A humanist celebrant or humanist officiant is a person who performs humanist celebrancy services, such as non-religious weddings, funerals, child namings, coming of age ceremonies and other rituals. Some humanist celebrants are accredited by humanist organisations, such as Humanists UK, Humanist Society Scotland (HSS), The Humanist Society (US), and the Humanist Association of Canada (HAC).

Availability Edit

Humanist ceremonies are conducted in every part of the world by humanist organisations, although the legal status of non-religious ceremonies of different kinds varies from place to place. In general, funeral ceremonies are not typically regulated by states, but many countries with a religious history have stricter guidelines on who can perform legal marriages. Naming ceremonies, similarly, can be held anywhere without legal implications. In countries where legal marriages can only be performed by religious institutions or the state (such as England), humanist weddings are often performed before or after a civil legal proceeding, but presented as the more meaningful or significant of the two events.

As of 2021, humanist celebrants can conduct legally binding marriage ceremonies in Scotland, Ireland, Northern Ireland,[1] Jersey,[2][3] Guernsey,[4] Norway, Iceland,[5] Australia, New Zealand, South Africa,[6] Canada and the United States.[7]

United Kingdom Edit

The charity Humanists UK (formerly the British Humanist Association) pioneered the practice of offering humanist ceremonies, and today organises a network of celebrants or officiants across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.[8][9][10] A similar network exists in Scotland, where, following a June 2005 ruling by the Registrar General, celebrants belonging to approved humanist associations have been permitted to conduct legal wedding ceremonies.[11] Humanists UK celebrants in Northern Ireland were given the same rights in 2017 following a court case supported by Humanists UK.[12]

In England and Wales the current legal position is that a humanist wedding or partnership ceremony must be supplemented by obtaining a civil marriage or partnership certificate through a Register Office.[13] In December 2014 it was reported that the Prime Minister's Office was blocking the implementation of a change to give legal force to humanist weddings in England and Wales.[14] That same year in Scotland, when same-sex marriage was legalised, the First Minister of Scotland attended the legal humanist marriage of a same-sex couple.[15] In 2015, humanist weddings became more popular in Scotland than Church of Scotland weddings, or those of any religious denomination.[16][17] The Humanist Society Scotland's status as a provider of humanist marriages in Scotland was reflected in statute from 2017 onwards.[18]

Non-religious funerals are legal within the UK. Humanist celebrants are familiar with the procedures of cremation and burial, and are trained and experienced in devising and conducting suitable ceremonies.[19] The British Humanist Association has in the past described officiants as follows:[19]

Officiants are generally at least 35 years old, have experience of public speaking, and have probably had paid or voluntary experience in a caring/supporting profession – such as nursing, teaching, police or social work, for example. They must be able to cope with the emotional burden of regularly meeting and working with bereaved people - often in relation to particularly difficult or unexpected deaths, such as the death of a child in a road accident. Funeral directors are able to make arrangements with trained officiants in their local area.

Humanist funerals have reportedly been held in recent years for Claire Rayner,[20] Keith Floyd,[21][22] Linda Smith,[23] Ronnie Barker,[24] Lynsey de Paul,[25] and Terry Jones,[26] Victoria Wood, Doris Lessing, John Noakes, David Nobbs, Cynthia Payne, Dale Winton, and Bob Monkhouse,[27] among others. The humanist funeral for former First Minister of Wales Rhodri Morgan in 2017 was the first national funeral in the United Kingdom to be led by a humanist celebrant, former AM Lorraine Barrett, as well as the first national funeral held in Wales.[28][29]

Celebrants also undertake humanist baby namings as a non-religious alternative to ceremonies such as christenings. The purpose is to recognise and celebrate the arrival of a child, and welcome him or her in the family and circle of friends.[30]

Ireland Edit

In Ireland, the Humanist Association of Ireland manages its own network of humanist ceremonies. Since 2012, these have been legally recognised, as in Scotland.[11][31] In 2015, humanist marriages accounted for 6% of all marriages in Ireland, making them six times more popular than the Church of Ireland's weddings.[12]

United States and Canada Edit

Laws in each state of the United States vary about who has the right to perform wedding services, but humanist celebrants are usually categorized as "clergy" and have the same rights and responsibilities as ordained clergy.[32] Humanist celebrants will perform both opposite-sex and same-sex marriage ceremonies.[33][34] The Humanist Society, an adjunct of the American Humanist Association, maintains a list of humanist celebrants.[35]

Humanists conduct wedding ceremonies across Canada. These typically happen under the auspices of the national Humanist Canada group or through one of the province-level groups such as the British Columbia Humanist Association.

Scandinavia Edit

Humanist weddings, funerals, and naming ceremonies are popular throughout Scandinavia, where humanist groups tend to be well-established. Humanist coming of age ceremonies are also popular in these countries, and in particular Norway, where humanists also conduct legally binding weddings. In Norway, coming of age ceremonies are a cultural norm dating back to when it was a legal requirement for young people to have a church-led confirmation ceremony. In an increasingly secular population, many Norwegians turn to the Norwegian Humanist Association (NHA) instead for a 'confirmation' that reflects their values. In 2017, 11,000 Norwegian young people registered for their ceremony with the NHA, representing nearly one in five young Norwegians.[36]

Germany Edit

Humanist groups providing ceremonies as part of Humanistischer Verband Deutschlands are well-established across Germany and are particularly prominent in many of Germany's cities, where majorities of residents are non-religious. As in Scandinavia, humanist coming-of-age ceremonies are very popular, due to secularisation and a pre-existing tradition of religious confirmation. Jugendweihe ceremonies have been on offer since at least 1852, although these days they are more likely to be referred to as Jugendfeier (youth celebration, as opposed to youth ordination). 8,500 young Germans took part in these ceremonies in 2015.[37]

Italy Edit

Humanist weddings are not legally recognized in Italy but, by law, civil weddings can be officiated by the mayor, or anyone delegated by the mayor, as long as they are adult Italian citizens, have active and passive suffrage and mayoral permission.[38] With the mayor's permission, then, the couple can choose an independent celebrant who can marry them legally within a humanist ceremony. Even though they are not legally recognized in their own right, humanist or symbolic weddings have been celebrated in Italy for years, usually as an add-on to a civil marriage registration. An early example was celebrated in 2002 at Burio Castle in Asti, by Vera Pegna, then deputy secretary of UAAR (Union of Rationalist Atheists and Agnostics), one of the Italian humanist organizations .[39] This organization was perhaps the first to promote training courses for humanist celebrants in Italy,[40] using the British-trained Humanist celebrant Richard Brown as trainer.[41] Other bodies and individuals now also offer training courses for prospective celebrants. The publication in 2020 (by UNI, the official Italian standards body) of an official document laid the basis for standardised courses with a common curriculum, leading for the first time to an officially recognised qualification for humanist and other celebrants. Note that this standards document uses the term non-traditional ceremonies to distinguish between non-religious and religious practices. In Italy, funerals are not subject to legal requirements in the way that weddings are, which means that humanist or independent celebrants can generally be called upon to officiate a funeral with no legal impediments. The main problem is that only some larger towns and cities provide an appropriate, officially recognized, well-equipped venue where a secular funeral can be held. Where this is lacking, non-religious ceremonies must be held outdoors, at the burial or scattering site, or in cramped, unbefitting environments.

Across Africa Edit

Humanist ceremonies are conducted by trained humanist celebrants in many parts of Africa; many humanist associations in Africa have strong links with their European sister organisations, which have supported their development with training and capacity-building to provide weddings, funerals, and namings.

Currently, humanist weddings are not legally recognised in the continent of Africa except in South Africa, where humanists conduct legally binding marriage ceremonies. In Uganda, the African Humanist Celebrants Network has begun a process of lobbying the Government to provide for humanist marriages in law.[42]

Trained humanists celebrants are available in Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Nigeria, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Malawi, and Sierra Leone.[42]

See also Edit

References Edit

  1. ^ "Victory! Court of Appeal in Belfast rules humanist marriage must be legally recognised". Humanists UK. 28 June 2018. Retrieved 28 June 2018.
  2. ^ "Jersey's humanist and same-sex marriage law comes into force". Humanists UK. 1 July 2018. Retrieved 17 July 2018.
  3. ^ "Island's first humanist wedding takes place". Jersey Evening Post. 15 April 2019. Retrieved 30 April 2019.
  4. ^ "Humanist marriage law passes in Guernsey". Humanists UK. 18 November 2020. Retrieved 19 January 2021.
  5. ^ "Icelandic humanist group first to get legal recognition as a "secular life stance organisation"". National Secular Society. 8 May 2013. Retrieved 17 July 2018.
  6. ^ "Humanist/Secular Weddings". Free Society Institute. Retrieved 22 August 2018.
  7. ^ "Love is special. Make yours unique" (PDF). American Humanist Association. September 2015. Retrieved 20 June 2017.
  8. ^ "Humanist Ceremonies". 26 April 2012.
  9. ^ Humanist Association of Northern Ireland Archived 2013-10-19 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ IfIShouldDie.co.uk: Humanist funerals Archived 2010-04-02 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ a b "Humanist Society Scotland - Celebrate the one life we have". Humanist Society Scotland.
  12. ^ a b "Success! Couple win challenge to lack of legal recognition of humanist marriages in Northern Ireland". Humanists UK. 9 June 2017. Retrieved 9 June 2017.
  13. ^ "Humanist Weddings". 21 May 2012.
  14. ^ Marie Woolf, "Humanist weddings blocked by No 10", Sunday Times, 14 December 2014. Retrieved 5 March 2015
  15. ^ "Humanists conducting first ever same-sex marriage in Scotland". Humanists UK. 30 December 2014. Retrieved 31 May 2017.
  16. ^ "Scottish humanists to overtake Kirk weddings". BBC Scotland. 18 June 2015. Retrieved 31 May 2017.
  17. ^ Brocklehurst, Steven (August 2016). "More than 4200 Humanist weddings took place in Scotland last year". Humanist Society Scotland. Retrieved 31 May 2017.
  18. ^ "We 'Heart' Humanist Weddings". Humanist Society Scotland. February 2017. Retrieved 20 June 2017.
  19. ^ a b "BBC - Religions - Atheism: Funerals".
  20. ^ Jennifer Lipman, Agony aunt Claire Rayner dies at age 79, Jewish Chronicle, 12 October 2010
  21. ^ Haroon Siddique, Mourners pay tribute to TV chef Keith Floyd at humanist funeral, The Guardian, 30 September 2009
  22. ^ Bristol Evening Post, Keith Floyd funeral in Bristol, 30 September 2009
  23. ^ "Linda Smith: God, the biggest joke of all". Independent.co.uk. 2 March 2006.
  24. ^ BBC, Family funeral for Ronnie Barker, 13 October 2005
  25. ^ BBC News, "Lynsey de Paul: Singer-songwriter's funeral held", 8 October 2014. Accessed 3 March 2015
  26. ^ Evans, Mel (5 February 2019). "Monty Python's John Cleese, Sir Michael Palin and Terry Gilliam bid farewell to Terry Jones following death aged 77". The Metro. Retrieved 6 February 2019.
  27. ^ "Humanist funeral for Terry Jones". Humanists UK. 17 February 2020. Retrieved 17 February 2020.
  28. ^ "Public humanist funeral for Rhodri Morgan at National Assembly for Wales". Humanists UK. 31 May 2017. Retrieved 31 May 2017.
  29. ^ "Rhodri Morgan funeral to be held at the Senedd, Cardiff". BBC Wales News. 31 May 2017. Retrieved 31 May 2017.
  30. ^ "Namings". 21 May 2012.
  31. ^ "Weddings - Humanist Association of Ireland".
  32. ^ Ministries, Rose. "Rose Ministries: Online Ordination, Become a Minister, Women Welcome". roseministries.org. Archived from the original on 2016-11-07. Retrieved 2007-05-30.
  33. ^ "404 - Page Not Found - Humanist Canada". humanistcanada.ca. Archived from the original on 2012-12-28. Retrieved 2012-10-12. {{cite web}}: Cite uses generic title (help)
  34. ^ "Humanists Stand Ready to Perform Same-Sex Marriage Ceremonies - American Humanist Association". 3 March 2010.
  35. ^ "Celebrants - The Humanist Society". humanist-society.org.
  36. ^ Aslaug Olette Klausen; Kirsti Bergh (10 April 2017). "Rekordpåmelding til Humanistisk konfirmasjon i 2018 (Record Enrollment to Humanist Confirmation in 2018)". fritanke.no. Norwegian Humanist Association. Retrieved 24 January 2018.
  37. ^ "Die kulturelle Bedeutung der Jugendfeier ist kaum zu überschätzen (The cultural significance of the youth celebration is hard to overestimate)". diesseits.de. 1 April 2015. Retrieved 26 February 2018.
  38. ^ "D.P.R. 3 novembre 2000, n. 396" (PDF). www.esteri.it.
  39. ^ "L'Unità, edizione del 25 luglio 2002". archivio.unita.it.
  40. ^ "A ragion veduta". blog.uaar.it.
  41. ^ "Cerimonie uniche". www.cerimonieuniche.it.
  42. ^ a b "Ugandan Couples Push to Get Married Their Way". iAfrica. December 2020.

External links Edit