Universal Life Church Vows to Defend Minister Rights in Tennessee

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The fundamental rights of ordained ministers of the Universal Life Church and the people they serve are being systematically denied in Tennessee. The Universal Life Church released a statement vowing to ensure nationwide the rights of its ministers.

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Marriage is not a weapon, and the ULC will no longer tolerate that personally sacred rite being used as such by politicians seeking to further marginalize already marginalized groups.

The Universal Life Church (ULC) on Wednesday released its official statement in response to an inflammatory article published in The [Memphis] Commercial Appeal and re-published nationwide. The piece heavily criticizes the validity of the Universal Life Church as a religious organization and highlights a relatively recent shift in Tennessee that has led to our ordained ministers (many of whom were ordained online) being denied the right to officiate marriages and/or called into question the legality of those marriages.

We have been lead to believe that shift is a heavy-handed attempt to prevent gay marriages from being performed in the state in the wake of the 2015 Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges. Marriage is not a weapon, and the ULC will no longer tolerate that personally sacred rite being used as such by politicians seeking to further marginalize already marginalized groups.

The article does serve one productive purpose: it highlights specific language in the Tennessee state code and in a Tennessee state Attorney General opinion that does call into question the validity of Universal Life Church ministers compared to their counterparts in other faiths.

While this language has not always been consistently enforced in this state, the Universal Life Church is aware of its presence and continues to work actively with Tennessee attorneys to rectify the situation.

One of the sources most heavily quoted in the story, a Memphis divorce attorney, goes so far as to claim that the “Universal Life Church is a joke” and that “…you can’t get a joke to marry you.” These claims are not only inaccurate but insulting to the millions of ordained Universal Life Church ministers around the world.

The statement published today by the Universal Life Church serves to reaffirm to all of the ULC’s members that their Church will not rest until their rights as valid religious ministers are secured across the nation. There are several areas of the country where the fundamental rights of Universal Life Church ministers and the people they serve are being systematically denied, and the Universal Life Church fully intends to aggressively pursue justice in all of these areas in the immediate future.

The Universal Life Church was originally founded in the late 1950s and has been a unique fixture in American life and on the global religious stage for decades. The ULC is perhaps most famous today for its wide provision of religious services on the internet. Its mission, and the mission of its ministers, is simple: to do that which is right and to ensure and expand freedom of religion and religious expression around the world and beyond. The Universal Life Church believes that we are all children of the same universe, and will always strive to tear down any artificial barriers that have been constructed between individuals and their pursuit of the answers to the big questions we ask ourselves as a species.

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Brother G. Martin Freeman
@ulcmonastery
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