Universal Life Church Monastery

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Universal Life Church Monastery
Classification Non-denominational
Brother George Freeman
Region Worldwide
Headquarters Seattle, Washington
Origin 1959
Modesto, California
Separated from Universal Life Church
Ministers 20 million (2011)[1][not in citation given]
Official website themonastery.org

The Universal Life Church Monastery is a non-denominational interfaith ministry that is primarily known for its online ordination program, which allows individuals to preside over weddings, baptisms, and funerals across the United States depending on state and county laws.[1][2] George Freeman is president of the Seattle, Washington-based ministry.[3][4] It claims to have ordained 20 million ministers.[2]


The Universal Life Church Monastery was founded in 1977 as an offshoot of the Universal Life Church. The church first established a website that allowed individuals to apply for ordination in 1995.[5] Universal Life Church Monastery formally split from the Modesto-based Universal Life Church in 2006 following financial and legal disputes between the two bodies.[3] Universal Life Church Monastery then began ordaining ministers through its own website.[1]


Universal Life Church Monastery's mantra is "We are all children of the same universe."[6] It also has two core tenets:

  • Do only that which is right.[6]
  • 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.[6]

The monastery's stated mission is to ordain anyone regardless of their spiritual or religious denomination.[7][8] It does not have a physical building that serves as a house of worship, and conducts ordination through its website.[7] According to the church, ordination allows its ministers to perform marriages, funerals, baptisms, and exorcisms.[2] It provides ordination services free of charge.[2]

Notable ministers of the Universal Life Church

Notable ministers of ULCM have included Glenn Beck,[9] Richard Branson,[10] Doris Day,[9] Kathy Griffin,[11] Hugh Heffner,[12] John Lennon,[12] Conan O’Brien,[13] Debbie Reynolds,[12]Joan Rivers, Jason Segel,[9] and Kevin Smith.[9]

Legal Status of ULCM ordinations

Throughout its history Universal Life Church Monastery has been a party to multiple court cases in the United States on both the federal and state level over the validity of its ordinations.

In 1988, the Mississippi Supreme Court upheld the marriage of a couple in that state by a Universal Life Church minister.[14] A United States District Court ruled in 2002 that a Utah statute declaring Universal Life Church ordinations invalid was unconstitutional.[15] A judge in Bucks County, Pennsylvania affirmed the validity of a marriage performed by a minister of the church in 2008.[16]

Some state courts have invalidated marriages performed by Universal Life Church ministers. A 1974 decision by the Supreme Court of Virginia invalidated marriages performed by Universal Life Church members.[17] Multiple cases in New York have invalidated marriages performed by church ministers in that state,[18][19] but New York Supreme Court's Appellate Division ruled in Oswald v. Oswald (2013) that "genuine issues of fact" remain as to whether Universal Life Church ministers have authority to solemnize marriages under New York law and remanded the case to the state Supreme Court for further adjudication.[20]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "UI students serve as ordained ministers". The Daily Iowan. Retrieved December 27, 2014. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 "Chapel Bound: Getting Ordained Online". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved December 27, 2014. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Pa. judge nullifies weddings by online ministers". USA Today. Retrieved December 27, 2014. 
  4. "The Officiant Among Us". The New York Times. Retrieved December 27, 2014. 
  5. "Universal Life Church: Ordained online". The Religion News Blog. Retrieved December 27, 2014. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 "About the Universal Life Church". Universal Life Church Ministries. Retrieved December 27, 2014. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 "Controversial online ordination surges in popularity". Emerald Media Group. Retrieved December 27, 2014. 
  8. "The Next Same-Sex Marriage Battle: Who Will Officiate?". Forbes. Retrieved December 27, 2014. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 "Elvis Has Left the Chapel". The New York Times. Retrieved December 27, 2014. 
  10. "If This Were Anyone Else, It Would All Be Very Strange". Aero News Network. Retrieved December 27, 2014. 
  11. "Kathy Griffin: Minister?". Los Angeles. Retrieved December 27, 2014. 
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 Ashmore, Lewis (1977). The Modesto Messiah: The Famous Mail-Order Minister. Universal Press. ISBN 0-918950-01-5. 
  13. "VIDEO: Conan O'Brien Officiates Gay Wedding on His Show". TV Guide. Retrieved December 27, 2014. 
  14. "MATTER OF LAST WILL & TEST. OF BLACKWELL, 531 So. 2d 1193 - Miss: Supreme Court 1988". Google Scholar. Retrieved December 27, 2014. 
  15. "Universal Life Church v. Utah, 189 F. Supp. 2d 1302 - Dist. Court, D. Utah 2002". Google Scholar. Retrieved December 27, 2014. 
  16. "JASON B. O'NEILL and JENNIFER R. O'NEILL No. 08-01620-29-1 COMMON PLEAS COURT OF BUCKS COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA 2008 Pa. Dist. & Cnty. Dec.". Google Scholar. Retrieved December 27, 2014. 
  17. "Cramer v. Commonwealth, 202 SE 2d 911 - Va: Supreme Court 1974". Google Scholar. Retrieved December 27, 2014. 
  18. "Ranieri v. Ranieri, 146 AD 2d 34 - NY: Appellate Div., 2nd Dept. 1989". Google Scholar. Retrieved December 27, 2014. 
  19. "Ravenal v. Ravenal, 72 Misc. 2d 100 - NY: Supreme Court 1972". Google Scholar. Retrieved December 27, 2014. 
  20. "State of New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division Third Judicial Department" (PDF). Retrieved December 27, 2014. 

External links