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Growing Outrage: A Minister Responds to Tennessee’s Restrictive Marriage Law

Published Friday, May. 31st, 2019

Senator Yager,


My name is Helen Vaughn and I am an ordained minister. I have performed several weddings as well as several vow renewals of friends and family members elsewhere and here in Tennessee. I have been notified by my organization that as of July 1st, the State that I reside in will be taking this right away from me on July 1st 2019! I do not understand this, and ask that you to explain how this violation of my rights has come about!


We have numerous friends and family members that are transplants and have come to Tennessee and do not want to be married by a Judge who knows nothing about them, or by a minister in a church that has no clue about them and only wants to charge them and preach to them. 


These couples have asked me to officiate because I know their history and can provide them a personalized service that is all about them and their life together. They know me and want me to perform their marriage; most marriages today are performed by someone that is a family friend, a relative, or someone close that has a personal connection to the couple. Couples want a ceremony that is memorable and a Minister that can perform a specialized ceremony that tells the couple’s history, tells their background, and knows more than what was discovered in a couple of hours.


So can you please explain to me how this law is any good for the people of the great State of Tennessee that I live in, pay taxes in, vote for my government officials in? 


I do not understand this and would like to! I will be asking others to write in to you and the other representatives about this law as it seems to have been slipped by the voters of this state! I will also be writing in to the other representatives as well as filing a complaint with the Tennessee Human Rights Commission. This new law allows the state to arbitrate religious decisions that only individuals can make so I am filing a complaint against the State of Tennessee. Only the couple should be allowed to decide what sort of religious leader can perform their wedding. Under the new law, this decision has been granted to government officials not who they decide.


Tax payer and Ordained Minister,
Helen Vaughn
Clarksville, TN


This letter was written in response to a law passed by Tennessee’s legislature that takes away the rights of non-traditional ministers to officiate weddings. The new law, SB1377/HB0213 takes effect July 1, 2019. Under the new rules, the government of Tennessee has made itself the arbiter of which ministers can, and can’t perform marriage in the state, stripping away the rights of tens-of-thousands of online-ordained ministers. Click here to read about ways you can stand with online-ordained ministers in defense of freedom of religion.

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