How to become an ordained minister over the internet. Marry your friends!

May 15, 2007 | By | 33 Replies More

I have a confession to make. I’m an ordained minister. I’m not making this up. I was ordained about five years ago by the Universal Life Church.

I got ordained because it was free and it only took a few minutes on-line. I also did it because it allowed me to officiate over a wedding for two friends. Here’s the irony. These two friends selected a wonderful woman to actually perform the ceremony. The woman had graduated from the seminary, receiving extensive theological training. But the Church wouldn’t ordain her because she was a lesbian. Therefore, the woman performed a beautiful ceremony in front of hundreds of people, but it wasn’t “official” according to state law. The next day, I conducted a small private ceremony: “By the power invested in me by the Universal Life Church, I hereby pronounce you husband and wife!” Ta-Daaaahh.  I signed the marriage certificate.  It was quite fun and satisfying to help out.

In sum, the lesbian woman with all the training couldn’t officiate, but I could do it, because I spent five minutes on the Internet. When I was ordained (I assume this is still the case with the ULC), I had to check a box agreeing that 1) people should be kind to each other and 2) people should be free to practice whatever religion they choose.  That’s about it.  No dogmatic beliefs are required.

Prior to the wedding I carefully checked to see whether I could perform this ceremony in the State of Maine (where the wedding was held).  The government official told me that they have about 20 of these ULC weddings performed every year in Maine. This might not work in all states, however, so do your research! ULC provides some legal information on this topic.  It boils down to how they interpret the phrase “ordained minister.”  Maine’s policy is that as long as there is an organization that is willing to say you are an ordained minister (ULC will vouch for you), you’re good to go. 

What’s especially cool about this ULC option is that the couple can be married by someone who actually knows them, rather than someone who is officiating simply because he or she has traditional credentials.

That’s my story, then.  Sadly, my story is also about bigotry by a religion.

If you want to get ordained, just visit the ULC site. If you want, you can pay $12.25 for a plastic ID card identifying yourself as an ordained minister (mine says “Reverend Erich Vieth”). ULC has a real physical building in Modesto, California.  You can check to see who is a minister [I just renewed my listing, so it might not be up yet]. It’s not just a 17-year old kid working out of his basement.  ULC is a very inclusive, non-judgmental organization.  Here’s a little blurb from the ULC site:

We make no religious hurdles, no hoops to jump through, no tests of loyalty, no rings to kiss and no fees to pay. Why? The ULC Monastery represents freedom, and to have freedom you can not make demands upon individuals. In the Universal Life Chuch (ULC) Monastery everyone is equal – the same level of greatness is enjoyed by all. We will be your personal minister/consulate and advisor, with your consent at no charge to you. We are here for you each day. There is a scripture which says “there is a friend, which sticketh closer than a brother.” We wish to be that friend for you. We ordain all who ask and welcome you to the Universal Life Church Monastery Ministries.

Checking the site today, I see that ULC now has an official policy recognizing same sex marriage:

All adult persons with love for one another have a religious and constitutional right under the 1st amendment of the United States, to the union of marriage regardless of sex.

Such is invoked under natural, primal, and religious law. Given this understanding, we hold that it is a denial of religious rights by the United States government to restrain our ministers from their constitutional right to perform the ritual of the Sacrament of Marriage to consenting adults, be they any sex.

If you need last rites, let me know . . . or better yet, have any friend quickly get ordained over the Internet to minister to you.


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Category: American Culture, Bigotry, Religion

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (33)

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  1. Erich Vieth says:

    From a NYT article titled, "Great Wedding! But Was It Legal?"

    "In many other states, including New York, the rules about ministers ordained online are less clear. Often, even city, county and state officials are uncertain of the parameters."

  2. I worked at the monastery from 2007-2009. Although their ordinations are legal, they are not affiliated with the Universal Life Church. The ULC in Modesto is the founding church. The Monastery website has been operated independently since 2006 under George Freeman aka Br. Martin.

  3. The issues with legality are contingent on whether the ordaining party has a doctrine of faith. The only Universal Life Church to ordain within a specific doctrine is the world headquarters located in Florida. It is not that these others are not legal, but rather they are just not legal in many states, counties or countries. The Universal Life Church World Headquarters is valid in every state, throughout Canada and the majority of the world. Remember just because a county clerk says you might be legal, a Judge may say otherwise. Best rule of thumb, get ordained by the sure thing. Universal Life Church

  4. Please keep in mind the best resource for online ordination that holds up in Court is one that is considered a faith based ordination, an ordination by a Church with an actual doctrine of faith. Many online ordination service providers do not have a doctrine of faith or for that matter are anything but a website looking to promote their ministry webstore. Universal One Church is the world’s largest provider of online, faith based ordination.

    Universal One Church

  5. grumpypilgrim says:

    Why stop at ordination? Satirist John Oliver created his own, perfectly legal, IRS-exempt church, which he called, “Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption.” See more here:

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