Universal Life Church Case Law
Phone: (614) 715-9048 Fax: (614) 715-9049
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ULC Case Law
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ULC Helps Ease Wedding Officiant Rules In Erie County, NY

June 21st, 2012

ULC ministers in Erie County, New York

ULC ministers can now perform wedding ceremonies in Erie County, New York without registering with a town clerk.

It is now possible for Universal Life Church Monastery ministers to perform wedding ceremonies in Erie County, NY without registering as a wedding officiant there. This development occurred thanks to efforts taken by the ULC staff to correct a misunderstanding made by the Erie County clerk’s office. The crux of this misunderstanding was centered around a civil case argued at the state level in New York in 1989, Ranieri v Ranieri. The judgement of this case found that ordinations made by the Universal Life Church of Modesto, CA should not be legally recognized by New York State because the mail-order “ministry” had no formal congregation and no set of beliefs to which its members adhered to. The county clerk’s office of Erie County had been mistakenly applying the judgement from this case to the Universal Life Church Monastery of Seattle, WA (us!), an online ministry founded 17 years after Ranieri v Ranieri was heard and with no current or historical ties to the ULC of Modesto.

Brother G. Martin Freeman, leader of the ULC Monastery, sent an e-mail to the Erie County clerk’s office soon after our staff learned of this misunderstanding. It contained the following statements which were intended to differentiate us from the ULC of Modesto in the minds – and policies – of these Erie County administrators.

“Our organization is the Universal Life Church Monastery, which was officially organized as a church in Washington State. While we share a similar name, we are in fact a different church with a different set of religious beliefs. We do ordain ministers online through our website, and we also have an “online congregation” which is similar to a social media platform such as Facebook, whereby our minister convene and share sermons, stories and experiences.

However, in addition to our online congregation, we do meet all regular requirements and characteristics of a church in New York. We have regular congregations in physical locations in New York, of which the total ministers and attendants number more than 5,000. Many of these congregations meet weekly. We do have an established set of religious beliefs and a written church charter and bylaws.

In reference to all of the above information, we do believe our organization qualifies as a church, and our clergy qualify as wedding officiants, in accordance with the law of the state of New York.”

Erie County’s deputy legal clerk, Patricia Fulwiler, sent the following reply to our presiding chaplain:

“Mr. Martin:  The website is being updated and the paragraph at issue will be removed.  Thank you for bringing this to our attention.  You may also do your ministers a service and advise that there is no requirement to register with the County (of Erie.)”

We would like to thank the Erie County clerk’s office for their timely response to our correspondence, their fair and accurate reassessment of New York’s marriage laws, and their fair treatment of ULC ministers from this point forward. Our organization has dealt with a large amount of difficult county clerk’s offices in the past and the people of Erie County should be pleased to know that theirs is not counted as one of them.

Other Universal Life Church ministers who are facing difficulties with county clerks when they try to file for marriage licenses or register as wedding officiants should contact us immediately. We cannot guarantee that we will be able to assist you to the same effect as we were able to help those who are going to perform wedding ceremonies in Erie County, by we will do our best.


  1. Rev Richard Leroy Chambers says:

    Thank you. I now know if a time comes that someone wants me to marry them, I will be able to say yes, After a meeting of all party’s and the proper paper work is done. Again thank you. I can verify this with my Church board. May God keep a watchful eye on us, and bless us all.

  2. Amber Graham says:

    Has there been any recent updates to this issue? I have ordained weddings in Monroe County, NY (near Erie), and have not had issues with the marriage certificate being accepted, but recent articles on the issue have me concerned.
    These include:

    I just want to be able to assure my wedding clients that their marriage is in fact legal and valid.

    Amber Graham
    Ordained 7/12/13

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