Today Americans United for Separation of Church and State sent a letter to the Arlington County Court in support of my application to perform weddings. They are very clear about the situation:
Your denial of Priestess Hurley’s application violated the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. We ask that you grant the application, as well as any similar applications that you may receive in the future.
The letter goes into great detail about the relevant legal precedents, including details of interpreting and applying the First Amendment and other Constitutional protections. It cites many instances of legal recognition of Wicca as a religion entitled to First Amendment protections, including applications of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, and landmark cases for minority religious rights such as Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye, Inc v. City of Hialeah. They specifically state:
Your failure to recognize Priestess Hurley as a valid minister constitutes discrimination against the Wiccan faith and its adherents, in violation of three separate provisions of the U.S. Constitution.
The letter also addresses the only reason that the Clerk gave me for denying my application, pointing out that denying my application on the basis of not having a fixed address for my ministry is unsupportable based on the relevant sections of the Virginia code and would also discriminate against many other religious groups that meet at members’ homes or otherwise do not have a fixed address.
In addition to asking the court to grant my application, the letter concludes with the reminder:
To be constitutional, any policy concerning licenses to perform marriages must not discriminate against any non-traditional religion.
AU has asked the court to respond within 30 days.
I have been very grateful for the outpouring of support from Wiccans and Pagans both in Virginia and elsewhere. I have been gathering letters of support for when I reapply after the court replies to AU.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State played a role in the Pentacle Quest and has stood up for Wiccan rights in numerous other situations. They are diligent watchdogs against unconstitutional activity and staunch supporters of minority religious rights. I strongly encourage Pagans all over the country to support AU, whether by becoming members, attending their events, or following their news online. They are currently organizing concerts for the end of this month in all 50 states as demonstrations in support of separation of church and state. To find out if there’s one near you, look up Voices United.
I’ll be posting further information when AU gets a reply from the court and I prepare to apply again. To contact me about sending a letter of support, telling your story of being recognized as clergy (especially in Virginia), or to get email updates about my situation, you can write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org