Universal Life Church Case Law
Phone: (614) 715-9048 Fax: (614) 715-9049
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ULC Case Law
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Washington, D.C. 20006


Is the Universal Life Church Legitimate?

July 19th, 2012

The Universal Life Church provides online ordinations to any person who wants one, regardless of religion, race, gender, or any other basis, completely for free. ULC ordination 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”. That couldn’t be further from the truth!

In the interest of transparency, we’d like to address the primary arguments made by those who falsely believe that the ULC is a scam below, and refute them point-by-point.

Marriage is Not Inherently Religious, and Wedding Officiants Should Not Have to be Either

A wedding couple exchanging vows at the ceremony

The Universal Life Church is fully legally recognized nationwide. But unfortunately, some biased individuals spread misinformation online.

There are strongly religious individuals who believe that receiving an ordination without going through lengthy and costly seminary 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. 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 paying thousands of dollars to attend seminary. They cite the fact that there are no online sites that offer medical degrees for a fee in order to become a doctor, neglecting to mention that you are legally required to go through intensive training in order to be a doctor. This is a false equivalence, as lengthy training is not required by law to become a minister.

We believe 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. And while many ULC ministers choose to officiate weddings for their loved ones, that is just the tip of the iceberg of what ULC ordination allows one to do. ULC ministers can perform funerals, baptisms, and, yes, even preach to a congregation if they so choose. In short, we believe anyone who feels so-called should be able to get ordained, so we’ve removed the financial barriers to that process. Our ministers can use their ordination as much— or as little— as they’d like.

The ULC Cannot Screen Every Ordination Request it Receives

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 fact is, 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. Unfortunately, some choose to abuse this system to fraudulently ordain their pets, appliances, and so on. Our diligent order fulfillment staff generally catch orders made by “ministers” that are clearly not people, but unfortunately, some do manage to slip through. However, ordering ordination paperwork for your dog proves nothing except the fact that some people have too much time and money on their hands. Any paperwork ordered under false pretenses is not valid, and we reserve the right to remove any fraudulent ordination at any time.

As for the allegations that the Universal Life Church is a scam only interested in money, 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.

The ULC is Legal Nationwide

A wedding couple sharing their first dance

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.

The final major thing that makes people ask “Is the Universal Life Church a scam?” is 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 because they did not provide the county the requisite paperwork needed. 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 people out of their money.

The fact is, Universal Life Church ordinations are recognized in 48 U.S. states, and our ministers are able to perform legal wedding ceremonies there, provided that they have the proper documentation required 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 few states which do not accept our ordination (Tennessee and Virginia), or those who have not done their research beforehand and thus do not have the ministerial documentation that county clerks frequently require from all wedding officiants. Our ministers have performed countless weddings without having any difficulties with county clerks. Ultimately, while we provide ordination free of charge to anyone who would like it, ministers must do their due diligence as well to determine what paperwork, if any, they’ll need to provide the county clerk. Failing to do so could lead to a surprise when you try to file for your friend or family member’s marriage license after you perform their wedding!


  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?

  2. Robert A Gibbons says:

    I am a new officiate of ULC and request brief sample prayers for several occasions:
    Prayers for Recovery from Illness and Disease
    Prayers for COVID-19 victims
    Prayers of hope for the discouraged.

    I was baptized Catholic at 6 yrs old, but was Confirmed in the Episcopal Church in 2012.

    Please send appropriate Christian prayers.

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