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Someguitarist

Ulc Not Recognized In Va

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So, is there nothing we can do to officiate a wedding in VA? I've looked all across your website and nothing mentions that VA's county clerks straight up don't recognize ULC in Virginia. Is there any way around this??

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I wan't aware there was a problem wwith Virginia. What county? There are likely some hoops to jump through but you should be able to qualify, especially if you have a church and are regularly acting as a minister there. If you simply want to be a minister for the sole purpose of doing weddings I don't think you will be sucessful.

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VA is questionable for the ULC.

http://www.ulcseminary.org/forum/uploads/CramervCommonwealthofVirginia.pdf Cramer v Cramer

http://www.ag.virginia.gov/Opinions%20and%20Legal%20Resources/Opinions/2001opns/01-057.pdf VA OAG Opinion

OAG opinions are just that, an opinion and not legally binding like case law.

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It is not questionable to me. The clerk of the court may allow it or not. THAT is exactly what the AG opinion says.

If a ULC minister provides the documents required by VA Code 20-23 then the clerk may issue an order authorizing the minister to perform marriage ceremonies.

What I am asking the poster is, what basis does he have for claiming that NO clerk in Virginia will issue an order to a ULC minister. Specifically, what county?

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Right, and the CASE LAW says that ULC'er are not (by vitue of JUST being ordained by the ULC) entitled to perform marriages. The OPINION is after the case law, but until challenged legally, the case law still stands as law.

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Well, I've actually traveled to two separate courthouses today, in both Virginia Beach and Hampton, and called a third. They've almost taken it, the clerks themselves seem to have no problem with it, but when they return they say that "The Universal Life Church isn't recognized by the state of Virginia", or something to that effect. In both cases, neither clerk seemed to actually have a problem with it, it was when they went to run it through their system that they came back stating that....

I think Dorian Gray is correct.

So, I'm guessing there's nothing that can be done to work with this??

PS: Thanks for the quick responses, guys/gals! Really appreciate it!

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Lobby your state reps/senators to change the law or try to sue to get the case law overturned if you want to have JUST the ULC ordination to be "enough." Now if you have a legitimate ministry that would overrule you just being ordained as the people you actively minister to would have selected you.

DISCLAIMER: I am not an attorney, this does not constitute legal advice, when in doubt, contact an attorney licensed to practice law in your location.

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I would press on. Opinions of the court are valid for a law in force at the time of the opinion (1974.) Due consideration must be given once the law is changed (as it was in 1981.) The AG opinion is that the court may do so. What ministers in VA must now do is provide a convincing argument for them to do so. Since the AG cited the opinion and still said teh courts may or may not then it appears that opinions are already changing.

First, approach them with a 'this is what I am going to do' instead of 'can I do this?' attitude.

Have your paperwork in order. Notarized Letter of Good standing dated in the last 30 days. Ordination certificate (original, not a copy.)

And a copy of 20-23 where it says ANY DENOMINATION.

Having a congregation should almost cinch it...

Yeah, someday someone will have to file suit against the state before the law is clarified, but the wheel has to be put in motion. If enough ministers approach the counties with requests then eventually it will happen. And we are going to have to be a denomination of churches instead of a denomination of itenerant ministers

.

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I would press on. Opinions of the court are valid for a law in force at the time of the opinion (1974.) Due consideration must be given once the law is changed (as it was in 1981.) The AG opinion is that the court may do so. What ministers in VA must now do is provide a convincing argument for them to do so. Since the AG cited the opinion and still said teh courts may or may not then it appears that opinions are already changing.

.

The law was changed, but not in any major way that would, in and of itself, negate the ruling on intent of the law. The judge would likely argue that had the law makers wanted that changed they would have EXPRESSLY made that change. In this case, the law now is verbatim the same as it was in the Cramer case.

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Thanks guys/gals, I really appreciate the information, and it's actually very interesting!

I don't think I'm going to sue to overturn it. ;) Honestly, I just wanted to perform a wedding ceremony. It was a novel idea, and I'm sad it didn't work out. I just don't understand how in this day and age, when most people aren't strickley religious, why people can't just say they'd rather have a friend perform the rites versus some stranger from some church that they never go to that they don't want in the first place. Tsomething lhis is something like the third couple I know that has asked me to do it.

I understand in VA I can get something like a 'Day Pass' to let you perform a wedding, and that's what I ended up doing for the last one. These friends saw me officiate at the other wedding and really wanted me to do their's too, and the cycle began.

So what is 'The AG opinion'?? I had the notarized letter and the certification, but no luck. I am surprised; no one else from VA has had this problem?? Some extensive searching really couldn't find anything on it...

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AG is the attorney general. AG opinions are the official stance of the AG issuing it on the subject being addressed. They are as the name suggests just an opinion and not binding law like a statute or case law.

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The Attorney General is the attorney that represents the government for which he is employed, whether it be local, state, or federal. His opinions are sought by government employees. Sometimes by non government employees to attempt to ascertain how the government stands on a certain issue.

My esteemed colleague Dorian and I often disagree on legal issues, as is the case here. Case law, as he calls it, is a collection of opinions written by appellate court judges. In every case involving a panel of judges, as is most appellate courts, there is an opinion of the majority and a dissenting opinion. Occasionally all the judges in a court are unanimous agreement, but more often there is a split. These opinions detail why the court ruled the way they did, both majority and disenting. He seems to call case law 'the law' but I still call it an opinion.

Judges often make rulings based on prior rulings of appellate courts. One reason may be the judge is looking for help in making his ruling so as to avoid the possibility of an appeal. Attorneys often cite these opinions in an effort to convince a judge to rule in his favor. Judges are not bound to rule consistent with case law but more often than not, they do.

Then there are judges that read a law, read any applicable case law, then decide that the appellate court made their ruling based on laws no longer valid or enforced and will rule completely opposite of the case law. Sometimes that will hold while other times the party in the case that lost will appeal. The appeal process will eventually render a decision either upholding or overruling the lower court decision. If the court upholds the lower court ruling they will write a new opinion which then may be cited and commonly called case law. If there is never a case that goes to appeal then no new opinion is written even if many judges refuse to follow the old opinion.

I think we are at a point where, although the opinion of Cramer v Cramer is still on the books today it is outdated and no judge will rule as the appellate court did in 1974. There is just too much other 'case law' from other states that uphold the First Amendment and the separation of church and state. Of course, until some case goes to trial in Virginia, and someone appeals, and the issue is argued, and a new opinion is written there is always that cloud hanging in the minds of people.

There are tons of case law in other states that, if a case ever goes to trial in Virginia, the attorney will deluge the court will case law affirming the ULC as having rights in other states and that the Cramer v Cramer ruling should no longer be held valid.

Will it ever happen? Not likely. Not until some ULC minister has a church in Virginia and it has enough money to see it through the appellate process. No individual ULC minister that does weddings as an itinerant minister is going to have the money for it.

The AG opinion in Virginia specifically states that the court clerks may issue a ULC minister an authorization to perform marriages even after reading and citing Cramer v Cramer. This tells me that the AG would likely not advise a District Attorney to prosecute a ULC minister should he convince a court clerk to issue him an authorization to perform marriages. The opinion also says that the clerk is not required to issue the authorization. If the AG thought that Cramer v Cramer was 'the law' then he would have rendered an opinion that said that the clerk can not, lawfully, issue an authorization to a ULC minister. But, he did not.

More than you wanted, I'm sure... more than I wanted to write. I just couldn't let Dorian get the last word in. :jest:

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We will see who has the last word!!! :jester:

One state's case law CAN influence another state's case law, but the arguments for it have to be strong the laws must be substantially similar, etc, etc. I have seen it work both ways where case law from state X has been successfully used in state Y and where it hasn't. As Mr. Taylor points out, case law can be overruled (just like regular laws) by a court or the next higher court. In the case of the ULC, there are a few states where the ULC's status is questionable. Generally speaking if you are an active minister with an actual ministry and a congregation that you minister to, you are in a different "category" then someone who's only qualification is simply being ordained by the ULC.

The example I will use is the Military Justice System. It is built on what are called the "four pillars". The US Constitution, the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), the Manual for Courts Martial (MCM) and Precedent (case law). The civilian side has much the same with the US Constitution, State and Federal Laws (equivalent to the UCMJ), the State and Federal Rules of Evidence (MCM) and Precedent (case law).

The legal system can be complex, especially systems based on English Common Law (like ours). There is a reason why lawyers have to go to school for so long and pass a test.

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In this case I believe it to be a First Amendment issue and easily arguable in court. Many states have now affirmed the argument that a state cannot recognize one religious denomination while not recognizing another. It's an argument I would love to see...

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I concur and that was part of the reason Kirby Hensley founded the church in an effort to pretty much do away with churches (and by extention ministers) having any special treatment. the OP has a case, he has requested authorization and feels that he meets the requirements and has been duly denied so he has been infringed upon. It could even go to a class action suit. The trick is getting an attorney to take it. Mabe convince one to get ordained and be part of the class.

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Hey, Guitarist! Please keep us posted on which hoops you have to jump through to be recognized. I'm interested because my son lives in Hampton and wants me to officiate at his wedding there in August. (I couldn't access the links Dorian listed due to format.)

Edited by Songster

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Thanks guys/gals, I really appreciate the information, and it's actually very interesting!

I don't think I'm going to sue to overturn it. ;) Honestly, I just wanted to perform a wedding ceremony. It was a novel idea, and I'm sad it didn't work out. I just don't understand how in this day and age, when most people aren't strickley religious, why people can't just say they'd rather have a friend perform the rites versus some stranger from some church that they never go to that they don't want in the first place. Tsomething lhis is something like the third couple I know that has asked me to do it.

I understand in VA I can get something like a 'Day Pass' to let you perform a wedding, and that's what I ended up doing for the last one. These friends saw me officiate at the other wedding and really wanted me to do their's too, and the cycle began.

So what is 'The AG opinion'?? I had the notarized letter and the certification, but no luck. I am surprised; no one else from VA has had this problem?? Some extensive searching really couldn't find anything on it...

Someguitarist,

I am legal in Michigan with just the ULC but some people questioned it so I went ahead and filed an "ecclesiastical corporation." (That requires 3 people as "Directors" in MI.) Then I held a meeting of the "Board" and the 3 of us signed a 1 page resolution authorizing me to be the minister of the church and to perform any and all ministerial functions or some such language. So I have written evidence I'm a minister legal in Michigan. It cost me $60 bucks plus it costs $15 bucks a year for the annual report. Plus refreshments for my "Directors."

Maybe that will work for you in VA.

A friend of mine performed a legal marriage in one state with nothing more than a notary certification. Go figure.

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Your rights have been violated. Now you simply have to decide what to do about it. In all fairness, when that happens to most people they simply take the hit and move on, because they have been taught that you can't fight city hall. But you do have other options, if you are willing to take the requisite risks.

Edited by mererdog

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I read about the applicable VA statute. Virginia discriminates between ministers that do have an actual church and those who don't.

If you have proof of your ordination and "regular communion" with your religious society or some such language, you go to a circuit court and get "authorization" to perform marriages.

Here's the quote from the website:

Marriage Ceremony:

  • Who may perform? - A minister of any religious denomination must be authorized by a circuit court to celebrate the rites of matrimony. To obtain such authorization, the minister must produce proof of his ordination and regular communion with the religious society of which he is a reputed member.

Here's the link to the webiste: http://virginia.usmarriagelaws.com/#ceremony

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