April 2021 Church & State Magazine | AU Bulletin

A Pennsylvania man who was ordained by a mail-order and online church is suing officials in Bucks County because they refused to allow him to perform wedding ceremonies.

The Rev. Stephen H. Moser, who was ordained by Universal Life Church Ministries, said he approached the Register of Wills Office in the county but was told by an official there that he could not preside at weddings.

“She didn’t want to hear anything I had to say,” Moser told the Bucks County Courier Times. “I was shut down.” 

Backed by the church, Moser filed a lawsuit in federal court in February. The suit asserts that the county is treating the Universal Life Church differently from other faiths.

“Defendant’s apparent policy of discrimination unconstitutionally prefers certain religions or religious denominations over others and burdens ULC Monastery’s and its ministers’ free exercise of religion,” the suit asserts.

Pennsylvania law allows any “minister, priest or rabbi of any regularly established church or congregation” to perform legal marriages. 

A press release issued by the church states, “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.’”

Although the church primarily ordains people online these days, prior to the invention of the internet it advertised ordination through magazine and newspaper ads. (Universal Life Church Monastery Storehouse v. Bobrin)