to be the usual action to take at the time. It was normal practice taken by the church that we attended, plus it classified ‘marriages’ as legal in the government’s eyes.
    Our marriage is lawful in God’s eyes (when we pledged our vows to each other, and to, before and under God) and if the government doesn’t recognise that then we care not.
    Actually the governments can not recognise ‘lawful’ anyway; they can only recognise ‘legal’ even though they deceitfully use the words ‘laws’ and ‘lawful’.
    ‘Lawful’ applies to laws/lawful-rules (all laws come from God only, see Isaiah 33:22 & James 4:12), whereas ‘legal’ applies to statutes, being merely the rules for a society, where in ‘Australia’ and the ‘U.S.A.’ the statutes apply to persons (legal-fictions), not you, unless you take suretyship for the person of the cestui que trust.
    It’s unfortunate that possibly less than 2% of Christians comprehend the deceptions of the cestui que trust. The very basics of this have been touched in previous postings.

  • ChristianMiller  

    I agree that neither the federal government nor the state governments should be involved in marriage or special civil unions. My suggestion is that getting the federal government out of the marriage business will be an easier first step. It is difficult for anyone to argue in favor of federal subsidies to married couples on any basis: fairness to single people; efficient use of tax money; or the failure of the subsidies to achieve improved stability of families. Once the feds are removed from the marriage business, getting the states removed will be easier.

  • Lyall  

    It does not matter which government is considered in a discussion on Christian marriage because neither should be involved due to contractual considerations.
    God designed the relational part of Christian marriage to be founded on a sacred, exclusive, three-party covenant. Covenants and contracts differ considerably.
    Any government association with marriage is through contractual basis.
    Yes the Federal government is also involved through contract, with the offering of ‘carrots’ ie. benefits, including subsidies. We should be most wary of any benefactors. Luke 22:25-26 warns “And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. But ye [shall] not [be] so: but he ….”
    When one gets into a discussion on subsidies, licenses, financial support, social security etc., remember that these are founded on statutes, not laws.

  • ChristianMiller  

    “Why the Government Should get out of the Marriage Business” There are really two governments involved: federal and state. I suggest we have a separate discussion on “Why the Federal Government Should get out of the Marriage Business”.
    The federal government’s current primary role is providing financial benefits to couples with marriage licenses issued by the states.
    The federal government began its involvement in marriage about 80 years ago and its subsidies to couples with marriage licenses have been accumulating over the years. There is no evidence that the institution of marriage is stronger now than it was 80 years ago. There is no indication that federal subsidies have helped strengthened the institution of marriage.
    The vast bulk of these subsidies go to our more affluent couples. We could justify ending the federal government’s involvement in marriage with the argument that married couples in need of financial support get very little federal financial support, if any, and that government marriage subsidies go mostly to affluent married couples who do not need it.
    Do these subsidies provide incentive for couples to get a marriage license? It is hard to imagine a couple in their twenties and in love deciding to get a marriage license because the wife will be able to collect 50% of the husband’s Social Security when they are in their sixties.

  • Lyall  

    We can attend church year after year and continually accept the many preachings and teachings on various subjects such as sin, marriage, government, Christmas etc.
    Laws are very rarely discussed, and usually only mentioned in regards to the common, almost ‘official’, preachings and teachings that “We must obey the laws of the land”, per Romans 13:1-7 (or related verses) or else face the consequences.
    Romans 13:1-2 reads ”Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.”
    We must obey the rules of the land, but only if these rules are lawful (laws), ordained by God, actually apply to us, and are not a counterfeit or fiction somehow, and of course are founded on a lawful government and Godly common law principles.
    Any diversion from the ‘serial’ preachings, teachings and beliefs “You must obey the government and the laws” brings immediate skepticism and possibly the thought of ‘yet another conspiracy theory’.
    It is healthy to be skeptical when viewing new information. Skepticism is an essential part of research, and is important in achieving an objective view of reality.
    The term ‘conspiracy theory’ is often associated with fiction and fantasy. The term can sometimes be used by people confronted with information or a view which does not agree with their opinions, beliefs and agenda. In these situations, these people are not actually being skeptical, but use the term ‘conspiracy theory’ as a convenient way for their view, or the established ‘official’ mainstream view of various subjects to be seen as the correct or best version.
    Satan is a master at subtle deceptions, illusions, counterfeits, tactics and lies.
    Christians must ‘look outside of the box’, do some valid research, or else their beliefs will be fraught with errors, constituting gross negligence and disregard for the truth.
    Your ignorance is Satan’s advantage.

  • Lyall  

    No new comments here – a bit more while I’m visiting.
    The systems of commerce and statutes (so-called law) in ‘Australia’ and the ‘U.S.A.’, and other ‘countries’ do operate on fiction – that’s just how it is.
    Most people have difficulty comprehending just how we can be operating in fiction, when we dwell in a real world of people, houses, schools, cars, food, air etc. etc.
    Consider the game of Monopoly. There are real people throwing dice, talking, exchanging paper, and there are real tokens, a real board, real paper as play-money, real cards as a statement of ‘pretend land & houses owned’; but the game is a fiction where the player is surety for ‘his/her’ token.
    That’s similar to how it is in society today – people are surety for their persons/corporation-soles (one-entity corporations)
    The Bible clearly states that Satan comes as an ‘angel of light’ (2 Cor. 11:14), as ‘the god of this world/age’ (2 Cor. 4:4), as ‘the prince of the power of the air’ (Eph. 2:2 ) and ‘the prince of this world’ (John 12:31).
    Rev 18:23 reads “….. for thy merchants were the great men of the earth; for by thy sorceries were all nations deceived.” These merchants exist today, separate from the antichrist and false prophet who are to come.
    Most people, incl. most Christians, are so entrenched and secure in the societal system that they would not want to ‘see outside of the box’. We are all so used to government benefits too.
    The governments should not be your provider – God is. Too many people look up to the governments as a ‘nanny state’.
    Luke 22:25-26 reads “And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. But ye [shall] not [be] so: but he ….”
    To discover that the societal system is Satan’s would mean a total change of lifestyle and a repentance for participation in it, and that is just too hard for most Christians to consider.
    As Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910), one of Russia’s greatest novelists said, “Most men can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, have proudly taught to others and have woven thread by thread into the fabric of their lives.”

  • Lyall  

    Pastor Bruce said on the ‘Should you give up social networking or church for Lent?’ blog,
    “As part of the traditional Lenten experience, many people give something up, symbolically, mentally and/or physically sacrificing something that keep him/her separated from God.”
    The season (festival) of lent leading up to Easter is for individual Christians in many churches to ‘parallel’ themselves with Jesus’ withdrawal into the wilderness. It’s a time for soul-searching in preparation for the commemoration and celebration of what Jesus did for ALL of us on the cross. A time for repentance too, but also repentance is for every day.
    Romans 12:2 reads “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. ”
    John 17:14-15 reads “ I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.”
    Many Christians have heard the saying, “We should be in the world but not of the world” where the ‘world’ is the inhabited world which operates separately from God, although under His permissive will.
    Unfortunately the majority of Christians ARE conformed to this world to some degree, and ARE ‘of the world’ to some degree because of their express and implied (adhesive) contracts with Satan’s world (system) of commerce.
    There is a story about a drunkard who lost his car keys in town one night. He lost them further down the street but was looking under the street lamp because that was where the light shone. Similarly many Christians look to God’s Word, the Bible, for truth, guidance, answers etc., and rightly so, BUT these Christians do not also look ‘down the street’ to discover some of Satan’s workings, and so are not aware that he has counterfeited governments and laws, and corrupted commerce.
    Hosea 8:4 reads “They have set up kings, but not by me: ….”
    Rev 18:23 “….. for thy merchants were the great men of the earth; for by thy sorceries were all nations deceived.”
    Organic governments (whether they were lawful of not) have been replaced by corporations, and laws/lawful-rules have been replaced by statutes, where the statutes apply to persons and not people.
    Being surety for ‘your’ person/corporation-sole, and contracting with the sorcerous end time merchants will keep you separated from God to some degree, just as do any other sins which you may commit.
    Further than just giving something up, whether symbolically, mentally and/or physically sacrificing something that might keep you separated from God, ‘look down the street’, ‘look outside the box’, and you may find what is inhibiting your Christian marriage – …. that 4th. abhorrent party, the state.

  • Lyall  

    Legal fictions can go ‘hand-in-hand’ with ‘color of law’.
    Consider the following clues:
    Dictionary of Law, 1893 “Legal – a thing in the form or after the manner of law or binding by law. A writ or warrant issuing from any court, under color of law, is a legal process however defective.”
    Blacks Law Dictionary, 5th. Ed. ” ‘Color of law’ – The appearance or semblance, without the substance, of legal right. Misuse of power, possessed by virtue of state law and made possible only because wrongdoer is clothed with authority of state, is action taken under ‘color of law’.”
    After coming to know the truth, who would ever want to bring part of their marriage into contract with the state?
    If you signed the government’s paperwork when you got married, and if you ever end up in a court over marriage problems, then the court will enforce the appropriate statutes. On the other hand, with true Christian marriage, problems with covenants are dealt with by character, with God’s help.
    Christian marriage as God intended truly involves the binding of hearts, flesh and spirits, whereas contracts involve the signing of names.

  • Lyall  

    We dwell in a world with so much fiction, with the main ‘culprits’ being legal-fictions. So-called money in “Australia’ and the ‘U.S.A.’ is also a fiction, similar the play-money used in the game of Monopoly. The notes and coins carried in people’s wallets are correctly termed ‘fiat currency’, where ‘fiat’ means ‘by decree’. The government merely decrees that this ‘paper’ is legal tender to be used and accepted in commerce (‘legal’ as per the statute rules; and ‘tender’ meaning an offer of contract).
    This paper has no intrinsic value as nowhere on this paper is it declared that it can be redeemed for gold, silver, or something else of real value. In the ‘U.S.A.’ for example, before 1933, there was money in existence. It could be redeemed for gold. This is another subject in itself.
    Some people have difficulty comprehending just what a legal-fiction is.
    In an internet blog on this subject some time ago a Christian who worked in a court-house claimed “Excuse me, but I live in a real world with real people.
    We do live in a real world with real people, but it is also full of businesses, companies and corporations, and corporation-soles, which only exist in the mind of man and ‘on paper’ at a government office.
    Suppose that two individual men, Bill Billard and Ben Benson each have an automobile, trailer, mower and garden tools. They go out separately doing yard maintenance for an income. Someone advised Ben to register his activity as a business because of various tax benefits. Ben applied for business status for his activity and some weeks later received a certificate in the mail from the state government advising that his activity was registered as a business named ‘BEN’S BACK-YARD MAINTENANCE’. If you visit Bill’s house, he will show you his automobile, trailer, mower and garden tools. If you visit Ben’s house, he will show you his automobile, trailer, mower and garden tools; but where is Ben’s business? All that Ben can show you is a government certificate claiming that his activity is registered as a business; and this business can be struck off of the government’s record books with the stroke of a pen. On the books at the tax office, three entities are listed, being ‘BILL BILLARD’, ‘BEN BENSON’ and ‘BEN’S BACK-YARD MAINTENANCE’.
    The business ‘BEN’S BACK-YARD MAINTENANCE’ only exists in the mind of man and ‘on paper’. The same applies for companies and corporations, and at any time, these can be canceled at the stroke of a pen.
    Very few people, including most Christians, never give any thought to a business etc. as existing only in the mind of man and on paper.
    The concept of this type of fiction was, many years ago, extended to an entity known as a ‘person’ (a non-perpetual corporation-sole), and to repeat, the court’s definition of ‘person’ is not the same as that given by the majority of people.
    The word ‘person’ is believed to be derived from the Etruscan word ‘phersu’, meaning ‘mask’.

  • Lyall  

    There is a ‘Maxim of Law’ which reads “You ought to know with whom you deal” (“Scire debes cum quo contrahis”). A maxim is defined as an expression of an absolute truth or principle; and a maxim of law is described as an established principle or proposition, a principle of law universally admitted, as being just and constant with reason.
    Just how many Christians really know with what they are really dealing with when they deal (contract) with various governments and registered businesses, companies and corporations?

  • Lyall  

    If anyone doubts that a man’s/woman’s proper name should not be spelled in all-capital letters, then you should refer to the Chicago Styles Manual for English, and older versions of the American Styles Manual and Australian Styles Manual. Each proper name for a man/woman, as a noun, must begin with a capital letter followed by lower case letters.
    iF tHe rOoLs Of eNGlIsH R noT fOllOwEd, thEn pRObLEmS aRIsE?
    Isaiah 43:1 reads, “But now thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name: thou art mine.”
    What about writing the name ‘Jason Toohill’ as ‘Jason 2hill’. Is this correct? – definitely not.
    Isaiah 45:3 reads “And I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that I, the LORD, which call thee by thy name, am the God of Israel.”
    Everyone’s name is sacred, and as God holds our true and proper name in high respect, others should highly respect our true and proper name also. God created us, and named us through our parents (most times). He calls us by our name.

  • Lyall  

    Bouvier’s Law Dictionary, 6th Ed. for ‘person’ reads “This word is applied to men, women and children, who are called natural persons. In law, man and person are not exactly-synonymous terms. Any human being is a man, whether he be a member of society or not, whatever may be the rank he holds, or whatever may be his age, sex, &c. A person is a man considered according to the rank he holds in society, with all the rights to which the place he holds entitles him, and the duties which it imposes.”
    All ‘Australian’ and ‘American’ so-called-laws/statutes, which include all statutes on marriage, apply, not to people, not to you, but to persons where the courts have a different definition for ‘person’ than you do.
    In the statutes, a ‘person’ is better defined as a non-perpetual corporation-sole [also nom de guerre (fictitious name), ens legis, strawman, societal-rank etc.]
    God created man, not with rank, not with rights (also not with privileges), but with dominion, and in His image.
    The governments created constructive trusts (most unconscionable) for everyone, known as cestui que trusts, where each man, eg. Bruce Reyes-Chow (correct English spelling) is meant to be the beneficiary of the trust with the name of the person of BRUCE REYES-CHOW (in all-capitals = incorrect per rules of English). (neither can Bruce’s name be spelled as bRucE reYeS-cHOw)
    Remember that not all governments are ordained by God. Hosea 8:4 reads “They have set up kings, but not by me: ….”
    As Bruce thought that his name could also be spelled in all-capitals, such as on the driver’s licence, other government documentation, he thought that it was his name, and he simply signed the documentation and vacated his position as beneficiary, and became surety for the person. He voluntarily, although by deception, submitted himself to the statutes. On the documentation he did not differentiate himself as beneficiary; he did not reserve his right as beneficiary.
    He actually abandoned and despised his birth right to some degree, although by deception, and did not know it – similarly to what Esau did in Genesis 25:33-34.
    Black’s Law Dictionary, 7th Ed. “Surety: A person who is primarily liable for the payment of another’s debt or the performance of another’s obligation. Although a surety is similar to an insurer, one important difference is that a surety often receives no compensation for the assuming liability.”
    It’s all to do with Satan’s counterfeit, fiction and deception through contracts, trusts, currency and commerce. Merchants deal in commerce.
    Rev 18:23 “….. for thy merchants were the great men of the earth; for by thy sorceries were all nations deceived.”

  • Lyall  

    Often when so-called law comes up in discussions, many Christians will just tune out because of Titus 3:9 which reads “But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain.” Most people tend to leave ‘the legal stuff’ up to lawyers, barristers, attorneys etc.
    What most Christians fail to comprehend is that the so-called laws are actually statutes, being merely the rules for a society, and are not the lawful rules for a society. If you do not comprehend and have knowledge of Satan’s counterfeit, then you will be deceived. Discussion on statutes has nothing to do with Titus 3:9, but rather Satan’s counterfeit.

  • Lyall  

    California Code, Division 3, Marriage, Section 300 reads, ” (a) Marriage is a personal relation arising out of a civil contract between a man and a woman, to which the consent of the parties capable of making that contract is necessary. Consent alone does not constitute marriage. Consent must be followed ……….”
    Section 300 clearly (and incorrectly) states that marriage is a personal relation arising out of a civil contract between a man and a woman.
    What about the covenantal aspects of Christian marriage, and what about the Biblical and spiritual aspects of Christian marriage?
    Per the relevant codes (a category of statutes), this type of marriage is clearly that of Caesar. It’s not marriage as God designed it for His people. It is a counterfeit.
    God designed Christian marriage to have qualities far superior to a mere contractual relationship. He even designed the physical and emotional aspects of a man different to those of a woman.
    If the state claims marriage is a personal relation arising out of a civil contract, then where is the definition of ‘personal relation’, and where are the specific contractual terms and conditions?
    What a big CON job by the state, and Satan.
    I agree with Tucker in that as a pastor, you could refuse to act as an agent of the state and decline to solemnize civil marriages. Actually I’m not really sure of your agent status as I haven’t seen any government documentation that you may have signed.

  • Tucker Lieberman  

    As a pastor, you could refuse to act as an agent of the state and decline to solemnize civil marriages (as Shannon said) without diluting or altering your traditional religious language. You could declare couples to be entering “religious marriage” and the couple may choose to separately obtain a “civil marriage” elsewhere.
    This is the same way the language is used today; “marriage” has different meanings in religious and civil spheres. Not sure why one sphere suddenly has to give up the word? Would that achieve anything other than conceptual clarity?
    If the meaning of “marriage” shifts to imply religion, a whole new set of social dilemmas will arise, since not all married people are religious — and, of those who are, not all want to wear their religious beliefs on their sleeve every time they identify themselves as “married”. Especially for people who belong to minority religions, are intermarried, or live and work in secular environments, religion can be an awkward thing to discuss with strangers, especially if all they really want to do is indicate that they are partnered.

  • Lyall  

    Christian marriage can not function as God intended if there is a mix of covenant (with God, man, woman) and an express contract with the government. The government is a polluting 4th. party to the Christian marriage, and an abomination to God’s plan for this sacred relationship.
    Christian marriage is so sacred that it is compared to Christ’s relationship with His Church (His people).
    Christians should not mix covenant and contract in a marriage relationship.
    A covenant, from Biblical standards:
    a) is an agreement made in trust. The parties love each other and put no limits on their own responsibility;
    b) is made open-endedly by two or more parties who come together in a bond of loyalty and trust to achieve together what none can achieve alone;
    c) is like Abraham’s relationship with God;
    d) belongs to families, communities, charities, which are arenas of co-operation;
    e) is about us, meaning collective belonging;
    f) is more about identity;
    g) when breached, often results in the parties looking for ways to repair the breach.
    A contract on the other hand:
    a) is an agreement made more so in suspicion, and the parties do not necessarily trust each other, and often set limits to their own responsibility;.
    b) is usually made for a limited time, for a specific purpose, between two or more parties, each seeking their own benefit;
    c) is more like a deal;
    d) belongs to the market, state, to economics and politics, both of which are arenas of competition;
    e) is between separate people and/or entities (entities being legal fictions);
    f) is about interests;
    g) when breached, often results in a party looking for compensation, sometimes resulting in court action.
    A legal fiction is 1) something which only exists in the mind of man (eg. a corporation), 2) something assumed in so-called-law/statute to be fact irrespective of the truth or accuracy of that assumption, 3) an assumption of purported fact without having shown the fact to be true/valid ie. an acceptance with no proof.
    Butterworths Concise Australian Legal Dictionary, 3rd. Ed. 2004 reads ” Legal fiction. An assumption that purports to or does conceal, alter, or modify a fact or rule of law. The European settlement in Australia in 1788 as terra nullius (empty land) was a legal fiction as it suppressed the fact that the land was inhabited and administered by the Aboriginal peoples; Mabo v Queensland (No 2) (1992) 175 CLR 1; 107 ALR 1.

  • Lyall  

    When a man and woman speak out their Christian wedding vows to each other, and to, before and under God, they become lawfully married in God’s eyes. There is only one Lawgiver, being God. Isaiah 33:22 reads, “For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king; he will save us.” James 4:12 reads, “There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?”
    If the couple then choose to sign government documentation they become legally married in the government’s eyes. The government is a modern day ‘Caesar’, and born-again Christians should not render their marriage unto Caesar as Christian marriage is not of Caesar. Matt 20:21 “They say unto him, Caesar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.”
    ‘Lawful’ is used in reference to law; and ‘legal’ is used in reference to statutes. Statutes are merely the rules for a society whereas laws are the lawful rules for a society. To have lawful-rules/law, they must be founded on God’s Laws, Godly common law principles and a lawful government. The U. S. of A. rules fail on all three of these foundations. All U.S. state governments and the Federal government are legal-fictions anyway.
    Abbots Law Dictionary reads, ” ‘Legal’ looks more to the letter [form/appearance], and ‘Lawful’ to the spirit [substance/content], of the law. ‘Legal’ is more appropriate for conformity to positive rules of law; ‘Lawful’ for accord with ethical principle. ‘Legal’ imports rather that the forms [appearances] of law are observed, that the process is correct in method, that rules prescribed have been obeyed; ‘Lawful’ that the right is actual in substance, that moral quality is secured. ‘Legal’ is the antithesis of equitable, and the equivalent of constructive. ”
    This definition gives a clue to the differences between ‘lawful’ and ‘legal’ but no clue to the difference between law and statute.

  • John Vest  

    Tony Jones has made similar arguments at his blog, which you’ve probably seen. His approach is more that pastors should get out of the legal marriage business.

  • libby  

    we had this conversation in seminary and i committed at that point to not sign state marriage licenses. i do “church weddings”, i don’t care about your tax status. if an older couple wants to get married, but for pension or insurance reasons doesn’t want a license, fine by me. if a younger straight couple wants to stand in solidarity with their lgbt friends, fine by me. i can’t grant a legal divorce, why should i be able to grant a legal marriage?
    i’m with ya, brc.

  • Lyall  

    Christian marriage was created and ordained by God. It is founded on an exclusive three-party covenant between God, the man and the woman. Signing state documentation brings the state into part of the marriage through an express contract.

  • Lyall  

    Christian marriage was created and ordained by God. It is founded on an exclusive three-party covenant between God, the man and the woman. Signing state documentation brings the state into part of the marriage through an express contract.

  • Shannon  

    Is anyone FORCING you, as a clergyman, to serve as an agent of the state? People might be a lot less confused about the difference between religious marriage and civil marriage if clergy stopped signing the civil marriage certificate. Instead of asking for government to get out of the “marriage business,” maybe clergy could just stop serving as agents of the government.

  • Jose  

    Agree with Joan and Andrew. It is clear that marriage is a civil contract, and church recognizes so. The church, in the US, should therefore be in the business of blessing the marriages of those that so desire. It is time for clergy to stop acting as agents of the state.

  • Michele  

    As some one who can “preform” marriage but can not be legally married I have very clear feelings about this, I invite the people getting married to go and get their license and come to the church for the blessing.
    I work in interim ministry and I do not believe that it is my job to dictate to the community what they should do…I hope that the Priest who follows me has the conversation because I do believe that we can not be agent of the state.
    thanks for the post.

  • Bill Teng  

    However, I must strongly disagree with you, Bruce, that “there is not one biblical definition of marriage” — unless, of course, if you completely disregard Jesus’ definition in Matthew 19 and Mark 10! The “examples” that you mentioned are purely descriptive of what happened in human history, but the Genesis creation account and Jesus’ comments on marriage are prescriptive.

  • Bill Teng  

    I believe you left out a very important aspect of civil marriage, Bruce — the protection and nurturing of children!

  • Bruce Reyes-Chow  

    I would totally agree if I didn’t think that shifting to “blessing” from “marriage” would be so difficult. I think I’d rather help government shift to civil union and keep marriage. But essentially, right there with you!

  • joan calvin  

    Actually, I think the church should get out of the marriage business. Actually, what I mean is that I do not believe that pastors should be agents in the state in the marriage business. According to the book of order, marriage is a civil contract. It is a matter of state law, not religious law.
    If a couple wishes to have their union blessed, then they can come to the church for a blessing/ceremony. This is historically the European pattern. Families entered into a contract and then the couple came to the church door (not inside the church) for their union to be blessed.

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