5 Reasons Why Christians Should Not Obtain a State
by Pastor Matt Trewhella
Every year thousands of Christians amble down to their local county
courthouse and obtain a marriage license from the State in order to marry their
future spouse. They do this unquestioningly. They do it because their pastor
has told them to go get one, and besides, "everybody else gets one."
This pamphlet attempts to answer the question - why should we not get one?
1. The definition of a "license" demands that we not obtain
one to marry. Black's Law Dictionary defines "license" as, "The
permission by competent authority to do an act which without such permission,
would be illegal." We need to ask ourselves- why should it be illegal
to marry without the State's permission? More importantly, why should we need
the State's permission to participate in something which God instituted (Gen.
2:18-24)? We should not need the State's permission to marry nor should we
grovel before state officials to seek it. What if you apply and the State says
"no"? You must understand that the authority to license implies the
power to prohibit. A license by definition "confers a right" to do
something. The State cannot grant the right to marry. It is a God-given right.
2. When you marry with a marriage license, you grant the State
jurisdiction over your marriage. When you marry with a marriage license, your
marriage is a creature of the State. It is a corporation of the State!
Therefore, they have jurisdiction over your marriage including the fruit of
your marriage. What is the fruit of your marriage? Your children and every
piece of property you own. There is plenty of case law in American
jurisprudence which declares this to be true.
In 1993, parents were upset here in Wisconsin because a test was being
administered to their children in the government schools which was very
invasive of the family's privacy. When parents complained, they were shocked by
the school bureaucrats who informed them that their children were required to
take the test by law and that they would have to take the test because they
(the government school) had jurisdiction over their children. When parents
asked the bureaucrats what gave them jurisdiction, the bureaucrats answered,
"your marriage license and their birth certificates." Judicially, and
in increasing fashion, practically, your state marriage license has
3. When you marry with a marriage license, you place yourself under a
body of law which is immoral. By obtaining a marriage license, you place
yourself under the jurisdiction of Family Court which is governed by unbiblical
and immoral laws. Under these laws, you can divorce for any reason. Often, the
courts side with the spouse who is in rebellion to God, and castigates the
spouse who remains faithful by ordering him or her not to speak about the Bible
or other matters of faith when present with the children.
As a minister, I cannot in good conscience perform a marriage which
would place people under this immoral body of laws. I also cannot marry someone
with a marriage license because to do so I have to act as an agent of the
State! I would have to sign the marriage license, and I would have to
mail it into the State. Given the State's demand to usurp the place of God and
family regarding marriage, and given it's unbiblical, immoral laws to govern
marriage, it would be an act of treason for me to do so.
4. The marriage license invades and removes God-given parental
authority. When you read the Bible, you see that God intended for children to
have their father's blessing regarding whom they married. Daughters were to be
given in marriage by their fathers (Dt. 22:16; Ex. 22:17; I Cor. 7:38). We have
a vestige of this in our culture today in that the father takes his daughter to
the front of the altar and the minister asks, "Who gives this woman to be
married to this man?"
Historically, there was no requirement to obtain a marriage license in
colonial America. When you read the laws of the colonies and then the states,
you see only two requirements for marriage. First, you had to obtain your
parents permission to marry, and second, you had to post public notice of the
marriage 5-15 days before the ceremony.
Notice you had to obtain your parents permission. Back then you saw
godly government displayed in that the State recognized the parents authority
by demanding that the parents permission be obtained. Today, the
all-encompassing ungodly State demands that their permission be obtained to
By issuing marriage licenses, the State is saying, "You don't need
your parents permission, you need our permission." If parents are opposed
to their child's marrying a certain person and refuse to give their permission,
the child can do an end run around the parents authority by obtaining the
State's permission, and marry anyway. This is an invasion and removal of
God-given parental authority by the State.
5. When you marry with a marriage license, you are like a polygamist.
From the State's point of view, when you marry with a marriage license, you are
not just marrying your spouse, but you are also marrying the State.
The most blatant declaration of this fact that I have ever found is a
brochure entitled "With This Ring I Thee Wed." It is found in county
courthouses across Ohio where people go to obtain their marriage licenses. It
is published by the Ohio State Bar Association. The opening paragraph under the
subtitle "Marriage Vows" states, "Actually, when you repeat your
marriage vows you enter into a legal contract. There are three parties to that
contract. 1.You; 2. Your husband or wife, as the case may be; and 3. the State
See, the State and the lawyers know that when you marry with a marriage
license, you are not just marrying your spouse, you are marrying the State! You
are like a polygamist! You are not just making a vow to your spouse, but you
are making a vow to the State and your spouse. You are also giving undue
jurisdiction to the State.
When Does the State Have Jurisdiction Over a Marriage?
God intended the State to have jurisdiction over a marriage for two
reasons - 1). in the case of divorce, and 2). when crimes are committed i.e.,
adultery, bigamy. etc. Unfortunately, the State now allows divorce for any
reason, and it does not prosecute for adultery.
In either case, divorce or crime, a marriage license is not necessary
for the courts to determine whether a marriage existed or not. What is needed
are witnesses. This is why you have a best man and a maid of honor. They
should sign the marriage certificate in your family Bible, and the wedding day
guest book should be kept.
Marriage was instituted by God, therefore it is a God-given right.
According to Scripture, it is to be governed by the family, and the State only
has jurisdiction in the cases of divorce or crime.
History of Marriage Licenses in
George Washington was married without a marriage license. So, how
did we come to this place in America where marriage licenses are issued?
Historically, all the states in America had laws outlawing the marriage
of blacks and whites. In the mid-1800's, certain states began allowing
interracial marriages or miscegenation as long as those marrying received a
license from the state. In other words they had to receive permission to do an
act which without such permission would have been illegal.
Blacks Law Dictionary points to this historical fact when it defines
"marriage license" as, "A license or permission granted by
public authority to persons who intend to intermarry."
"Intermarry" is defined in Black's Law Dictionary as,
"Miscegenation; mixed or interracial marriages."
Give the State an inch and they will take a 100 miles (or as one elderly
woman once said to me "10,000 miles.") Not long after these licenses
were issued, some states began requiring all people who marry to obtain a
marriage license. In 1923, the Federal Government established the Uniform
Marriage and Marriage License Act (they later established the Uniform Marriage
and Divorce Act). By 1929, every state in the Union had adopted marriage
What Should We Do?
Christian couples should not be marrying with State marriage licenses,
nor should ministers be marrying people with State marriage licenses. Some have
said to me, "If someone is married without a marriage license, then they
aren't really married." Given the fact that states may soon legalize
same-sex marriages, we need to ask ourselves, "If a man and a man marry
with a State marriage license, and a man and woman marry without a State
marriage license - who's really married? Is it the two men with a marriage
license, or the man and woman without a marriage license? In reality, this
contention that people are not really married unless they obtain a marriage
license simply reveals how Statist we are in our thinking. We need to think
You should not have to obtain a license from the State to marry someone
anymore than you should have to obtain a license from the State to be a parent,
which some in academic and legislative circles are currently pushing to be made
When I marry a couple, I always buy them a Family Bible which contains
birth and death records, and a marriage certificate. We record the marriage in
the Family Bible. What's recorded in a Family Bible will stand up as legal
evidence in any court of law in America. Both George Washington and Abraham
Lincoln were married without a marriage license. They simply recorded their
marriages in their Family Bibles. So should we.
(Pastor Trewhella has been marrying couples without marriage licenses
for ten years. Many other pastors also refuse to marry couples with State
This pamphlet is not comprehensive in scope. Rather, the purpose
of this pamphlet is to make you think and give you a starting point to do
further study of your own. If you would like an audio sermon regarding this
matter, just send a gift of at least five dollars in cash to: Mercy Seat
Christian Church 10240 W. National Ave. PMB #129 Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53227.