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Church Drops Lawsuit Alleging Discrimination Against Internet-Ordained Minister

Universal Life Church Ministries has withdrawn a lawsuit filed last month against the Bucks County, Pennsylvania Register of Wills that alleged the office refused to recognize the credentials of one of its ministers.

The nonprofit, non-denominational organization, based in Seattle, ordains people to serve as wedding officiants using an online process, and says it has ordained more than 20 million ministers. It lists as its founding principle, “we are all children of the same universe” and asks its ministers to embrace two beliefs:

  • Do only that which is right
  • Every individual is free to practice their religion in the manner of their choosing, as mandated by the First Amendment, so long as that expression does not impinge upon the rights or freedoms of others and is in accordance with the government’s laws.

UCLM brought the religious discrimination suit against Bucks County Clerk of Orphans’ Court and Register of Wills Linda Bobrin in February.

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Universal Life filed a voluntary dismissal of the lawsuit March 15, the Bucks County Courier Times reported. 

As earlier reported by MinistryWatch, the lawsuit alleged that Stephen H. Moser had been told he could not preside at his daughter’s wedding in April specifically because he was ordained through the internet.

Bobrin denied Moser’s assertion, saying her office had “long accepted” marriages performed by people ordained online and that her office had issued “hundreds” of marriage licenses over the past year to people married by internet-credentialed officiants, per the Courier.

“The Clerk’s policy is and has been to leave it up to the couple seeking matrimony to determine if their officiant is qualified to perform marriages. If the officiant is acceptable to the couple, then Bucks County will accept the marriage as valid,” Bobrin said.

Anne Stych

Anne Stych is a writer in Charlotte, North Carolina.