Brother Kevin

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Posts posted by Brother Kevin

  1. Hello friends,


    I hope you are well and hanging in there through all of the changes going on with the forum. The process of the big changes is nearly completed. And there are some things to come in the near future which will hopefully express a sense of genuine gratitude to all community members who participate on the forum. :)


    Truly, the members of the forum community care for one another. There are special relationships created and built here where connections have lasted for years. I cannot thank you enough for choosing this forum to make it your place to come together.


    Regretfully, it appears that sometimes there is a disconnect with relaying what happens at the office and what gets passed on to the community. It is a work in progress that we are working to remedy.

    Such is the case with the recent passing of one of our volunteers, Atwater Vitki. Last month, Murph advised of the sad news regarding this loss to our community.  The expression of my thoughts was posted out to the ULC community, and unfortunately did not make it as far as the forum where - of all places it clearly should have landed/


    In the meantime, a major renovation of the forum has been going on. Communications to complete this task were fast and furious. With the cleanup and a moment to get a view of the scenery, it is clear that a very important part of our forum is missing.


    I would like to properly extend an acknowledgement of Rev Al – Atwater Vitki’s service to our forum community. The loss is one that runs especially deep here.

    He was the type of contributor that when he posted, one would go out of their way to read what he had to say. He was cheerful and colorful, and a person who was quirky and charismatic. He held a great deal of compassion for people, and this extended to his love and concern for animals.


    Early on, Atwater Vitki would send each new registered guest a personal welcome message right into their inbox. And he would also send happy birthday messages or even a welcome back message for returning members too. It is clear that connecting people was important to him. He touched everyone.


    His temperament was one that the world needs more of. We were so lucky to have him with us here on the ULC forum. He was truly one of a kind. He was well loved by many and he is missed.


    I know that many of our staff and members are still grieving. Please keep in mind that as ministers, many of us are here to be of counsel. Especially among our Administrators and Moderators, we hope to extend support that you may need for coping with grief. Our door is always open.


    We continue to send our deepest gratitude to our departed Atwater Vitki for his years of dedicated service to ULC Online, and to his family. They have recently communicated their gratitude, thanking the ULC community for all of the love and support you have shared with them.

    • Like 4
  2. "Neither this Court, nor any branch of this Government, will consider the merits or fallacies of a religion. Nor will the Court compare the beliefs, dogmas, and practices of a newly organized religion with those of an older, more established religion. Nor will the Court praise or condemn a religion, however excellent or fanatical or preposterous it may seem. Were the Court to do so, it would impinge upon the guarantees of the First Amendment."

    I'd love to have been there to see Kirby's reaction to hearing these words from Judge Battin's ruling in ULC v USA!   43 years later, and those words still resonate and give me a thrill!

  3. It's been 55 years this month since Kirby Hensley decided to incorporate the rapidly-growing church that he founded in the garage of the Hensley family home.  On May 2, 1962 papers were filed with the Secretary of State, establishing the Universal Life Church as a not-for-profit corporation headquartered in the state of California.  

    Over the decades, the church grew like wildfire, attracting attention around the world for its "novel" doctrine, that religious freedom is a natural right of all peaceful people, not something to be tampered with or unduly regulated by governments.  Surprisingly, or perhaps not, that simple doctrine, the very same one enshrined in the words of the U.S. Constitution's very First Amendment, was deemed controversial by some, and resulted in a flurry of legal battles over whether churches truly have the right to exist without government approval or consent.

    Although federal judge James Battin ruled strongly, eloquently, and unambiguously on this in the landmark case ULC vs USA in 1974, those legal battles continued to pop up as state and local governments would seek to stop ministers of our beautiful church from practicing their religious convictions in the same peaceful manner that ministers of the "big dog" churches do!   Through the years,  the tireless efforts of the Universal Life Church and the Hensley family have continued to thwart and repel those who would infringe on one of our most cherished of liberties.

    It is with sincere appreciation and heartfelt gratitude that we acknowledge the continued work and mission that is today carried forward by Kirby Hensley's son and current church president Andre Hensley. Through the years, the church in Modesto has had to stand up not only to government infringement on the natural rights of the governed, but has also had to contend with various rogues, knock-offs, and usurpers who have surfaced from time to time. Some have sought to misappropriate the famous name and history of the church, others have simply tarnished the church's reputation through misdeeds, sometimes even downright fraud. Such is the price of freedom.

    Through it all, the genuine church in Modesto has remained committed to the fundamental, universal doctrine of absolute religious freedom for all peaceful people, and to do only that which is right.

    Please join us at ULC Online in wishing President Hensley and the staff at church headquarters a Happy 55th Anniversary and well-wishes for the future.  Add your comments to this post, to be included in a special acknowledgment to be presented to Modesto in honor of this milestone.

    If you are not yet receiving the ULC Online Newsletter, be sure to subscribe nowWe'll start to include you in our monthly mailing right away.


    • Like 1
  4. I received this information from Dusty Hoesly, a member of our ULC community who has been following this case closely.  It appears that the state of New York has a different understanding of the word "Supreme" and especially "Supreme Court" than the rest of the world, and that this case still has a path to appeal even within the state.    So far the courts are ruling in favor of religious freedom on this one, but it will continue to be one to keep an eye on!

    Dusty wrote:

    I quickly scanned the court decision, and sure enough the judge rules that the ULC counts as a religion in New York. However, the New York State court system is funny, and they call their trial and superior courts "Supreme Court," their courts of appeals "Appellate Divisions," and their supreme court the "Court of Appeals." So, in this instance, while the signature at the bottom of the decision says Acting Supreme Court Justice, Judge Sise is really a local county judge and not a member of highest court in the state.

    In 2013, the Third Appellate Division ruled in favor of the ULC while deciding an issue regarding this same case. However, that court sent some matters back to the lower court for further considering, including deciding whether the ULC counts as a church. That question was resolved by the case you sent me, in which the lower-level court judge ruled in favor of the ULC as a church when deciding the ultimate issue: the divorce proceedings of the Oswald couple.

    I hope this helps. New York's court system is confusing and I'm still trying to get the hang of it.


  5. On 6/15/2016 at 1:18 PM, mark 45 said:

    while it is about time,is the law changing for new york state,and even more so,for new york city?

    It doesn't change the law, no.   New York City was already accepting ULC ministers and issuing them the required permits to officiate marriage.  That issue was resolved quite a long time ago.

    There were those who claimed that the state law of New York did not include ULC ministers, for various reasons, and pointed to an old divorce case for support of that idea.  Which to me, always seemed silly,  because if true, that would have meant that the New York City Clerk's office was issuing the permits to ministers who were not authorized by the state law to officiate marriage.   (Not to mention that pesky old First Amendment!).

    In issuing this decision, the state's highest court ruled that Universal Life Church is a church within the meaning of the statute.    Nothing "changes" other than that the question has be resolved.   It seems highly unlikely that the case would be heard by the SCOTUS, but let's hope it is!   I cannot imagine the SCOTUS issuing a different ruling, and that would then be persuasive in getting the few remaining recalcitrant jurisdictions to quit playing games with religious liberty.

  6. Andre Hensley notified me that the New York Supreme Court has handed down a decision in a case that has a lot of significance for religious freedom in general and for the Universal Life Church specifically.   In Oswald v Oswald, the court held among other things, that the Universal Life Church is a "church" within the definition of the New York statutes.   

    As church president, Mr. Hensley was called to New York to testify in this case, which the court relied upon heavily in making its determination.    It will be interesting to see whether that information is redacted from the case file when this information is posted by "you know who" or whether he will attempt to usurp credit for this victory as with everything else.

    The court's ruling may be found here


    • Like 1
  7. In the scenario you describe, I do not know of any "deductions" you can take.   There are no tax deductions that accrue to individuals for using their time and resources to do good in an informal and independent manner.  Tax exemptions apply to churches, not individuals.  And tax benefits and deductions for ministers come in the form of Employee Business Expenses, so yes, you do have to be an employee to have that type of deduction.  A church can pay ministers certain tax-exempt benefits, such as a travel, housing, or clothing allowance, but again, to receive such a benefit, it has to come from an employer and it must be structured correctly.
    The church doesn't have to be brick and mortar but it has to be established.  This means that you and your wife would need to establish it, along with at minimum, one other person to form a Board of Directors.   Five is better, for avoiding the impression that it is not simply a corporate shell that is controlled by you and your wife. 

    Get a copy of the Zondervan Tax and Financial Guide for Churches. The regulations don't change much from year to year, so you can get the previous year edition that we have on clearance for $4.99 while they last, or search on Amazon for one.  

    Churches are automatically tax-exempt organizations under the IRC, so theoretically you shouldn't have to apply for 501c3 status for it if you create a church.  However, as discussed in the Zondervan book, that may not be the hill you want to die on in taking on the IRS.  Ultimately, they assert the authority to determine whether or not your church is a church, and although they publish a list of 14 points that they consider in making this determination, there is no published "formula".  You don't have to meet all 14 points, and few churches do.

    Bear in mind that the church is not "yours".  It is controlled by a Board of Directors, which may include you and your wife as voting members, and it must be directed and controlled by the Board, with minutes and bylaws and all of that.

    The above applies only to those who wish to have their church become involved with the IRS, which you will have to do if you wish to claim deductions and exemptions.   If you simply wish to do good, you can just "do it", and unless your church is generating income, there is no need for deductions and exemptions or filing for permission to be a church. In such a case, it is no different from a stamp collecting club or a knitting circle, and it remains your own private concern.

  8. I believe the database error issues that began appearing yesterday have been resolved.

    It is unclear what happened, and I'm still working on getting an explanation from the server support team. To date, their answers have been somewhat vague, something to do with the password for phpmyadmin needs to be changed from time to time, even if it is changed to the same password. After they "fixed" one problem we we seeing with phpmyadmin, the Forum database wouldn't connect.

    Some workarounds and discussion with Invision support and now I'm hopeful that it is working again . . . fingers crossed!

    Thanks for your patience!


  9. You don't have to register in order to officiate weddings in Utah. If you are ordained with ULC, you can officiate there.

    If you ask the clerk whether they will allow a ULC minister to officiate marriage, they are likely to quote you a law that says ministers ordained by mail or using the Internet cannot officiate there.

    They are actually violating a federal court order by quoting you this law, in my opinion. There is indeed such a law. It was signed into law by the governor, but before the law took effect, the ULC brought action in federal court and the law was found to be unconstitutional. The court issued a permanent injunction prohibiting the state from enforcing it. It seems to me that a government official showing you the law and telling you that you cannot officiate is "enforcing" the law.

    It would be interesting if someone in Utah would be willing to take them to task on this, perhaps even bring suit for civil rights infringement. If you want to have some fun, take some witnesses with you and ask them the question in person. If they pull this stunt on you, get the person's name who tells you this and then ask them if there isn't a federal court ruling that prohibits the enforcement of that law. It would be interesting to see, from their reaction, if they are simply ignorant or actually trying to bamboozle people.

    The law does still exist. Like many laws that are held unconstitutional, it remains on the books simply because the legislature never acted to remove it.

    For example, California has a law on the books that says you have to carry ID with you. It was ruled unconstitutional decades ago, but the law is still on the books. Yet no sane California cop would try to tell you that there is a law that requires you to carry ID. So why do Utah clerks quote a law they must surely know is not enforceable? lol . . . well if you're living in Utah, you already know the answer to that one!

  10. For some time now, various clerks in Pennsylvania have been trying to obstruct ULC ministers from officiating marriage. They have sent out warning letters to couples who apply for marriage licenses, which they have carefully worded so that they don't actually state any facts but still tend to scare folks.

    The ACLU has taken up the cause and has filed suit in three different counties. Rev. Frank Palumbo, who has some powerful political connections in his network, has also been working to bring about changes to the way things are done in Pennsylvania, and to prevent further erosion of religious freedom.

    A judge in one of the Pennsyvlania counties has issued a ruling in favor of religious freedom, declaring valid a 2005 marriage that was officiated by a ULC minister.

    News report on the above ruling

  11. I know that many of you would have liked to be able to attend the memorial service for Lida. And I can tell you that it was clear to me that the family and staff at Headquarters were well aware of the many people who could not attend, but who were there in their hearts.

    Because I have the good fortune to live only a short drive from Modesto, I was able to attend, and would like to share my experience with you here.

    The little church was filled to capacity with those who had come to remember the life of this great lady. There was a line of people waiting to crowd into the church, and even after the service began, more people continued to arrive to take the "standing room only" spots at the back of the church.

    Andre, and other members of the family actively greeted arrivals as they approached the church, and clearly conveyed the message that this was to be a day to celebrate Lida's life. There were cards, flowers and emails from around the globe on display, including a print-out of the forum topic, which was posted right at the entrance to the church. A slide show with photos of Lida's life and family ran continuously as well.

    In typical ULC service format, following some preliminary words from Andre and a few other family members, there was an open forum for any and all to speak. A lot of people rose to tell of things they remembered of Lida's life and the way she influenced the lives of so many. Her quick wit and chronic hospitality were things that many remembered about her in particular. I'm sorry I don't remember who told the story, but one of the family remembered how when the ambulance came to treat her after her fall, the paramedic asked if she had hit her head on the ground when she fell. She joked back at him, pointing out that she was lying on concrete, so how could she have hit her head on the "ground?"

    Many spoke of the way Lida and Kirby had personally influenced their lives, such as offering employment with the church at a time when they were unable to make ends meet or find work elsewhere. Or how open and friendly Lida and Kirby were to everyone, friend and stranger alike, regardless of their station in life. The enduring love in Kirby and Lida's marriage was the subject of many comments as well, and there could be no doubt to anyone attending that Lida's role in the development of the church was significant. A few of the attendees shared poems they had written, or sang a special song. Although tears were shed by many, the prevailing emotion was one of love, and of appreciation for a life well-lived.

    Following the service, Andre and Manzanita released a pair of doves at the sidewalk in front of the church. Then a few tables were pulled together to accomodate an abundant selection of home made foods served banquet style. Most in attendance remained to enjoy breaking bread with friends, new and old, whose lives had been impacted by Lida and the church she and Kirby built together.

    Copy of the program from Lida's memorial service: