Your Cookies are Disabled! NationalNotary.org sets cookies on your computer to help improve performance and provide a more engaging user experience. By using this site, you accept the terms of our cookie policy. Learn more.

‘Religious Freedom’ Laws And Notary Impartiality: What Do You Think?

With ongoing debate regarding religious freedom laws, Notaries should maintain professional impartiality when conducting their business.

A new law in Indiana that critics say would allow businesses to refuse to serve customers based on their religious beliefs has sparked a heated national debate over personal freedom versus discrimination. And it is an issue that Notaries in all walks of life may encounter when carrying out their official duties.

Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which was later amended, is the first in what could become a wave of similar legislation this year. Arkansas recently enacted its own religious freedom law, but only after revising it to be in line with federal legislation when the controversy erupted.

And another 14 states are considering versions of the law, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The debate about religious freedom laws has been fueled by the growing number of states — including Indiana — where same-sex marriages have become legal.

Public Duties Vs. Personal Beliefs
 

For Notaries, balancing your public duties with your personal beliefs can be challenging.

You operate under the laws and regulations of your state, which differ from one state to another:

  • Some states require Notaries to perform any lawful notarial act for anyone who requests it.
  • Some states allow Notaries to refuse a request under certain defined circumstances, or under any circumstance.
  • Some states give little or no guidance.

As state-commissioned public officials, there is a general expectation that you should act impartially. Standard I-A-3 of The Notary Public Code of Professional Responsibility states: “The Notary shall not refuse to perform a lawful and proper notarial act because of the signer’s race, nationality, ethnicity, citizenship, religion, politics, lifestyle, age, disability, gender or sexual orientation, or because of disagreement with the statements or purpose of a lawful document.”

We Want To Hear From You
 

While Notaries in most states are not authorized to officiate at weddings, there are many other instances where your personal beliefs may clash with a signer’s request.

So where do you draw the line? Please share your point of view with us below.

Michael Lewis is Managing Editor of member publications for the National Notary Association.

62 Comments

Add your comment

S LATTA

20 Apr 2015

The Holy Bible (God's Law) always supersedes The Notary Public Code of Professional Responsibility. As a Christian, I follow God's Law...not man's law.

Tamsin Kendall

20 Apr 2015

Notary Publics should not allow their religious beliefs to interfere with their duties. We are not to weigh in on the content of the document - we need only to ascertain its completeness and the signers capacity(ies) and identity(ies). Anything more smacks of discrimination.

Doris Green

20 Apr 2015

I believe that Notaries should comply with the Notary Code of Professional Responsibilities. Just because you have the right under a state law to do or not do something doesn't always mean that its the right thing to do.

Jan Presnell

20 Apr 2015

In North Carolina notaries cannot marry, but for those that can, I don't think a notary should be forced to marry a gay couple if his/her religion does not believe in such a marriage.

Harold H Savin

20 Apr 2015

If you want the job of being a Notary Public you must accept the position and follow the law regardless of your personal or religious feelings.

LUDWIG KNOESTER

20 Apr 2015

I am a Christian, not an orthodox religious person. Whatever the signer’s race, nationality, ethnicity, citizenship, religion, politics, lifestyle, age, disability, gender or sexual orientation, is between God and them. It is non of my business or concerned, or judgment and it has no bearing on notarial acts. God loves them equally but hates their sins, not them.

Roger Rill

20 Apr 2015

It is the signature that is notarized, not the document. The notary has no interest in the content of the document, other than to scan and ensure it is complete, with no blank spaces.

Judith A. Urbin

20 Apr 2015

I will not refuse to notarize a document based on the requesters' gender or sexual orientation. I am totally against such legislation or should I say, discrimination!

Jair

20 Apr 2015

As a notary public is our duty to keep serving anyone who has the legal documents and identification.

Roger Kennedy

20 Apr 2015

How do I become LGBT certified. I need all the business I can get.

Luetta A .Robbins

20 Apr 2015

In Colorado anyone can officiate at a wedding. Don't need a notary. I would not want to officiate at any wedding.

Luetta A. Robbins

20 Apr 2015

Colorado anyone can officiate at a wedding , so don't need a notary. I would not want to officiate at any wedding.

Jeanine

20 Apr 2015

I do not think it is right to require anyone to go against their religious beliefs, other than safety. Clearly there are notaries who would not feel like they are going against God's commands who can complete the notarial act. Why force the situation on either side?

Maria

20 Apr 2015

I do not and will never refuse a notarial act based on any of the criteria listed when it does NOT VIOLATE my religious beliefs. Violate is a strong word, but it describes exactly what happens when ANY individual, of ANY religious affiliation, is FORCED to go against what they believe to be God's commands. Would you force a Muslim to eat pork? A Hindu to eat beef? The world would erupt in anger if this was happening in this country, yet this is what it feels like when a Christian or any religious person is forced to conduct oneself, officially or not, against HIS commandments. It's not just a "notarial act" at this point; you are asking a Christian to DISOBEY their God. I will not; I will quit my commission first.

Jessica McGarry

20 Apr 2015

A notary is to act as an impartial witness. Refusal of service based on discrimination or personal bias is unethical considering the nature of notarization. It would be one thing for an authoritarian of the church to refuse a same-sex marriage ceremony, but as a state appointed official, a notary should remain impartial and notarize regardless of sexual orientation or lifestyle.

Hipolito Rizardo

20 Apr 2015

The Notary Public Professional Code of Professional Responsibility is simply a guide to all practicing notaries to carry out their duties and responsibilities. It is not created to discriminate against any religion or belief or to supersede God's law. Adhering to the Notary Code of Professional Responsibility will make your life as a notary problem free.

Common Sense

20 Apr 2015

We cannot force our beliefs on others. If I hold a public position or a business that serves the general public, I should not judge how others lead their lives. I am obligated to serve everyone and give them each the same level of service and respect I would want. What is next? White only water fountains?

Joan A. Baffa

20 Apr 2015

My first thought was a quote from the book of Matthew 22:17-22: "Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said, “Caesar's.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.”" These are laws promulgated by the state and since I'm commissioned by the state, I believe I should obey the law. As Pope Francis said, "who am I to judge"?

Al

20 Apr 2015

Should CA ever become a state that would allow notaries to officiate weddings, that would be exciting. However, I feel the State should allow notaries to choose whom they would provide this service to. Marriage is sacred- a God-given gift. Sadly, many find loop holes in this system and commit fraud to marry merely for selfish and monetary gain. Happens in the military all the time.

Robert

20 Apr 2015

As a holder of a public office, a notary should never allow their personal religious concerns to influence any decision. Religion and any government or public office should always be separate. In addition to this, as a notary you are not validating the contents of any document, you are merely affirming that the signer is who they say they are, and that they signed of their own free will. The document's purpose is immaterial. Any notary who refuses to perform a notarization or perform the duties required by their position in public office based on their own personal religious beliefs should be barred from holding positions of public office.

Juliet Meredith

20 Apr 2015

I am a very new notary, but I am actually thinking of marketing myself as an "LGBTQ-friendly notary." As such, I would not be bending state-law in any way. In the case of a transgender signer where I.D. did not necessarily match, I would just need a credible witness. In all other cases, no additional legal considerations would be necessary and it would be nice for an LGBTQ person to know they are walking into a friendly, unprejudiced atmosphere.

Amy

20 Apr 2015

In Illinois notaries cannot marry, but for those that can, I don't think a notary should be forced to marry a gay couple if his/her religion does not believe in such a marriage. Also, I see homosexuality as a behavorial choice/sexual preferance, not an identity.

Roger Kennedy

20 Apr 2015

Maybe we should be able to put in our information so that customers will know if we discriminate based on religious beliefs or we DO NOT discriminate and all are welcome

Linda Millstone

20 Apr 2015

As a Notary Public my duty is to serve the public. My personal opinions and biases should not enter into it. If a notary was working in the office of a religious order, only then would dictates of the religious order come into play

Gabriel McAuliffe

20 Apr 2015

Though I am religious, I wonder if this type of law may be broadened to one of conscience. For instance, in the State of Massachusetts, a twelve year old girl may marry with her parents' consent, according to court case referred to on a State web page: http://www.mass.gov/courts/case-legal-res/law-lib/laws-by-subj/about/marriage.html Section 7 : Minors; Solemnization of Marriage (Prohibits marrying individuals under 18). See also, Parton v. Hervey , 67 Mass. 119 (1854) for more discussion of the marriage of minors. Though I am sure it rarely happens, it is legal. May one conscientiously object to taking part in such an action? I should note that I live in the State of California, where there is no legal limit. In addition, we California notaries generally do not participate directly in the marriage ceremony, I believe.

AW

20 Apr 2015

Marriage is something that is sacred and people are making vows before God. It does make sense to have religious freedom.

Dee

20 Apr 2015

I agree with Maria who posted above. Would you serve Muslims or Jews pork? Would you force a Hindu to eat meat? I have and always will perform notarial acts, such as wills, mortgages, power of attorney, etc. However, if my state allowed a notary to perform weddings, I could not perform a same sex marriage. I had this discussion with my husband the other day. Because of what happened in Illinois, I just wouldn't perform them at all. I would not want my entire business destroyed, because of a lynch mob.

john.hammons@sbcglobal.net

20 Apr 2015

In Indiana a Notary is only validating the persons signature, not the validity or purpose of the document. The seal only verifies the signature to belong to the person whom says it is them.

Linda

20 Apr 2015

I don't understand how State Officials can refuse any service because of their personal beliefs. You are an Official for the people, not just a few. If you want to openly discriminate move to Russia.

Sal M

20 Apr 2015

I believe that any Notary who does not perform their duties as a public official is in violation of the law and violating their constitutes civil rights. Someone being refused service for have a cake made, is not a civil rights violation. However, someone being refused service to have a public and legal service performed is a violation of civil rights. As a Christian, I can understand a persons moral objection to notarizing the document, but personal opinion should be on the side when it comes to performing a public service which you have been empowered by the state to do. I would be very careful refusing to notarize based on a "moral objection" as you may find yourself the party to a civil rights law suit. Here in Louisiana we had a Justice of the Peace (who are ex-officio Notary Public's) refuse to marry a black and white couple based on his "moral objection" of it (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2009_Louisiana_interracial_marriage_incident) and to say he was in a heap of trouble is an understatement. For S Latta who commented, when you signed up to be a Notary Public, you signed up to follow man's law, not God's law and perhaps you should re-evaluate your standing as a Notary and a public servant and official. You should read Joan A Baffa's comment; she seems to be on the right track.

Janet Rahrig

20 Apr 2015

Believe that notaries should be impartial and adhere to the standard code of professional responsibility. It is the right thing to do.

Art

20 Apr 2015

This is the most absurd case for right wing bigotry. All a notary does is verify the person signing is the person signing. If that bothers you, you should resign your commission in the next 30 seconds.

Beth Martinez

20 Apr 2015

As a Christian I must always put God's laws ahead of mans laws, therefore, I would stay true to my faith and not preform marriage ceremonies that violated what God calls marriage, one man and one woman. Other then that documents require only proper identification.

Patricia Warmack

20 Apr 2015

In my humble opinion notaries and any other public official is in office to provide services to the public - not to scrutinize and pass judgement on their lifestyle (or confirm that the consumer's lifestyle conforms to their religious ideology). It makes me nervous when any law is passed that allows for discrimination. I want to know what if a CSA/notary public accepts a signing assignment, goes to the scheduled signing and once arriving to the signing location they realize that the signer is a homosexual. Do they get up and leave and not do the closing? Not professional at all!!!

Tim Gatewood

20 Apr 2015

Only a few states allow Notaries to perform weddings as a Notary. Every state allows ministers to perform weddings and anyone can become a minister if they choose. If you are acting as a minister, your religious beliefs come into play and you should follow those over everything except the laws that we ALL have to live by. If you are acting as a Notary, your religious beliefs must be set aside as you render service to the public impartially. This is not that difficult of a concept to grasp. When you are working as an employee, you serve your boss. When your someone brings you a document to be notarized, you serve the public and your boss can not tell you that you have to break the laws for notaries. What I have never understood is how those who claim they are refusing service to someone on the basis of their Christian beliefs have failed to get the message that Jesus actually gave -- which is love everyone, most especially the sinners. Don't make a show of how religious you are, as the Pharisees did. Make a point of showing love to everyone. The gospel is about love for all. If you can't manage to actually love someone because you think their sin is so much worse that yours, you are a poor example of what Christianity is supposed to be about. Sinners need to be shown a better way and, as anyone who has ever had children or pets will tell you, running someone off when they do something you don't like does not teach them to stop doing it -- it teaches them to stay away from you. You lose the chance to show them the love that IS God if you refuse to serve them. Do you honestly believe this is what Jesus did? Or what he would want you to do?

Tom Gorman

20 Apr 2015

I agree with Maria, I will not disobey my God. We have what is called Religious Freedom, Freedom Of Speech. Christanity was very important with our Founding Fathers, we must get back to those principles

Alex

20 Apr 2015

I think this is bigotry at its finest. If you can't carry out a notarization because of some personal qualms you have against your client, you shouldn't be a notary. No one is asking you to personally approve of what your clients are doing, all you have to do is verify who they are. If you are so bigoted that you can't get past your personal beliefs to do even that, you are in the wrong field. Do your job and keep your personal opinions out of it. It's unprofessional to refuse on these ridiculous grounds.

Margarita Jakovas

20 Apr 2015

As a human being, I try not to discriminate. As a notary, it is my duty and honor to fulfill the needs of the public. The purpose of religion is to honor God, our creator. Christianity teaches us to love our enemies and to judge not lest you be judged. These religious freedom laws are hateful and destructive. It only supports the atheists that hate religion.

Janice Peck

20 Apr 2015

I agree with Roger. As a notary, it is my responsibility to legally notarize signatures, and not the contents of the document. As a Christian, I have from time to time notarized documents that I do not personally agree with, for example a surrogacy agreement. And I have performed notarizations for couples whose lifestyle I do not personally agree with. My responsibility as a notary and as a Christian is to be professional, respectful, gracious, and do my job. Period.

renee.clark@cobham.com

20 Apr 2015

The whole idea or Notaries to perform any lawful notarial act for anyone who requests it, so there is equal opportunity for all. When you serve the public from serving food to the President of the United States you must abide to serve everyone. The Bible teaches tolerance not just for all other Christians, but to all human beans. If you can't get pass this, then you are not a good represenitive for NNA, the State you live in, the Country you serve or the God you worship!

Dennis

20 Apr 2015

I have taken an oath to follow the laws of the State of California. ALL the laws; not just the ones I agree with. I would never refuse service to anyone based on their religious beliefs, sexual orientation, race, creed, or color. Anyone who does should immediately resign their commission.

Terry

20 Apr 2015

As a Christian, I would not refuse a notarization. Maybe my customer does not have the same beliefs as me, but I am here to perform a service not arbitrarily condemn people I know nothing about. A priest would not refuse to hear the confessions of the worst murderers and so I will be charitable to all who seek my services as a notary as long as they have the proper ID and are paying for the service. I don't feel that being Christian gives me the right to judge other people, especially under a stereotype. And I think some people are forgetting what it really means to be a Christian in the way they relate to others.

S. Cole

20 Apr 2015

Amen to your posting, S. Latta - I'm a believer too, we need to stand with our Lord Jesus Christ, he is the one and only.

Michelle M.

20 Apr 2015

I would happily perform my duty. I am an ethical person, so I do not believe in discriminating against any segment of the population. If you're not willing to do your job without discriminating against potential clients, then maybe you shouldn't have that job.

maria torres

20 Apr 2015

I am here to perform a service not anything else. Christian means be like Christ ...in loving everybody...Jesus loves everybody....Jesus comes to restore lives,, to forgive, he is the creator of love. I have to act like Christ did with my own life. Therefore we cannot mix.

Dorie Sylvia

20 Apr 2015

I am a Christian who is also a Notary Public, and the Bible is my Law and; therefore, I will not notorize anything that contradicts my beliefs, which come from the Holy Bible. It is not discrimination as some believe it to be--it is standing up and standing firm in my religious beliefs, which again comes from the Bible and no one will ever take that away from me. Christians have rights and there are thousands of other notaries out there just as there are thousands of other bakeries. So Public Duty or Religious Beliefs?--for this Notary Public-- my religious beliefs will always prevail whether one wants to call it discrimination or not. God Bless.

Mike Metzger

20 Apr 2015

What a loaded question? I guess if my commission as a notary came from the Church, and not California, and the money used to pay my fee had images Sts Peter and Paul and not Hamilton, then maybe my religious convictions would have precedence. Any individual trying to follow their own personalized religious beliefs is going to automatically being discriminatory for an act that is mandated by the State and not a particular religious belief.

Kathleen Metcalf

21 Apr 2015

Enough! The Indiana RFRA (Religious Freedom Restoration Act) was not created to discriminate against anyone! Nineteen other states have similar if not identical laws. The law was implemented to protect religious freedoms which have been slowly eroding as more federal laws are forced on the states ( The First Amendment, passed by Congress September 25, 1789. ratified December 15, 1791). Freedom of religion is a Constitutionally protected concept! Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. As our founding fathers knew, without religious freedom- there can be no freedom (as history taught them). The real problem with the Indiana law is the reckless, out of control, leftist press that grabbed on to the law and turned it into a misguided media circus. Shame on the NNA for regurgitating the work of empty headed, mindless hysterics who are good at making mountains out of mole hills. I am disappointed to see that the NNA hopped on the reckless, hysterical media bandwagon.

Brian

21 Apr 2015

Lots of interesting comments here. I will just add that Christianity is about showing love and compassion to all. Turning people away because they don't measure up to your standards is not the way to do that. Also, LGBT people are born different from the rest of us- it isn't a chosen "lifestyle".

Norma

21 Apr 2015

To paraphrase one of the commenters, would you refuse notarial service to Muslims or Hindus because you don't approve of their beliefs?

Robert

21 Apr 2015

As a Florida Notary Public I always found it most odd that I could and did preform marriages for heterosexual couples. I did my duties with a smile and gratefully accepted their payment. Now after 37 years in a relationship with my same sex partner we can finally get married so we will have the benefits and protections that marriage confers upon us. As for those of you that wish to let your religious convictions stand in the way of preforming your duties then I say great, more business for me.

Phyllis Denison

21 Apr 2015

My personal beliefs have nothing to do with those for whom I would perform a notarial service. Period. My personal religious beliefs have nothing to do with those for whom I would perform a notarial service. Period. People are who they are, are born who and what they are. In the role of Notary Public I provide a very necessary service and act in accord to the rules governing the services I perform. If you have religious beliefs that prevent you from interacting with those who do not share those beliefs or whose life styles are not as you think they should be - that is your personal problem and perhaps you need to include your exclusions in your advertising. I do not agree with using personal beliefs as a means to not serve people needing the service you are commissioned to perform.

Carol Palinkas

21 Apr 2015

if a notary cannot perform his or her duties in an impartial manner, it's time for that notary to find a new profession. This is a business, not a church.

Ames

21 Apr 2015

This seemed to become an issue when the florist and the pizzeria were bullied out of business and their lives were threatened. Also, God is included in marriage vows so another reason for religious freedom for notaries/businesses. Otherwise, I agree notary is a business, not run by a church.

Caroline

21 Apr 2015

I am a Notary Public, not a religious. I will continue to provide my Notary Public services to anyone who needs an acknowledgement or jurat for a document, provided they have the proper identification through satisfactory evidence or Certified or Subscribing Witness. I believe in the words of the Lord," Judge not and ye shall not be judged."

C. Holland

22 Apr 2015

As a Christian I do not wish to perform a marriage ceremony for a same sex couple. I believe that God's outline for marriage is clear and doing so will compromise my witness to others.

Amy

23 Apr 2015

If notaries are able to perform weddings, like in Florida (not only verifying signatures), there definitely needs to be a religious freedom law in regards to marriage. Weddings are commonly a religious ceremony and the state needs to recognize that.

Linda

24 Apr 2015

We can't perform marriages as Notaries in our state. I personally wouldn't want to have an individual that disagreed with my beliefs officiating anything I needed done. I wouldn't want to patronize a business that didn't welcome me either, why would I want to support them!

Mister J

28 Apr 2015

S Latta, the Bible also says to "Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's." Being a Notary Public is not like a typical job. It is a public office governed by specific State laws, and by becoming a Notary Public, you agreed to abide by that legal framework. If you don't like that, then resign your notary commission. Notarizing a document doesn't mean that you agree with its contents.

Kina

29 Apr 2015

Personally, I do not believe in "God" as Christians do, but I respect their right to believe in what they choose. I am a woman married to a man, but I respect the right of all people to marry who they choose. I am no great person with any superior rights to pass judgment over others. I would decline a Notary act based on the guidelines set for Notaries and no other reason. What someone does in their personal life is none of my business. My only concern is the Notary act that I have been hired to perform.

Sheila

25 Feb 2019

I just had a Notary affirm my signature. She wanted to know if I had a problem "Swearing to God"? I really don't think that is anyone's business. I told her I did and told I was an Agnostic. I have never had to swear my allegiance to God while Notarizing a document. I'm 69 years old and have had several documents Notarized. I did get it notarized but then I had to hold my right hand up and swear all this was true, again, I never had to do that either. What is going on?

National Notary Association

26 Feb 2019

Hello. A signer requesting a jurat may choose to take either an oath (a promise of truthfulness made to a higher power) or an affirmation (a promise of truthfulness made on personal honor), depending on the signer's personal beliefs. Either one is acceptable for purposes of a notarization. For more information, please see this article: https://www.nationalnotary.org/notary-bulletin/blog/2015/05/your-guide-notary-oaths-affirmations

Leave a Comment

Required *

All comments are reviewed and if approved, will display.