Atheist Ireland criticises legislation on marriage

Group says the law is ‘dysfunctional’ and is bringing civil marriage into disrepute

Legislation governing the solemnisation of marriages is “dysfunctional”, “unworkable” and is bringing civil marriages into disrepute, Atheist Ireland has said.

John Hamill, a member of the organisation, also describes himself as “Pastafarian minister” of a religious body named the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. He recently applied to the Registrar General’s office to be recognised as a marriage solemniser. The application was rejected on the grounds that the church did not meet the criteria of a religious organisation.

The application was also rejected by the former minister for social protection, Joan Burton, on appeal.

In her response, Ms Burton said given that “each member of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster can define and interpret their own belief system . . . it is very difficult to see how this constitutes common religious worship”.


Mr Hamill argues his church does meet the criteria set down in the Civil Registration Act 2004 for recognition of religious bodies for marriage solemnisation.

Solemnising marriages

“The only requirement for becoming a religious body that can solemnise civil marriages is that the adherents meet regularly for common religious worship,” he said, adding that other religious bodies which have been recognised for marriage solemnisation do not meet regularly for worship.

“Unlike others, the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster in Ireland do meet regularly for religious worship.”

He also says many members of established religions, including the Roman Catholic Church, have a wide variety of beliefs which each member defines.

He says it is not up to civil servants to decide what constitutes a religious belief or a religious organisation.

Definition of religion

“Many people may say my religion is a parody and not sensible, but I could argue the same about other religions.

“If a civil servant says it is sensible and rational for members of one religion to put on a pretty dress and headwear and whisper special words to transubstantiate a piece of bread into the body of a 2,000-year-old carpenter, then I am entitled to have my religion regarded as sensible and rational too.”

He described the criteria being applied to recognise or reject religious bodies by the Registrar General as preposterous.

“It is no wonder that it is now being seen as probably unenforceable and is widely ignored,” Mr Hamill said.

“The Civil Registration Act is dysfunctional.

“The new Government should legislate to allow the same criteria to be applied to both religious and non-religious citizens with respect to civil marriage, in order to rescue the credibility of the civil marriage process.”