Any Advice For Getting Started?


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Imagine the comic routine where the Sargent yells out that he wants a volunteer to step forward and everyone takes a huge step back except for one. That's kinda how I got to be the one who “volunteered” for this project .

My group has given me a reasonable chunk of money to get some legal work done, but the more online research I did, the more confusing it got. What I’ve decided after days of web surfing is:

  • File for a trademark for our religious organization’s name (because I don’t know if just using the name as a religious organization is enough).
  • File for a separate trademark for the name under which any business transactions (or online store) of the organization take place.
  • Apply through the ULC as a religious organization.
  • Personally go to the office of the Secretary of State in my district/state and apply/file as a religious organization. (I’m going through my state because they (Tennessee) don’t recognize the ULC as a religious organization for officiating weddings etc. For weddings I may have to become a notary and that's a whole 'nuther story).

I won’t be applying for tax-exempt status, as we don’t agree with it. In fact, that’s when it all started getting complicated by considering just filing as a small business such as an LLC instead of a non-profit religious group. Imagine my surprise when I found out that you can totally lose your LLC
status in Tennessee by not paying an ANNUAL $300 - $3000 fee! I wasn’t going to risk that. After that, it was back to the religious filing.

Since we don’t live around a big city and there’s no or few/far away trademark/business lawyers, I was originally going to go with LegalZoom. I wanted to trust and believe them, I really did, and I read people’s experiences here on the ULC forum and no one seemed to have a problem. But the
more I researched LegalZoom complaints online, about them not being able to give legal advice, sneaking in extra fees, not letting customers know of legalproblems with what they wish to trademark (just file the paperwork for you and,“oh well” if it is denied). I think I’m going to go with a trademark lawyer, MorrisTurek at for the religious name trademark.

Yes, he’s more expensive, but I’m acting on behalf of others and using their money, and I don’t want to screw this up. I like that you can call him and ask him questions for free. I have lots of questions lol. And, he’ll tell you how to change the wording so you won’t be denied (something I don’t think LegalZoom does). Since he’s so much more expensive, on our limited budget, for the second business trademark I’m thinking of going with The Trademark Company. I checked them out under “complaints” and didn’t find any. I’m not promoting either of these; I just discovered them because I
began doubting LegalZoom as to what I need.

I’m open to hearing anyone’s stories of how LegalZoom worked well for them, or anything negative
about these other two. At this point I'm tired of researching and spinning my wheels :wall: and just want to get things started and enter the next stage of the process; payment, paperwork and waiting; but I’m willing to listen to the advice of anyone who’s been here, done it and how it worked out for you.


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Thanks, I appreciate any help right now!

I agree that LegalZoom is probably good for basics, the complaints I was seeing concerned trademarks, I'm still going to check them out for things like copyrights. And yes, non-profit is fine, we just aren't going to pursue tax-exemption.

I'm going call the lawyer today to see if I can get some specific advice and feel him out to see if I want to trust him with money.

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  • Administrator

You will find a lot of differing opinions on Tennessee marriages and how to organize your church. Here is mine, for what it's worth.

I do not see what 'trademarks' have to do with the organization of a religious body. Trademarks protect images used as corporate identity.

I'm thinking you probably are referring to the documents used to create a corporation. Commonly Articles of Incorporation or Certificate of Formation, or other named document that creates a corporation in your state. The cost is usually not all that great, for non-profits.

Gaining 501c exemptions are a little more in depth and costly. The least expensive I have found is Floyd Green Financial Services in Atlanta. (I have used them before, but not in the creation of a church.) For something like $499 you get your corporation established as a non profit, bylaws, and the necessary paperwork to file for the exemption with the IRS. When you file for the exemption with the IRS you will have to pay a fee to the IRS anywhere from $400 to $800 depending on your estimated budget for the next 5 years.

So, for under $1500 you can have your church created as a non profit 501c organization.

The cost to the ULC as a congregation is minimal, if anything.

To get into a position to officiate marriage ceremonies in Tennessee is another can of worms. The key things to consider in the statutes is "care of souls" and "concious, deliberate, act." My interpretation of this is that Tennessee wants to see a brick and mortar church where you have a congregation, and the ordination is conducted in person and not over the internet. Once you establish your church and have a congregation simply have your congregation ordain you as their minister.

Obviously, during the course of organizing your church you need to have documents that establish your faith and not just rely on the ULC premise that all beliefs are welcome. And, have a document that establishes the need and process whereby the congregation ordains the minister of their choice.

Finally, you have the hurdle of getting Tennessee local governments to recognize your authority to solemnize marriages. All I can say is Good Luck! But, that is the route I would take if i were a Tennessee resident.

Other opinions WILL vary!

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