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ULC Court Cases: 1978 Kentucky Attorney General Opinion

October 23rd, 2012

Remember that the attorney general opinion listed below refers to the ULC of Modesto, CA and NOT the ULC Monastery, but that the opinion is equally applicable to both organizations as well as all other branches of the ULC.

Emphasis in the below text is added.

Attorney General Opinion Background

[Unknown, though Mr. Johnson presumably was a Universal Life Church minister interested in performing a wedding ceremony in Kentucky who had some kind of difficulty or confusion in doing so.]

The Attorney General Opinion

To Mr. Johnson,

Ordained ministers who get ordained with the ULC can perform weddings in Kentucky

Kentucky attorney general Robert Stephens re-affirmed that the ULC's ordination is recognized in his state in a letter written in 1978.

There have been several questions in regards to the ministerial credentials that are issued by the Universal Life Church, an organization based out of Modesto, California. These questions concern the acceptability and validity of said credentials and whether the ministers ordained by this organization have the legal right to perform marriages.

The question you have is whether an ordained minister of the Universal Life Church has the legal ability to perform marriages in the state of Kentucky or not.

According to Kentucky law regarding the matter, anyone applying for a license to solemnize marriages in the state of Kentucky must:

Reside in the Kentucky county in which the application is being filed

Prove to the county judge or executive that he is of morally good character

Regularly be in communion with his religious society

Promise that he will not break any of Kentucky’s marriage laws

This statute comes with the assumption that the applicant is a priest or minister. According to Kentucky statute, only certain officials, ministers or priests may solemnize a wedding in Kentucky. This refers to ministers and priests of any denomination as long as they have regular communion with the religious organization that they belong to.

The question is “what is a religious society?” The law is quite broad in this respect. It is therefore our opinion that any group that is organized and maintained for the purpose of a public worship of God is a religious society. Any minister of such a group that is actively engaged must therefore qualify as a minister of that religious society.

There is also no suggestion in Kentucky statute that the minister must have some sort of ordination.

This means that we must look at the religious society in question, the ULC. Whether or not the applicant is a minister or not must be left to the recognition of the religious organization that he belongs to. The statute is not restricted to denominations or religious organizations that are more historically established. According to Kentucky statute, in order for the minister to be legally recognized as a minister, all he needs is any form [ordination credential] that expresses the official recognition of the religious organization that he belongs to.

Although court cases in other states have judged differently, in Kentucky it means that as long as the applicant has documentation from his religious group that recognizes him as a minister, he can be given the legal right to perform marriages in the state of Kentucky.

Robert F. Stephens

Kentucky Attorney General [1976-1979]

Attorney General Opinion Summary

Universal Life Church ministers, like those from the ULC Monastery, are able to legally perform weddings in Kentucky as long as they can present an ordination credential that demonstrates they are ordained. This is due to the fact that the State of Kentucky recognizes the legality of the Universal Life Church.

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