The following rant was posted on a message board devoted to calling out fraudulent organizations and other scams. It was subsequently discovered by a ULC team member who was alarmed to read the wild misconceptions some people have about the nature of the Universal Life Church, the legality of online ordinations, and the validity of our ordination process as it exists on the internet. To counter the false accusations that have been leveled against our organization, we have decided to post the ill-informed rant below and address it piece by piece. Thanks for reading!
The Myth of the "Universal Life Church Scam"
The following tirade was written by someone that does not work for our organization, has no affiliation with the ULC, and their comments, opinions, and beliefs do not reflect reality.
"Is the Universal Life Church, and the Universal Life Church ordination, a total scam? 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?"
An Alternative to Expensive Training
Being a professional minister might require years of study at a theological college, but not everyone has that luxury. We believe that becoming a minister should be an option open to everyone. For everyone, faith is ultimately a personal relationship, and anyone who feels so-called should be able to take charge of their own faith experience.
"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?"
Performing Weddings is Just The Beginning
Many of the people who choose to get ordained online do so because they are initially attracted by the privilege of performing legally-recognized wedding ceremonies - though more often than not these people, in reviewing ULC training materials, soon realize that being a minister is so much more.
"In my opinion, the practice of ordaining someone to be a minister without giving them any formal training is 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."
Love Is Inherently Personal, Why Shouldn't Marriage Be?
Ultimately, marriage is a sacred and spiritual bond between two connected hearts that is far greater than any political or bureaucratic controls that have been artificially placed over the union. Given that marriage is such a sacred and special ceremony, we believe it's all the more fitting that somebody who intimately knows and loves the couple, with whom they are spiritually entwined, is far more qualified to officiate the wedding than a traditional priest charging an exorbitant fee with whom they are barely acquainted. Furthermore, the ULC provides an ample amount of literature training ministers on performing weddings - both online and in the form of physical books - that make them just as logistically capable of performing the ceremony as any other minister. So, why on Earth should a father not be allowed to perform his own daughter's wedding, or a young student be the one who gets to say "You may now kiss the bride" to his lifelong best friend?
"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'."
Charging for Ministerial Documentation 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. Not to mention, we shoulder enormous legal fees to ensure that religion and marriage remain as open as possible to as many people as possible, rather than clasped tightly in the hands of a nefarious few. These expenses add up. 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. While in terms of active membership we rival or outsize many conventional churches, we don't have a plate to pass around. The cost of the documentation we send out reflects the cost of making and shipping said documentation AND additional day-to-day operational costs. Charging for our minister credentials isn't a choice, it's a necessity. We work hard for our millions of minister-members around the world and intend to do so for centuries to come.
"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."
Non-Profit Status Well Established
Accusations that the Universal Life Church is not a non-profit organization are unsubstantiated and based entirely on wanton speculation. Our foreign corporation documents for the State of Washington, where we are registered and headquartered, clearly demonstrate that we are in fact a non-profit organization. We work incredibly hard to keep our overhead and material costs as low as possible while still ensuring we have the systems in place to support our growing membership base around the globe. We also frequently contribute funds to worthy community causes around the world in the spirit of universal charity.
Not to mention that some 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?
How Pets Get Ordained
An unfortunate side effect of our ordination process (by which anyone can apply for ordination online) is that pranksters can exploit the weaknesses of our system to create fake accounts. Ordaining your vacuum cleaner, while a funny prank, doesn't mean that our organization is a scam. Such behavior does not impact the legality of the ordinations of real people who use them to perform genuine, legally-recognized ceremonies (like weddings). Such behavior distracts from the benefits that our ordinations offer to hundreds of thousands of honest people.
Furthermore, our diligent staff does a great job of finding and removing any ministerial documentation ordered for "ministers" that are clearly not real and we're getting better at it every day. As is stated frequently on our site, any ordination application made using false or fraudulent information will be deemed invalid and we reserve all rights to revoke any ordination found to have been granted under false pretenses.