Universal Life Church Files Lawsuit Against Allegheny County

Legal ComplaintImage by Mike Braun
Universal Life Church Ministries alleges Allegheny County is denying ordained ministers the right to solemnize legally recognized marriages.

ALLEGHENY COUNTY, PA — The Universal Life Church Ministries (ULCM) filed a Federal lawsuit against officials of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania on Wednesday, May 12th. The complaint alleges that Allegheny County officials have repeatedly denied the right of ULCM ministers to solemnize legally valid marriage ceremonies.

The case (Number 2:21-cv-618) is before the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. In its initial complaint the ULCM highlights the unique stories of five of its ministers, each of which allege that Allegheny County officials refused to recognize the legitimacy of the ULCM or the validity of any ordination it had granted by informing these individuals they could not legally solemnize marriages in the county.

In denying the rights of its ministers, the ULCM argues, Allegheny County has violated the Establishment, Free Exercise, and Equal Protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution. The Church has asked the court to enter a judgment declaring Allegheny County’s actions unconstitutional and to issue an injunction barring Allegheny County from continuing to deny recognition to its ministers.

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The Universal Life Church Ministries is one of Earth’s largest religious organizations, having ordained more than 20 million individuals. The Church was founded on the belief that “we are all children of the same universe” and is welcoming of people from all denominational backgrounds. It asks that its adherents abide by two tenets: 1. Do only that which is right, and 2. Every individual is free to practice their religion however they like as long as their actions do not impinge upon the rights or freedoms of others and are in accordance with the law.

The ULCM is perhaps most widely known for its provision of religious ordinations over the internet. ULCM Ministers perform weddings, baptisms, funerals, and other types of spiritual ceremonies, in addition to conducting general church services and ministering to their communities.

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The Universal Life Church Ministries and its ministers are represented in this case by Davis Wright Tremaine LLP.

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