New effort to keep people ordained online from performing marriages

SEATTLE — The largest online ordination business is located in Seattle. So far, more than 20 million people have been ordained through Universal Life Church - more than 1,000 people a day.  Most people become ministers to perform weddings for family and friends. Now organizers say that practice is under attack.

There's a push to stop ministers ordained online from being able to perform weddings in some places.

The Universal Life Church has had to sue in North Carolina and Nevada to protect the validity of online ordination.

Now Tennessee has a new law against it, stating: "Persons receiving online ordinations may not solemnize the rite of matrimony."

Before it could go into effect July 1, Universal Life Church filed a lawsuit and got an injunction.

The church says any attempt to regulate who solemnizes weddings is a violation of religious freedom.

While the change in the law would impact Universal Life Church's ability to do business there, they say something much bigger is under attack.

Chaplain George Freeman believes the law in Tennessee is an attempt to make it more difficult for same-sex couples to marry.

"It's not the business of government, it's the business of the people," said Chaplain Freeman, "There are personal issues. This is about love."

"It's a constitutional right. The Constitution clearly says that the freedom of religion is an individual freedom and it is protected by our pursuit of happiness and anytime you want to deny those pursuits it's a violation of the Constitution."

While the threat against online ordinations is underway in Tennessee,  local LGBTQ advocates are watching closely.

Mac Scotty McGregor is transgender and married to a woman. He is tracking the situation in Tennessee.

McGregor was ordained through a church online and so far, he's performed more than 60 weddings

"There are a lot of couples who would be affected by such a lawsuit, so we should all stand up for that. Because once something happens in one state it emboldens other states to try to do the same thing," said McGregor.

There is a hearing set for Dec. 19 in Tennessee. In the meantime, the court has ordered the parties to maintain the status quo which blocks the "online ordination" ban from going into effect. Freeman's attorney is asking the judge to grant a permanent injunction to invalidate the "online ordination" language.

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