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Is The Universal Life Church A Scam?

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The following rant was posted on a message board devoted to calling out fraudulent organizations and other scams. It was found by a ULC staff person and they were alarmed at how many misconceptions about the nature of the Universal Life Church, the legality of online ordinations, and the validity of our ordination process exists on the internet. To counter the wild accusations many ill-informed people level against us, we have decided to post the rant and then address it accusation by accusation. Thanks for reading!


Is the Universal Life Church a scam?

Again, the following was written by someone that does not work for our organization and their comments, opinions, and beliefs DO NOT REFLECT REALITY.

Universal Life Church scam

A shockingly large amount of people skeptically views the Universal Life Church as one that peddles worthless pieces of paper and is only out to make a quick buck. Read one of these perspectives here.

Is the Universal Life Church, and the Universal Life Church ordination, a total scam? The answer is simple: absolutely. How is it possible for an individual to take a few minutes of their time, pay a fee and be promptly ordained to perform marriage ceremonies? The sanctity of the marriage vow is implicitly desecrated by a fly-by-night, online ordained minister who only performs ceremonies in exchange for spending money. Although the ULC provides paper ordinations for a fee, how can this “church” be anything but a money-making scheme designed to take advantage of misinformed people?

The practice of ordaining someone to be a minister without giving them any formal training is highly questionable. Irregardless of the religious denomination of the couple, a marriage vow is sacred and should not be sullied by fake ordinations bought online for a fee. How can an individual with no appreciable religious training guide an engaged couple through the sanctity of the wedding process? Imagine the same practice in the medical profession – allowing someone to come in off the street and cut someone open, using only a surgical “degree” they got online to demonstrate their credentials.

When a couple engages in an act of matrimony, there are many social, financial and religious considerations to take into account. The ULC takes these considerations and makes a mockery of them. How can the Universal Life Church charge for such ordinations with almost no training and certainly no ongoing, continuing education? Of course, the ULC does take a relatively large fee for its brief, online ordination certification and the paper documentation it sends to its “ministers”. How it costs $20 to print and ship a piece of paper is beyond me. Questions raised about the money the ULC charges are particularly concerning when you think about how it purports to be a “non-profit organization”. Either they are flat out lying about their non-profit status (which seems likely) or they line their pockets with the egregious fees they charge to the innocent men and women who “get ordained online” through them.

For me, the icing on the cake is the fact that many people have ordained their pets, appliances, and even dead people from history through the ULC. How on earth can any supposed “church” claim to be anything but fake if Rev. Fido. Rev. Hoover, and Rev. Hitler are all honorary ministers of their organization?


The Universal Life Church Monastery’s response

Love isn’t inherently religious, so way should marriages be?

The Universal Life Church gives anyone the means to perform a wedding for their friends of family members because we believe conventional ministers shouldn’t have a monopoly on performing weddings.

Most of the people who come to us to get ordained online do so merely so that they can gain the privilege of performing legally-recognized wedding ceremonies. Being a professional minister might require years of study at a theological college, but becoming a wedding officiant should absolutely not. The Universal Life Church proudly decouples religion from marriage, and allows our ministers to perform intensely meaningful and personal – and completely legal – wedding ceremonies for friends and family members. We completely disagree that marriage is an inherently “holy” construct, or that wedding vows must be “sacred”. This is the 21st century, and we live in a country that is increasingly becoming less religious; why on Earth should a father not be allowed to perform his own daughter’s wedding, or a 20-something be the one who gets to say “You may now kiss the bride” to his lifelong best friend, even though neither have no “appreciable religious training”? Love isn’t inherently religious, so why should marriages be?

We have real expenses that we need to cover; charging for ministerial documentation is thus a necessity

Churches, much like businesses, have many expenses they need to cover. The Universal Life Church has rent, utility bills, employee wages, hosting bills, and so on to cover, and these are all expensive. Conventional churches like the Catholic church have the benefit of being able to pass around a collection plate and take in tax-free donations from their members; the ULC does not. The cost of the documentation we send out both reflects the cost to make and ship said documentation AND the other costs of staying in operation which we do not earn revenue from. Charging “$20 for a piece of paper” isn’t a choice, it’s a necessity; we would be forced to shut down and thousands of wedding ceremonies would not be able to be performed by our ministers as a result.

Furthermore, accusations that the “Universal Life Church fraud” is in fact a company are unsubstantiated and based entirely on wanton speculation. Our foreign corporation documents for the State of Washington, where we are registered and headquartered, clearly demonstrates that we are in fact a non-profit organization. Even the slightest amount of research on the part of our detractors would reveal this much.

You can fool us and ordain pets, objects, and dead people, but you’re not proving anything

This is a REAL Universal Life Church minister

Believe it or not, county clerks can tell the difference between real Universal Life Church ministers and “Rev. Dust Buster” when they are determining who should be able to file for marriage licenses.

It is an unfortunate fact of the ordination process we use – where anyone can get ordained online for free within a matter of minutes – that people who are trying to be funny (or “prove” that we are a scam) exploit the weaknesses of our system and create accounts for things that are clearly not real people. Ordaining your vacuum cleaner doesn’t prove that we are a scam in that it does not impact the legality of the ordinations of real people who use them to perform genuine, legally-recognized ceremonies (like weddings). Ordaining “Adolf Hitler” (which our ordination database reveals that people have done over two dozen times) who lives on “666 Hell Lane” proves nothing other than the fact that you have too much time on your hands and a peculiar sense of humor or mis-placed urge to try and detract from the ordinations that hundreds of thousands of people use honestly.

Furthermore, our order fulfillment staff does its best to find and remove ministerial documentation ordered for “ministers” that are clearly not real. They always catch names like “Jerry the Lawnmower” but generally miss pet names when the pets’ surnames are those of their owners. Again, ordaining your pet and ordering credentials for it demonstrates nothing about the legality of our ordination; instead, it shows that some people have too much money and too little conscientiousness and are willing to waste their money and/or the ULC’s time simply to fulfill a misguided desire to “prove” the Universal Life Church fraud.

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