Vital records of society

Vital records are the official documents of the birth, marriage, divorce, and death of members of a society. They are currently kept by an office of state government, but before the 19th or 20th century these documents were under the control of religious institutions, i.e., churches. For example, the state of Nebraska has birth and death records only since 1904, and marriage and divorce records only since 1909. Since marriage required a license, marriage certificates are often available since the 17th or 18th century in the older states.

State and national governments, however, have done poorly at this basic task. They have not recognized the personhood of children in the womb, they have made divorce “no-fault” and easy to get, and they have redefined marriage to eliminate the sex requirement. In some states, lawful death has been redefined to include assisted suicide.

With this in mind, it is time for religious institutions to take back the keeping of vital records. While legal requirements must still be met, religious requirements are different and need their own certificates and vital records. This is an opportunity to show the importance of recognizing the humanity of children in the womb by issuing a Life Certificate. It’s an opportunity to show the necessity for marriage to be kept for opposite sex couples only, and not same-sex or changed gender couples. It is an opportunity to set the requirements for divorce. And accurate death records would discourage the pretexts of assisted suicide.

Although religious institutions bear responsibility for this task, the operation may well be contracted out to a business. Because people move between the states and change church affiliation, it is best that a national database be established. This national database of vital records should be maintained with the highest integrity to safeguard how society treats the unborn, the institution of marriage, and the dying.