I have been writing since 2012 about Tom Colton, who last week was was jailed for two and a half years for stealing €320,000 from an elderly couple, one of whom has Alzheimer’s disease. Colton is legally allowed to solemnise marriages in Ireland, because his Spiritual Union of Ireland is considered a religion, despite Atheist Ireland not being allowed to nominate solemnisers under the same law.
Judge Michael O’Shea said that Colton, who was acting as an accountant at the time, was in “the higher echelons of trust”, that his theft was “coldly calculated”, and that “his behaviour was extraordinarily dishonest and fraudulent”.
Colton claims to bring people back from the dead to attend their loved ones’ weddings. As an added bonus, he is both a ‘ghost whisperer’ and a ‘ghost buster’ who cleanses houses of spirits. Colton remains today on the current official register of State-approved marriage solemnisers in Ireland (you can download the register here).
You can also legally solemnise marriages if you oversee a culture of covering up child sex abuse, or lie to and positively mislead a state inquiry into child sex abuse, or swear victims of child sex abuse to silence (Bishops of the Roman Catholic Church); or if you default on six-figure debts, or fail to file income tax returns (Pastors of the Abundant Life Christian Centre and Victory Christian Church).
What I wrote in 2014
Irish psychic medium Tom Colton is facing trial at the Dublin Circuit Court, where he is accused of stealing more than €300,000 nearly nine years ago. He has not yet indicated how he will plead. Colton is one of the people who is legally allowed to solemnise marriages in Ireland, because his Spiritual Union of Ireland is considered a religion.
Any religious body can nominate its members to legally solemnise marriages in Ireland, but Atheist Ireland can not, because the law discriminates on the ground of religion. Secular bodies must be on the charitable tax exemption list for five years, must have aims that are humanist and ethical, and must not promote a political cause. However, the only criteria for religious bodies is that they meet regularly for common religious worship. They do not have to be ethical, and they are allowed to promote a political cause.
When passing the law, Government Minister Joan Burton told the Dail that the reason why secular bodies are required to fulfill more criteria than religious bodies is “to ensure the institution of marriage is protected by applying a rigorous set of rules regarding the type of body that can be deemed eligible. In this regard, it is important that the criteria should be robust so that the authority to solemnise marriage would be granted only to stable, long-standing and reputable organisations.”
What I wrote in 2012
The Spiritualist Union of Ireland has five solemnisers on the list, including two Ministers and three Officiants. The two Ministers are Tom Colton, ‘one of Ireland’s leading Psychic Mediums’, and Mary Murphy Losty, ‘Psychic Medium, Tarot Cards, Facilitator.’ Tom Colton also has a personal website and Twitter account (Irelands Medium Tom @irishmedium), both of which he uses to promote his spiritual services and the sale of a pseudoscientific water ionizing machine.
The Spiritualist Union of Ireland advertises ‘Spiritual Weddings – Married by a Medium’ in which dead relatives are invited to attend the ceremony. They say that “As part of the spiritual ceremony we can invite those from spirit world to be present with us to share your special day and remember those who have passed to spirit world in a special way not traditionally seen at a wedding ceremony.”
On the Nolan Show on BBC Radio Ulster, Tom Colton explained how the Spiritualist Union of Ireland started doing spiritualist weddings, and he described it as being a nondenominational service that is not primarily about spiritualism but more about avoiding family disputes where people have different religions.
“I got a phone call from a lady who wanted to have a spiritualist wedding, and the issue was that she was of one religion and her partner was of another, so they wanted to go for a nondenominational service, and that is essentially what as spiritualists we do. We don’t look at religion or what backgrounds people come from, be it a Jew, a Protestant, a Catholic or whatever religion, or Buddhist, we don’t recognise a religion as such, we just believe that we can communicate with spirit, with those who have passed on to spirit world, and people see this as a way of getting over the issue of having one religious wedding over another, because it can cause a lot of tension in the family, so people would look to a nondenominational service. And that was the first inquiry we got, it was from a lady who wanted a nondenominational service.”
At the time of the first wedding enquiry, Tom Colton did not know that spiritualists could conduct marriages. As he told the Irish Sun in April 2010:
“We had a couple of enquiries about having spiritual marriages. I didn’t think we could do them until I did a bit of research and found out that since 2006 the whole law has been relaxed in relation to marriages in Ireland. Before that, it had to be in an established church and the only place you could have a civil marriage was the Registrar’s Office. But now we can actually do the full civil legally binding marriage here.”
The Spiritualist Union of Ireland, and Colton personally, also advertise paid private and public spiritualist sittings, including a completed 50-date nationwide tour with tickets at €20 each, and mediumship development workshops. A European Union directive insists that charging for medium-type services must be legally described as ‘for entertainment purposes only’, yet these ‘psychic mediums’ and ‘tarot card readers’ can legally solemnise marriages in Ireland simply because they describe Spiritualism a religion.
As an added bonus, Tom Colton is both a ‘ghost whisperer’ and a ‘ghost buster’. He has published on his website articles from national newspapers describing him using both terms. The Irish Sun article above, titled ‘Married by a Medium’, said:
“A psychic is bringing people back from the dead – to attend their loved ones’ weddings. Ghost whisperer Tom Colton, of the Spiritualist Union of Ireland, has just been granted a full licence to perform marriages. And he says he can use his spiritual knowledge to form a link between this world and the afterlife – then call on the deceased to be present during the ceremony.”
And in October 2011, an Irish Times article titled ‘Meet the Ghostbusters‘ described Colton as ‘a medium and minister of the Spiritualist Union of Ireland, who cleanses houses of spirits.’ The article said:
Some houses have been built in places where tragedy occurred, says Tom Colton, a former accountant and father of four who is now a medium and minister of the Spiritualist Union of Ireland. He has cleansed some 120 houses including some that weren’t selling. One was a property that had been built on a field where a teenager had died by suicide and disturbances were troubling the occupants. He encourages househunters to follow their instincts when viewing properties for sale. “Use your sixth sense to connect with that internal radar, that feeling or sense of things not being quite right. It is your body telling you something.”