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A Humanist officiant (or Humanist celebrant) is a person who performs secular humanist celebrancy services for weddings, funerals, child namings, coming of age ceremonies, and other rituals. Some Humanist officiants are ordained or accredited members of the Ontario Humanist Society (OHS), Humanist Association of Canada (HAC), the American Humanist Association (AHA), the British Humanist Association (BHA), the Humanist Society of Scotland (HSS), the Society for Humanistic Judaism (SHJ), the American Ethical Union (AEU), or the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA).
United States and Canada
Laws in each state of the United States vary about who has the right to perform wedding services, but Humanist Celebrants or Officiants are usually categorized as "clergy" and have the same rights and responsibilities as ordained clergy. In Canada and in states that legally recognize same-sex unions within the US, Humanist officiants perform LGBT marriage ceremonies. The Humanist Society, an adjunct of the American Humanist Association, maintains a list of Humanist Celebrants.
The British Humanist Association organises a network of celebrants or officiants across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. A similar network exists in Scotland, where, following a June 2005 ruling by the Registrar General, officiants or celebrants of the Humanist Society of Scotland are permitted to conduct legal wedding ceremonies. Scotland is one of only seven countries in the world where Humanist wedding ceremonies are legal, the others being Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Norway, Ireland and some parts of the USA. In England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, the current legal position is that a Humanist wedding or partnership ceremony must be supplemented by a process of obtaining a civil marriage or partnership certificate through a Register Office.
Non-religious funerals are legal within the UK. Humanist officiants are familiar with the procedures of cremation and burial, and are trained and experienced in devising and conducting suitable ceremonies. The British Humanist Association describes officiants as follows:
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.
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.
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Humanist officiants often perform alternative and non-traditional ceremonies in places, and under circumstances where mainstream religious clergy will not. Many Humanist officiants perform same-sex weddings and commitment ceremonies. Humanist wedding officiants often perform ceremonies in parks, on beaches, on boats, on hiking trails, in hotels, in banquet halls, in private homes, and many other places. Humanist officiants may perform secular services for interfaith couples and families, as well. Officiants differ from Chaplains in that Officiants serve the unaffiliated public at large, while Chaplains are usually employed by an institution such as the military, a hospital or other health care facility, etc.
- FAQ: Outlining who has the right, throughout the U.S., to perform wedding services
- Humanist Canada: Humanist Weddings
- American Humanist Association: Humanists Stand Ready to Perform Same-Sex Marriage Ceremonies
- The Humanist Society Listing of Humanist Celebrants
- BHA Humanist Ceremonies
- Humanist Association of Northern Ireland
- IfIShouldDie.co.uk: Humanist funerals
- Humanist Society of Scotland: Ceremonies
- BHA: Humanist Weddings and Partnership Celebrations
- BBC: Non-religious funerals
- Jennifer Lipman, Agony aunt Claire Rayner dies at age 79, Jewish Chronicle, 12 October 2010
- Haroon Siddique, Mourners pay tribute to TV chef Keith Floyd at humanist funeral, The Guardian, 30 September 2009
- Bristol Evening Post, Keith Floyd funeral in Bristol, 30 September 2009
- Linda Smith: God, the biggest joke of all, The Independent, 2 March 2006
- BBC, Family funeral for Ronnie Barker, 13 October 2005
- British Humanist Association page on Humanist Baby Namings