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A humanist celebrant or humanist officiant is a person who performs secular humanist celebrancy services for weddings, funerals, child namings, coming of age ceremonies and other rituals. Some humanist celebrants are accredited by humanist organisations, such as the British Humanist Association (BHA), Humanist Society Scotland (HSS), and the Humanist Association of Canada (HAC).
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. A similar network exists in Scotland, where, following a June 2005 ruling by the Registrar General, 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 US. In England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, 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. 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.
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. The British Humanist Association has in the past described 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.
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 are usually categorized as "clergy" and have the same rights and responsibilities as ordained clergy. Humanist celebrants will perform both opposite-sex and same-sex marriage ceremonies. The Humanist Society, an adjunct of the American Humanist Association, maintains a list 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
- Marie Woolf, "Humanist weddings blocked by No 10", Sunday Times, 14 December 2014. Retrieved 5 March 2015
- 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
- BBC News, "Lynsey de Paul: Singer-songwriter's funeral held", 8 October 2014. Accessed 3 March 2015
- British Humanist Association page on Humanist Baby Namings
- 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