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Is The Universal Life Church A Scam?

July 19th, 2012

The Universal Life Church provides online ordinations to any person who wants one, regardless of religion, race, ethnicity or any other background, for free. This allows anyone to become a wedding officiant and legally perform a wedding ceremony. Many people are skeptical of the validity of this process, however, and believe that the Universal Life Church is nothing more than a scam out to “make a quick buck”. The primary arguments made by those who believe that the ULC is a scam are listed below.

The Universal Life Church gives away something that should be earned

Is the Universal Life Church A Scam?

Some people believe that the Universal Life Church is a scam because they give out ordinations to people with little to no religious training. But how much of those statements can be attributed to objections on moral grounds?

There are strongly religious individuals who believe that receiving an ordination without going through seminary, or any of the other usual means of becoming ordained, is not only morally wrong but also an offense to the church and Christianity. They believe that in order to become ordained, a person must actively take part in the Christian religion and adhere to its belief system in order to take on the title of “minister”, “priest”, “reverend”, and so on. These individuals believe that it is heinous for people who profess to be members of other faith groups (like Islam, Hinduism, and even alternative religions like paganism) and have no interest in believing in or preaching Christian teachings to call themselves ministers (or reverends, preachers, and other such titles).

Many see the act of becoming a minister online just for the sake of being able to legally officiate a wedding as morally repulsive. They don’t understand why that person would want to “participate” in a religion that is not theirs. Some even find the service that the ULC provides as being wrong even for individuals who belong to the Christian faith. These individuals believe that if a person wants to officiate a wedding and become a minister, they should do so in the Christian way – by going to seminary. They cite the fact that there are no online sites that offer medical degrees for a fee in order to become a doctor. You have to go through intensive training in order to be a doctor, and they believe that the same applies to being a minister.

The ULC allows inanimate objects and dead people to get ordained, and gladly takes their money, too

Others believe that the Universal Life Church is a scam because it allows people to go online and enter anyone’s (or anything’s) name into the ordination form found on online ministries’ sites, even if the “person” is a dog, vacuum cleaner, or deceased historical figure. The suspicions of these people are compounded by the fact that many online ministries will happily send ordination credential certificates and other ministerial documentation to “ministers” that are clearly not actually real people as long as Rev. Fido, Rev. Hoover, and Rev. Grover Cleveland pay. These disbelievers makes claims similar to the following: “Why would a church ever allow such practices to continue, or even occur in the first place, unless it isn’t a church at all and is only interested in making money?”

The ULC ordination doesn’t allow people to perform wedding ceremonies

The final major thing that makes people ask “Is the Universal Life Church a scam?” are the legal questions raised about the validity of the ULC’s ordination. Many laypeople have gotten ordained online under the assumption that they would be legally allowed to perform wedding ceremonies immediately after they submit their online ordination request, only to later be rejected by a county clerk when they file for a marriage license. These rejected individuals assume that the promise made by online ministries like the ULC, that their free online ordination will allow anyone from anywhere in the world to perform legally-recognized wedding ceremonies, is incorrect and that organizations like the Universal Life Church are making false promises to scam innocent men and women out of their money.

As any ULC minister could tell you, the Universal Life Church Monastery is most certainly not a scam and that the above three concerns are completely unfounded. Here’s why:

Marriage is not inherently religious, and wedding officiants should not have to be either

The ULC is a scam, some believe

Is the ULC a scam? Ask the tens of thousands of happily-married couples who were married by our ministers and see what they say.

Most ULC ministers use their ordinations to perform wedding ceremonies, not form and then preach to a congregation. It shouldn’t be necessary for a person to train for years, spend thousands of dollars on school fees and textbooks, and profess to adhere to a specific, dogmatic faith system in order to unite people — including friends and family members — into the bonds of matrimony. The single most prominent reason why organizations like the ULC Monastery exist is to help people who want to perform weddings to do so without going through all the rigmarole entailed by going through a seminary or theological college. In short, it isn’t necessary for ULC ministers to receive a conventional religious education because they are both not conventional ministers and (for most of our members) wouldn’t actually use or appreciate any religious studies they were forced to take.

The ULC cannot screen every ordination request it receives

We receive hundreds of ordination requests a day and thus cannot screen every name, e-mail address, and mailing address that is entered in our ordination database. It is for this very reason that “people” like “Larry the Lawnmower” manage to become ordained through the Universal Life Church. The same can be said for those who purchase ordination credential certificates, and other forms of ministerial documentation, for their pets, appliances, and so on; our order fulfillment staff generally catches orders made by “ministers” that are clearly not people, but some manage to slip through. Managing to fool our overworked staff proves nothing other than the fact that some people have too much time and money on their hands. As for the allegations that only a scam would allow inanimate objects, pets, and other things that could never actually officiate a wedding to get ordained and then pay for credentials, the Universal Life Church is a non-profit organization registered with the State of Washington and is thus not concerned with making a profit. Information about our organization’s foreign corporation filings, which demonstrate that we are recognized as a non-profit organization in many states, can be found here. The only people who benefit from the money that is left over after the ULC is done paying its staff, rent, internet hosting fees, and office maintenance costs are the people who rely on the charities we regularly donate to.

Universal Life Church ordinations are legal in 47 states

The Universal Life Church’s ordination is recognized in 47 US states, and our ministers are able to perform legally-recognized wedding ceremonies within them provided that they have the proper documentation to do so. Many of the people who get rejected by county clerks, and then unfairly and inaccurately believe that the ULC is a scam, are those who are trying to perform weddings in the three states which do not accept our ordination (Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Virginia) or do not do their research beforehand and thus do not have the requisite ministerial documentation that county clerks frequently require from all wedding officiants. Our ministers have performed tens of thousands of weddings (of which I have personally witnessed over a dozen of them) without having any difficulties with county clerks. Before every wedding they perform, it is important for Universal Life Church ministers to ALWAYS contact the county clerk of the county where the marriage license is to be filed to a) verify that the county clerk’s office accepts our ordination and b) determine what documentation they are required to present in order to file for the license. Failing to do so could lead to a nasty surprise when you try to file for your friend or family member’s marriage license after you perform their wedding!

Still skeptical? Check out these videos

Watch the videos below to see people who were ordained by the Universal Life Church perform legally-recognized wedding ceremonies for their family and friends.

Conan O’Brien, entertainer and talk show host, performs his costume designer’s wedding

Rob Dyrdek, professional skateboarder, officiates his sister’s wedding

If the entertainers above can perform weddings, you can too. Simply become ordained online through the ULC and you will be able to provide an incredibly valuable and meaningful service for your family and friends.


One Comment

  1. Rev. Robert M. Paris says:

    I was ordained in 1976 by another ministry, but in 2001 I became part of the ULC. I feel every bit as much a calling of God in ULC as I did in the other group. But with the issue of training, the Bible says the Holy Spirit will guide you in all truth, so those that have not had “formal education can be and often are just as effective in Ministry as those without. As for the claim that ULC is not a real Church we have a Main Church at 601 3rd Street. Modesto, CA 95351 and services are held there every Sunday at 10:00AM and our ministers are active in the community doing the work of the Lord. What more is required of a “real” church?

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