Universal Life Church Case Law
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ULC Court Cases: 2002 Texas Attorney General Opinion

October 22nd, 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 Mrs. Lee presumably was a Universal Life Church minister curious about the licensing requirements for practicing psychologists in Texas, and whether or not ordination through the ULC would ease any restrictions vis-a-vis getting licensed that are placed upon them.]

The Attorney General Opinion

To Mrs. Lee,

Texas ULC ordained ministers can become psychologists without getting licensed

One way to become a psychologist in Texas without first getting a license is to become an ordained minister through the ULC.

The question you have is how the Texas State Board of Examiners of Psychologists (hereby referred to as the board) decides if an individual is exempt from the licensing requirements for practicing psychology due to the claim that the individual is a recognized member of a clergy and is acting on his or her ministerial rights.

You have asked whether or not there are guidelines in Texas law that define what the recognition of a minister by a clergy is, and whether or not an individual ordained via mail order or the internet falls under that definition.

We have concluded that if we are to examine whether a person is a recognized minister of a religious organization, we may use the ordination of the individual, if paid for via the internet or the mail, as one of the factors to determine if the individual is indeed exempt from licensing requirements. This factor cannot be used itself to determine this matter, however, unless there is no other evidence provided by the individual to prove his or her activities as a minister or affiliation to his or her religious organization.

According to the Psychologists’ Licensing Act, anyone who practices psychology must be licensed to do so by the board. Practicing psychology without a license is a misdemeanor. Those exempt include recognized ministers or a religious organization [like the Universal Life Church] that are acting within their ministerial duties and rights, as long as they do not describe themselves as psychologists, or describe their services as practicing psychology.

The law concerning psychology licensing notes that a recognized religious practitioner is exempt. The Texas State Board of Examiners of Professional Counselors defines a religious practitioner as being a member of the clergy, rabbi, or an ordained minister who belongs to a church or a religious organization that has been legally recognized. We believe that this applies to recognized ministers who provide pastoral counseling to their ministry, and that it is limited to their ministry.

It is difficult to decide what is or isn’t a legitimate claim for a religious exemption. When investigating such a claim in order to determine whether it is valid, the board will often use the opinion of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The IRS has been involved in several investigations in order to determine whether certain religious organizations qualify for tax exemptions.

Your questions regard mail-order ministries. This is an enterprise that provides ministerial credentials to anyone that wants them for a small fee or donation. Individuals have been known to apply for ordination in this manner in order to evade income tax payments and participate in other schemes. The Universal Life Church (ULC), based out of Modesto, California, is one such ministry.

According to court cases such as Universal Life Church v. Utah, the organization is willing to ordain anyone who wishes to be ordained through the mail or through the internet. Previous court cases have found that no ceremony or oath of any kind is required by the ULC, and nothing is required of an individual who has become an ordained minister of the ULC. The Universal Life Church legal team was told that Utah statute only forbade ministers who received their ordination through the mail or the internet from solemnizing marriages, and not those who applied for their ministerial credentials over the phone, through fax or in person.

The board has decided that it will not distinguish between individuals applying for exemption based on the method through which they received their ministerial credentials. However, the board will require more evidence that the individual is a recognized minister or a religious organization in addition to any certificate that individual may have. Although receiving ministerial credentials through the mail or the internet is a factor in deciding on an individual’s exemption from practicing psychology without a license, the individual’s activities as a minister must be investigated. If the individual’s practices are no different than the practice of psychology, then he or she will not be found exempt of the Texas statute. This should make it clear as to where the Universal Life Church legal standing concerning the exemption of Texas law is.

John Cornyn

Attorney General of Texas [1999-2002]

Attorney General Opinion Summary

People looking to practice psychology in Texas must first be licensed by the Texas Board of Examiners of Psychologists; they face getting charged with a misdemeanor if they do not. One way to get an exemption from this requirement (i.e. practice psychology without getting licensed) is to become an ordained minister, although ministers who get this exemption can’t only function as psychologists and never as ministers as doing so would demonstrate that they are in fact the former and not the latter.

Various Texas state agencies, like the aforementioned Board of Examiners of Psychologists, recognize the Universal Life Church ordination, although forms of ministerial documentation are required to demonstrate that ULC ministers are in fact ordained. Most importantly, a Universal Life Church minister looking to gain exemption from Texas psychologist licensing requirements must be a practicing minister and be looking to perform psychologist duties second to that role; the board will not grant an exemption if they do not.


  1. Rachelle says:

    I applied with ULC to become an ordained minister many years ago because of MY CALLING from God! I did not know where else to turn!! I studied ministry all my life! Theology,(the differences between religions, doctrines, the psychologies behind the faiths, the core values and even the commonalities between each religion.) I take monthly psychology CEU’s in faith counseling, AS RECOMMENDED BY ULC, I take monthly CEUs in theology and metaphysics. I do not support a formalized church nor congregation at this time because I personally believe that Christ was a teacher and healer. I strive to emulate Christ in not having tithe, nor a church based tithe- I don’t charge to heal as Christ never asked a cent- just help along his path. Too many people still worry about greed, power, red tape. I’m trying to establish my credentials with Texas. I spent 17 additional years teaching youth. I love ministry and have left formal work to devote my life to God. I wish people would recognize that there really are spiritual and pure people out here.

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