Thursday, February 21, 2008

what first amendment?

Small realities of the State of Georgia, this. It's nothing much, just $50 here or there, but it is more than a little creepy:

(a) In applying for a marriage license, a man and woman who certify on the application for a marriage license that they have successfully completed a qualifying premarital education program shall not be charged a fee for a marriage license. The premarital education shall include at least six hours of instruction involving marital issues, which may include but not be limited to conflict management, communication skills, financial responsibilities, child and parenting responsibilities, and extended family roles. The premarital education shall be completed within 12 months prior to the application for a marriage license and the couple shall undergo the premarital education together. The premarital education shall be performed by:
(1) A professional counselor, social worker, or marriage and family therapist who is licensed pursuant to Chapter 10A of Title 43;
(2) A psychiatrist who is licensed as a physician pursuant to Chapter 34 of Title 43;
(3) A psychologist who is licensed pursuant to Chapter 39 of Title 43; or
(4) An active member of the clergy when in the course of his or her service as clergy or his or her designee, including retired clergy, provided that a designee is trained and skilled in premarital education.
(b) Each premarital education provider shall furnish each participant who completes the premarital education required by this Code section a certificate of completion."


So, professionals get regulated in nice proper ways, but you can do as you like and call it 'premarital education' so long as you can call yourself 'clergy'.

Um.

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A =POPE= is someone who is not under the authority of the authorities.


Methinks the State of Georgia is venturing into chaos in bringing something as subjective and varied as clergy into such an otherwise neatly regulated law. (I wonder how Georgia's qualified psychological professionals feel about that?) As a Discordian Pope, I can't complain about the opportunities for confusion, but there's a Dawkinesque argument that comes to mind; just because something is religious doesn't mean it shouldn't be held to the same standards as non-religious stuff. If clergy, Discordian Popes and otherwise, are going to be doling out this $50-off-your-paperwork thing, shouldn't they be subject to the same certification as everyone else who's doing it? They could easily be untrained and incompetent in such education - not to mention that most clergy (from staid Christians to anarcho-Pagans) have a definition of 'marriage' that is not the same as the civil definition, and that could easily make their advice incompatible with regulation. Your clergy might be saying you shouldn't marry if you've had sex first, or that plural marriage is okay, or that you should only marry if God agrees to it, or that yes it is fine to marry someone of the same sex, or that you mustn't use contraception, or that legal marriage is a meaningless sham, or that you will never get divorced so you mustn't make plans for that eventuality... All matters in which the State of Georgia regulates otherwise, and on which their regulated psychological professionals might be more sure to speak in line with the views of the State.

So how can the role of 'clergy' be enshrined in law like this? How is this not 'respecting an establishment of religion'? Guh?

3 comments:

Anna said...

Well, marriage as it exists now still has religious associations. Western culture is moving away from this, and it won't be too long before it's a simple legal procedure with no spiritual connotations.

My personal beliefs mean that I will want a Christian ceremony if / when I get married, so I don't mind this 'bias'.

Daisy said...

No, because lots of people can't afford counselors, psychiatrists, et. al. In the African-American community, church-counseling is often free. Also, if clergy is doing it, it isn't ethnocentric, as it might well be otherwise.

Keep in mind, you in the south now, hon. ;) Clergy is to poor folks what professionals are to the middle class, and often the only kind of support available. (And the only kind many communities will trust.) That's why you see so many church-run child-care centers--these usually started as help for female church members, and then branched out to serve the rest of the community. Ditto, free-food pantries and veterans services. In many poor communities, the clergy is perceived as fighting for the people, and psychiatrists, teachers, counselors, etc. are perceived as fighting for the state. Whether that is objectively true, is another matter.

thene said...

*nodnods* Thanks, Daisy. That church counselling would be free had occurred to me, but I hadn't considered the class/race implications of that so much as the religious ones; namely that it's set up so you have to be of the faithful to get counselling (and more than that, of a faith which has clergy - so not a Quaker or other leaderless faith). I didn't know that professionals were seen as anti-people; I live with a bunch of exiled Yankees, so these things can take a while to hit me. ><

Anna - I mind for the same reason I get troubled by the UK government's fondness for faith schools; I think all people deserve good things no matter what the state of their mortal soul is.