Courthouse Marrying Preachers Ordered To Stop Bickering

Earlier In Day Lady Minister Was Told She Could Do No More Weddings

Friday, April 25, 2003
Rev. Leroy Fitch shows off his ministerial papers. He said another marrying preacher at the county courthouse is not legal. Click to enlarge all our photos.
Rev. Leroy Fitch shows off his ministerial papers. He said another marrying preacher at the county courthouse is not legal. Click to enlarge all our photos.
- photo by John Wilson

Lt. John Sertel on Friday afternoon told the marrying preachers at the Hamilton County Courthouse they would have to leave the courthouse if they didn't stop bickering.

"I told them the fussing and arguing was going to stop because it was disrupting the courthouse," said Lt. Sertel, who is over courthouse security.

He said he told the ministers they would have to take turns in handling marriages.

Earlier in the day, several of the preachers said that a female minister who showed up recently would no longer be allowed to do weddings.

Rev. Leroy Fitch said Dr. Yvonne Freese "is not licensed, and she is not ordained. I told her she's not doing no more weddings. It ain't going to happen until she shows us some papers." He said he and the other preachers have an agreement where they take turns.

The Korean-born Rev. Freese left the courthouse after the morning confrontation, but she was back a short time latter - joining Rev. Fitch and two other ministers waiting for couples to come out of the office of County Clerk Bill Knowles.

Rev. Freese said, "I'm not scared. I'm not afraid." She said she got a degree at Tennessee Temple Seminary last year, and she said it's not necessary to be ordained. She said she would turn in her Temple certificate to the Knowles office.

She said of the other preachers, "I don't have to show it to them. With them it's like a food fight by animals. I wonder if they are born-again Christians and have the Holy Spirit."

Rev. Freese said she plans to do the courthouse marrying for about two years while she gains funding for "a big mission" - that she said will be "Tea For Teens."

Rev. Fitch, who said he is associate pastor of Mount Joy Baptist, called Rev. Freese "a liar." He said, "When she got back, she said she had taken her papers to the clerk's office. But I called in there on my cell phone, and they said she had not given them anything."

He said, "We just want these people to have a righteous wedding and a legal wedding. We don't want frauds coming in here and grabbing free enterprise."

Rev. Mark Sandilands, another of the courthouse preachers, said earlier that the law is clear that the officiant must be ordained and licensed.

But County Clerk Bill Knowles disagreed, saying the law is broad and could apply "to a prayer group leader or a Sunday School teacher." He said his office stays out of the issue of who performs the weddings out in the hallways.

Lt. Sertel said that when he was talking with the preachers, he understood they had argued about one not having a certificate. He said he told them they were not obligated to show it to him.

He said, "Three of them dug down in their briefcases and pulled out their papers." He said Rev. Freese said she would bring hers in.

Rev. Yvonne Freese
Rev. Yvonne Freese
- Photo2 by John Wilson

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