Magazine article Church & State

Tenn. Legislators Seek to Curb Online Ordination in Marriage Ceremonies

Magazine article Church & State

Tenn. Legislators Seek to Curb Online Ordination in Marriage Ceremonies

Article excerpt

Legislators in Tennessee may have gone too far when they attempted to curb people who are ordained online from performing wedding ceremonies, a federal court has said.

State lawmakers in May passed legislation prohibiting clergy who were ordained online from officiating at weddings. In July, a federal judge questioned the motivation behind the law.

U.S. District Judge Waverly D. Crenshaw Jr. of the Middle District of Tennessee asserted that the law raises "serious constitutional issues" that must be addressed. Crenshaw put the provision on hold pending further legal action. Until then, he said, ministers who received their ordination online may continue to perform weddings in Tennessee.

The law appears to be aimed at the Universal Life Church (ULC), a denomination founded in California by Kirby B. Hensley, a former Baptist minister, in 1962. Hensley became famous for his willingness to ordain anyone for a fee. Before the rise of the Internet, the church often advertised for potential clergy in magazines.

Today the church, now based in Sacramento, calls itself "a multi-denominational religious organization with millions of members all over the world" and says, "Over the decades, the ULC has garnered global recognition for its promotion of universal togetherness and religious expression around the world."

The church's website notes that several celebrities, including Benedict Cumberbatch, Lady Gaga and Paul McCartney, have been ordained by it. …

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