Universal Life Church v. Utah

189 F. Supp. 2d 1302 (2002)

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Universal Life Church v. Utah

United States District Court for the District of Utah
189 F. Supp. 2d 1302 (2002)

Facts

The Universal Life Church (ULC) (plaintiff) offered ordination into its ministry to anyone who wanted to be ordained, either by mail, through the internet, by telephone, by fax, or in person, without any further requirements. ULC’s ordained ministers were permitted to ordain others into the ministry, and the ULC maintained that its ministers could perform rites such as marriages. The ULC ordained J.P. Pace (plaintiff) in 1993 by mail, and he subsequently performed weddings in Utah. In 2001, the Utah legislature passed a statute specifying that ordinations obtained by mail or the internet were invalid for the purposes of the marriage-solemnization statute, which authorized certain religious figures to solemnize marriages. The statute did not exclude religious figures that were ordained by telephone, fax, or any other method. Utah law further provided that unauthorized persons who purported to perform marriages could be punished with imprisonment. The ULC sued the State of Utah (defendant) for temporary and permanent injunctions against enforcing the statute, arguing that the statute violated Pace’s constitutional rights, including his right to equal protection.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Kimball, J.)

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