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pope_cahbet

Can The Minister Be Sued If The Marriage Turns Bad

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if a minister could be sued for a marriage going bad,i would have sued the one who presided the ceremony to my ex.however,that was not his fault,and like yours she did not want me becoming a minister.so be ready for even worse about it from your spouse.i just hope the results not the same.

seems people read more into the law than what's there.any marriages that have been dissolved that were preformed by ulc ministers were because for one reason or another,they were not authorized to solemnize such marriages.your state reps and such really don't have the time to look that stuff up,even if they have access to the information(as we all do).your best bet is to learn your states laws(tennessee is not that complicated,believe it or not)and save yourself some time and grief.

My spouse is mostly concerned with income right now, as she has been unemployed for over a year. My income has never been that great to start with and she sees this (ULC Ministry) as a distraction. I am working on a marketing plan for my other businesses (Notary Signing Agent and Field Inspector) and developing a step-by-step plan for my ministry. Once I have those in hand and start working them, the results will show her how seriously I take the income side and the ministry side. I don't see the ministry as a major source of income, but if I can not officiate at weddings here in TN, then it will be even less of a source and I will have to revise my plans accordingly.

The laws are pretty straight forward. Lawyers are not. I need something official that says the AG's opinion was reversed or overturned by a Court -- or made moot by changes in the law. I am working on this and will report back here on any progress.

Thanks for your support. thumbsup%281%29.gif

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Remember, AG's opinions are not enforcable laws or even a law. It's just an opinion.

I know that. The thing is, without a Court ruling or a legislative change, the presumption of anyone who checks would be that this is the policy or position of the State of Tennessee. It may not stand up in Court, but anyone who wanted to get out of a bad marriage could cite it as grounds for annulment; any heirs who did not like the new spouse could cite it as a ground for challenging the will or the disposition of the estate; anyone who lost out in such a situation could then turn around and sue the Minister. Some county clerks might reject the wedding license when it is returned if it was signed by a ULC Minister, citing this AG's opinion as their reason. I do not know that any of that will happen, but, unless there is something official (court case or legislative action) that overrules the AG, I would be reluctant to proceed with marrying folks here in TN.

If you google "Universal Life Church in Tennessee," this AG's ruling is one of the first things that pops up. There are even marriage businesses that cite the ruling as why you should use them, rather than a ULC Minister -- "see, we are legit & the AG says they are not" kinda thing. If there is something official overturning this AG's opinion, I want to create a web page showing it off so there will be the correct info available for everyone. If there is not, perhaps we need to have the ULC HQ or some group of ULC Ministers here in TN file suit and get a court ruling.

See, I have encountered this sort of thing before. I am a Notary Public and the AG issued an opinion as the maximum fee that a NP can charge. There is no specific law that says an amount, but there are references to what other offices charge and how they are related, so he had a basis for his opinion. I know many NPs who charge a good bit more than what he said and they give the same argument - it is just his opinion. I keep waiting for someone to read his opinion, get mad about "over paying," discover this has been going on for years, get a sharp and hungry attorney and file a class action lawsuit. Then a Court would have to hear it and decide if the AG was correct. A better solution would be for the legislature to clear it up with an actual law that said what the fees were for each type of Notarial act and that is what I am hoping will one day happen -- and that the fees they set will be a good bit higher than the pittance the AG said is allowed. In the meantime, people charge what they want, so the same act (having something Notarized) could cost you $10 or $5 or $2.75, which seems wrong to me, as we are all doing this (Notary Public) as elected officials serving the public and the fees should be standard.

What started all this is my wife saying that, with my luck, I could become the test case for a Minister being sued for a marriage that went bad. That led to the legal question of when could a minister be sued, which led to if he or she did something like officiate at a wedding where they were not authorized to do so. See, a marriage is a contract, as well as a religious institution. So, the state gets to say who will officiate it. There is a long list of elected and appointed office holders allowed to officiate weddings here in TN; Notary Public is not, alas, on the list.

In any case, I need to go do some paying work now. Thank you, everyone, for your contributions to this topic. I WILL let you know when/if I find out anything specific on the status of ULC Ministers doing weddings in Tennessee.

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Here is a simple way to find out whether or not you're legal and then even if you do only have a weddings ministry, it won't matter. Trust me on this and save yourself some headaches.

Simply call the clerk of the circuit court for the county in which you live.

I live in Florida (insert groan here) which for all the tourists and Disney junkola we have, white sandy beaches, blah, blah, blah is one of the most backward and redneck, white trash states in the union. Oh and before you ask why I live here...I'm a native...here before Disney and before it became what it is now. Florida wasn't always like this...

Anyway...with that said, we are like 30 years behind everyone else...education, smoking laws, conservation...you name it.

So, my husband too has relentlessly questioned the validity of my ordination since., in his words "You did it online."

So, a simple call to my local county (make sure you call the COUNTY - yes, yelling because it matters! - not the city!) Clerk of The Circuit Court to put any questions to rest.

In fact, the lady at the Clerk's office had even hard about the ULC. How cool is that?

So look up your State's laws on marriage and then call your county to ensure that you don't have to jump through hoops because each county is different.

Good luck!

Edited by GothicScrybe

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Here is a simple way to find out whether or not you're legal and then even if you do only have a weddings ministry, it won't matter. Trust me on this and save yourself some headaches.

Simply call the clerk of the circuit court for the county in which you live.

I live in Florida (insert groan here) which for all the tourists and Disney junkola we have, white sandy beaches, blah, blah, blah is one of the most backward and redneck, white trash states in the union. Oh and before you ask why I live here...I'm a native...here before Disney and before it became what it is now. Florida wasn't always like this...

Anyway...with that said, we are like 30 years behind everyone else...education, smoking laws, conservation...you name it.

So, my husband too has relentlessly questioned the validity of my ordination since., in his words "You did it online."

So, a simple call to my local county (make sure you call the COUNTY - yes, yelling because it matters! - not the city!) Clerk of The Circuit Court to put any questions to rest.

In fact, the lady at the Clerk's office had even hard about the ULC. How cool is that?

So look up your State's laws on marriage and then call your county to ensure that you don't have to jump through hoops because each county is different.

Good luck!

Oh, I will talk with them if I must. My theory is that they have no right to answer that question as they are not supposed to be the ones deciding who gets to solemnize weddings and who does not. Unless they are lawyers, they are not allowed to answer legal questions anyway, as that is the unauthorized practice of law and you can be arrested for that. No, if my question was about how to fill out a form, I would ask the County Clerk's office; it is about whether I can do something, and they do not get to answer that.

IN FACT (he shouts with glee), I heard back from Kevin and he gave me links to stuff.

The best one (and the most relevant for this discussion) is Basics of Marriage handbook , which leads to a Basics of Marriage in Tennessee handbook prepared by the University of TN Law School. It pulls together several AG's opinions and the changes in marriage laws up to that point and, for me at least, made it all make sense.

So, I now know that the AG said the Clerk has neither the authority nor the duty to judge whether an officiant was qualified to solemnize a wedding -- and that the weddings done by ministers who failed to live up to his interpretation of the law would most likely still be upheld in court if either party believed they were valid at the time and acted like they were married afterward.

I am still going to check with my attorney just to find out if there have been any changes since this handbook came out in 2006 (and to assess the likelihood of there being a lawsuit against a ULC Minister if a disappointed heir or a disgruntled spouse wanted to void the marriage, as there still does not appear to be a court case or a nice clear law that says every religion is to be treated equally in TN just like the US Constitution states).

Kevin did say that there was no lawsuit by the ULC against TN because you can not sue over an opinion, only over acts (taken or threatened). If some state official takes or threatens to take an action based on the AG's opinion that got this discussion started, then there can be a suit -- but not until then. I just do not want to be the test case (:rolleyes:).

In any case, thank you for your suggestion. I will probably speak with the Clerk's office at some point, especially if I still have any doubts after I speak with my attorney. What did your Clerk say when you spoke with her?

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Oh, I will talk with them if I must. My theory is that they have no right to answer that question as they are not supposed to be the ones deciding who gets to solemnize weddings and who does not. Unless they are lawyers, they are not allowed to answer legal questions anyway, as that is the unauthorized practice of law and you can be arrested for that. No, if my question was about how to fill out a form, I would ask the County Clerk's office; it is about whether I can do something, and they do not get to answer that.

IN FACT (he shouts with glee), I heard back from Kevin and he gave me links to stuff.

The best one (and the most relevant for this discussion) is Basics of Marriage handbook , which leads to a Basics of Marriage in Tennessee handbook prepared by the University of TN Law School. It pulls together several AG's opinions and the changes in marriage laws up to that point and, for me at least, made it all make sense.

So, I now know that the AG said the Clerk has neither the authority nor the duty to judge whether an officiant was qualified to solemnize a wedding -- and that the weddings done by ministers who failed to live up to his interpretation of the law would most likely still be upheld in court if either party believed they were valid at the time and acted like they were married afterward.

I am still going to check with my attorney just to find out if there have been any changes since this handbook came out in 2006 (and to assess the likelihood of there being a lawsuit against a ULC Minister if a disappointed heir or a disgruntled spouse wanted to void the marriage, as there still does not appear to be a court case or a nice clear law that says every religion is to be treated equally in TN just like the US Constitution states).

Kevin did say that there was no lawsuit by the ULC against TN because you can not sue over an opinion, only over acts (taken or threatened). If some state official takes or threatens to take an action based on the AG's opinion that got this discussion started, then there can be a suit -- but not until then. I just do not want to be the test case (:rolleyes:).

In any case, thank you for your suggestion. I will probably speak with the Clerk's office at some point, especially if I still have any doubts after I speak with my attorney. What did your Clerk say when you spoke with her?

It sounds like you're making things a lot harder on yourself than you need to. I wasn't thrilled about having to deal with my local Clerk's office either (because they are morons) but it was a necessary evil.

The County Clerk's office is not just for finding out how to fill out forms. They are an extension of the state in which you live (makes them fall under the umbrella of state/federal) and though they aren't lawyers, they work for the state and therefore have to know the law - to a certain extent - because they can't have people filling out paperwork incorrectly.

That would invalidate any paperwork they file that goes under the Clerk of The Court umbrella.

I'm not an attorney myself so being as I know little about the law, a friend of mine with a law degree volunteered to call for me (in case they decided to read legalese forms which people will do when they have no clue what they are talking about) and she told me that my local Clerk had not only heard of the ULC, she said that I was 100% legal in all respects and that all I had to do was sign where necessary and file the marriage license for the couple.

Florida has very lax marriage laws and for all the bad we have here government-wise, I am grateful for that much.

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County Clerks do not determine what is and isnt legal, they just repeat the law verbatim as written and ensure forms are filed and filled out correctly. They are a clerk not a legal professional unless granted additional powers by the governing legislative bodies.

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It sounds like you're making things a lot harder on yourself than you need to. I wasn't thrilled about having to deal with my local Clerk's office either (because they are morons) but it was a necessary evil.

The County Clerk's office is not just for finding out how to fill out forms. They are an extension of the state in which you live (makes them fall under the umbrella of state/federal) and though they aren't lawyers, they work for the state and therefore have to know the law - to a certain extent - because they can't have people filling out paperwork incorrectly.

That would invalidate any paperwork they file that goes under the Clerk of The Court umbrella.

I'm not an attorney myself so being as I know little about the law, a friend of mine with a law degree volunteered to call for me (in case they decided to read legalese forms which people will do when they have no clue what they are talking about) and she told me that my local Clerk had not only heard of the ULC, she said that I was 100% legal in all respects and that all I had to do was sign where necessary and file the marriage license for the couple.

Florida has very lax marriage laws and for all the bad we have here government-wise, I am grateful for that much.

Oh, no doubt I am making things harder for myself. I do that, in order to avoid making them harder for others. Also, because of how I was raised - it was a volatile household and avoiding mistakes was more highly thought of than doing something brilliant. I am 50+ years old, but still the little boy in me is afraid of my father's wrath. So, I am nitpicky to an extreme at times, and I know this, but it is how I am and I aint gonna stop being this way even if it causes me to work harder on some things than anyone else. I do get praises for my results tho, when I remember not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good. (I feel at times like Spock when Kirk told him to guess. It does not compute. I must have logic to base my guess upon.)

I am not an attorney, either, but I am a former legal secretary and I know how easily you can get yourself in trouble by asking a government worker what the law is. They may know what they need to in order to do their job, but that does not mean they will know anything about unusual situations - and they can usually spin the rules to get the results they want (so a right-wing Christian, which Memphis has far too many of, might tell me that the ULC Minister can not solemnize marriages because they believe we are some sort of cult). I have the UT law school handbook on marriages now and it says the AG's opinions say the Clerk can not judge whether an officiant is legit. That kinda answers the question of asking the Clerk, IMHO -- they can not answer my question and if they do, I can not rely on their answer. This really is a state-specific thing. I am going to ask an attorney here in TN to get my legal questions answered. Thanks, again, for your support and your suggestions.

County Clerks do not determine what is and isnt legal, they just repeat the law verbatim as written and ensure forms are filed and filled out correctly. They are a clerk not a legal professional unless granted additional powers by the governing legislative bodies.

Right you are. Thanks ! thumbsup%281%29.gif

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County Clerks do not determine what is and isnt legal, they just repeat the law verbatim as written and ensure forms are filed and filled out correctly. They are a clerk not a legal professional unless granted additional powers by the governing legislative bodies.

Dorian...I didn't mean to imply that Clerks have the power to determine what's legal, I'm just repeating what my legal counsel told me.

Pope is welcome to do whatever he wishes. I choose to listen to my legal counsel.

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More information:

Entity Number Date Filed Status Entity Name Agent for Service of Process

C2200711 10/23/2000 FORFEITED UNIVERSAL LIFE CHURCH OF CORNUCOPIA HOWARD ELEY

C2765928 06/23/2005 SUSPENDED UNIVERSAL LIFE CHURCH OF LIVERMORE ERNEST L. ZUCCATO

C2685341 08/13/2004 SUSPENDED UNIVERSAL LIFE CHURCH OF NORTH COUNTY MICHAEL P HILL

C3100743 04/21/2008 ACTIVE UNIVERSAL LIFE CHURCH OF REDLANDS, INC. SAMUEL J CEREDA

C3101447 04/29/2008 DISSOLVED UNIVERSAL LIFE CHURCH OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA, INC. FORREST P. WOOLMAN

C0584627 11/05/1969 SUSPENDED UNIVERSAL LIFE CHURCH OF THE MOON, INC.

C0432091 05/02/1962 ACTIVE UNIVERSAL LIFE CHURCH, INC. ANDRE HENSLEY

C3098622 03/28/2008 ACTIVE UNIVERSAL LIFE CHURCH/MONASTERY, INC. (ARTS AND SPIRITUALITY) TAMRA J AMATO

1 2

Note that this church, headed by Andre Hensley is active, and has been active and flourishing since Kirby Hensley founded it in 1962. Edited by revjerry

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Dorian...I didn't mean to imply that Clerks have the power to determine what's legal, I'm just repeating what my legal counsel told me.

Pope is welcome to do whatever he wishes. I choose to listen to my legal counsel.

Oh, I always choose to listen to my attorney, too. I just have not yet spoken with him about this. This appears to be a case of the law in FL is different than in TN and that makes all the difference in terms of who to ask for the legal status. Now that I have the handbook from the Univ of TN law school, I am not as worried about it as I was. It will be a while before I am prepared enough to offer services such as weddings, in any case -- plenty of time to check with local counsel on the legal ins-and-outs.

THANK YOU, again, for your participation in this discussion. I do appreciate your suggestion, even though I am not following it at this time.

thumbsup%281%29.gif

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Oh, I always choose to listen to my attorney, too.

I sure don't. I have known attorney's to be wrong. In my younger days I believed attorney's to be gods of the law, but over the years I have come to know that they are taught general knowledge of the law, researching case law, and legal interpretations. They study very few specific laws and therefore must research almost every case brought before them, even if they specialize in a given area.

I have been in a particular business for over 25 years and have yet to find a local attorney that knows more than me about the specific laws of my industry. In the few cases that I have been involved in over the years the best tool my attorney had to prepare our case was me. AND, one very specific instance stands out where we settled a case (where we were the plaintiff) when we should have taken the case to court because both the attorney and I failed to realize a point of law that would have made our case.

So, I never rely solely on the opinion of an attorney....

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Oh, I always choose to listen to my attorney, too. I just have not yet spoken with him about this. This appears to be a case of the law in FL is different than in TN and that makes all the difference in terms of who to ask for the legal status. Now that I have the handbook from the Univ of TN law school, I am not as worried about it as I was. It will be a while before I am prepared enough to offer services such as weddings, in any case -- plenty of time to check with local counsel on the legal ins-and-outs.

THANK YOU, again, for your participation in this discussion. I do appreciate your suggestion, even though I am not following it at this time.

thumbsup%281%29.gif

Good luck to you, Pope! I wish you the best.

I have to be honest though and say how surprised I am at how contrary the state of Tennessee seems to be.

I would have expected to have this kind of trouble in Florida...but would never have guessed that the state of TN could be such a hassle to deal with.

Hence...why I wish you much luck and will look forward to seeing the post that you've resolved everything and are ready to go.

:thumbu:

Edited by GothicScrybe

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I sure don't. I have known attorney's to be wrong. In my younger days I believed attorney's to be gods of the law, but over the years I have come to know that they are taught general knowledge of the law, researching case law, and legal interpretations. They study very few specific laws and therefore must research almost every case brought before them, even if they specialize in a given area.

I have been in a particular business for over 25 years and have yet to find a local attorney that knows more than me about the specific laws of my industry. In the few cases that I have been involved in over the years the best tool my attorney had to prepare our case was me. AND, one very specific instance stands out where we settled a case (where we were the plaintiff) when we should have taken the case to court because both the attorney and I failed to realize a point of law that would have made our case.

So, I never rely solely on the opinion of an attorney....

MdTaylor...if I said I was surprised by this, I'd be lying.

A little off subject, but still sort of encompassing...

In October 2009, I was rear-ended - while sitting completely stopped at a red light no less - by someone on a cell phone.

The man was ticketed, clearly in the wrong and yet my attorney doesn't want to fight in court to make the man's auto insurance pay to fix my car.

I did convince him finally (I think the threat of being fired from the case and my nasty insistence helped him make the right decision) to take the insurance company to court but it was grudgingly on his part.

Why did he behave this way? My opinion? He doesn't have the guts to fight and didn't want to put forth the effort because apparently he doesn't know what he's doing...even though the case is ironclad in my favor.

So, as I said...what you say about attorneys does not surprise me one bit - even as sad and frightening as it is.

More information:Note that this church, headed by Andre Hensley is active, and has been active and flourishing since Kirby Hensley founded it in 1962.

Rev. Jerry - thank you for this information. This is always handy to have for reference in case need be.

:thumbu:

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Dorian...I didn't mean to imply that Clerks have the power to determine what's legal, I'm just repeating what my legal counsel told me.

Pope is welcome to do whatever he wishes. I choose to listen to my legal counsel.

and in Florida that might be good advise, I don't know. But in my state the clerks are forbidden to give legal advise or opinions. They sometimes do, but they aren't allowed to. And they are just as likely to be wrong as right.

It seems pretty inconceivable that someone could successfully sue a minister for "wrongful nuptials ". Far more likely would be that a snafu messes up their marriage ceremony or documentation and they sue for failure to perform contracted services.

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I sure don't. I have known attorney's to be wrong. In my younger days I believed attorney's to be gods of the law, but over the years I have come to know that they are taught general knowledge of the law, researching case law, and legal interpretations. They study very few specific laws and therefore must research almost every case brought before them, even if they specialize in a given area.

I have been in a particular business for over 25 years and have yet to find a local attorney that knows more than me about the specific laws of my industry. In the few cases that I have been involved in over the years the best tool my attorney had to prepare our case was me. AND, one very specific instance stands out where we settled a case (where we were the plaintiff) when we should have taken the case to court because both the attorney and I failed to realize a point of law that would have made our case.

So, I never rely solely on the opinion of an attorney....

So sorry for my confusing blanket statement. Let me clarify. I always listen to my attorney, but I do not necessarily follow his advice. Sometimes, he is more picky about details than even I am - so I go with my own level of pickiness unless I am convinced that I need his level of it.

In this case, I have the handbook on Marriage prepared by the University of Tenn law school and offered as a service to the various counties, I have the Shelby County Clerk's website-posted info, and I have the actual state law (downloaded from Michie's, an authority on publishing the laws). So, I am pretty sure I have all the documentary backup I need. (Okay, I also have multiple copies of the US Constitution -- I plan to get one of the TN Constitution, as well. That will be it, tho! :rolleyes: )

All I need from my attorney is a Legal Opinion as to whether the law has changed since the Handbook was written and, if so, in what ways; and whether I can rely on the handbook as the guide for my practice as far as weddings in Tennessee go.

What attorneys are supposed to do is be familiar with the principles of the law in their chosen area, then read up on case law and specific law when asked to handle a court case or to render a Legal Opinion. What got me going on this to begin with was a State Attorney General's Legal Opinion. Okay, the law has changed since then and the AG's other Legal Opinions have reduced the impact of the one I was concerned about, as well. So, now I just need / want to know if what the documents I have APPEAR to be saying is 1) what they are actually saying and 2) still valid.

It is a sad fact that some attorneys are better than others about doing proper research and about keeping on top of the latest case law and changes in the law. Some are just plain unprofessional; some are any other negative adjective you can imagine. Even so, all I can do is to ask one or more that I trust what their professional Opinion is on this and then decide what actions I will and will not take after that.

Thanks for participating in this topic. thumbsup%281%29.gif

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Let me first address the legal question, can a minister be sued. Everybody can be sued, but the more important question is does the plaintiff has a case. My answer is he has not. I have never heard of a minister being sued for that purpose let alone that a plaintiff won such a case.

But now the important part of you posting.

My wife is not happy with my decision to become a ULC Minister, or, quite frankly, any kind of Minister.

She also wants me to focus my attentions on things that will bring in money and sees this as a distraction from that purpose.

I think that is a serious matter.

I suggest counseling.

Edited by hyperreal

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legally- doubtful.

morally- I believe if a minister "reasonably assumes" a marriage will fail, he/she is morally obligated to not officiate.

Edited by SilverRose

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morally- I believe if a minister "reasonably assumes" a marriage will fail, he/she is morally obligated to not officiate.

I know of many cases when my own 'reasonable assumptions' about whether a marriage would fail turned out to be correct.

However not always!

Unless blatantly obvious I would marry a couple even if I had my doubts as I do not want my prejudices to stand in the way.

Edited by hyperreal

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Here is an example what 'reasonable assumptions'' can turn into:

http://www.huffingto...d_n_322784.html

http://www.huffingto...r_n_325758.html

What about a Christian marrying an atheist who refuses to convert?

What about a Jew marrying a gentile who refuses to convert?

What about a black marrying a white?

I can tell you I would have no objections marrying any of them. Do you?

Edited by hyperreal

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