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According to Wikipedia, the Universal Life Church

is a religious organization that offers anyone semi-immediate ordination as a ULC minister free of charge. The organization states that anyone can become a minister without having to go through the pre-ordination process required by other religious faiths. The ULC has no traditional doctrine, believing as an organization merely in doing "that which is right"

According to halachah, is one allowed to register for ordination from this church/organization?

  • Why do you think this may be prohibited? – Double AA May 12 '15 at 16:58
  • From what I read in your Wikipedia link, possible problems - entering a church for meetings & POSSIBLY performing some of the minister functions suggested such as homosexual marriages (homosexuality is forbidden even for *B'nai Noach, AFAIK.) I don't think there is a problem with officiating a Gentile wedding, otherwise. – DanF May 12 '15 at 17:07
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    @DanF Why would one be required to enter a church or perform any wedding service that he might object to? I thought they do not impose any beliefs – wfb May 12 '15 at 17:15
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    I may have incorrectly extended an assumption absed on "The ULC Headquarters holds weekly church services in a historic church building in Modesto" that all meetings are held in a church, as well. The site does not say much about the process to become ordained. Also, why they don't impose beliefs, aren't most baptisms and marriages in a church? Also, perhaps, there is a problem mentioning Jesus's name as part of the service, even if you don't believe in Jesus? – DanF May 12 '15 at 17:23
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    @DanF Or you could just use it to officiate for a Jewish wedding – wfb May 12 '15 at 18:00
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There are three issues that come to mind as potentially halachically problematic"

  1. Marith A'yin (creating an impression of wrongdoing) by making it seem that you have been ordained by a Christian church (see e.g. DanF's objections in the comments to the question) and endorse idolatrous/heretical beliefs.
  2. Marith A'yin that you are engaging in dishonest practices by making use of loopholes in laws designed for religious clergy in order to, e.g., take advantage of tax benefits. (This is probably the weakest argument since if the law allows it, what makes it a dishonest loophole.)
  3. Actual association with a heretical cult inasmuch as modern conceptions of ethical pluralism are in sharp contrast with the ethical pluralism espoused by the Torah. Kol hamodeh ba'avoda zara kofer b'chol hatorah kula - to acknowledge idolatry is to deny the entire Torah. (In addition, I believe issues have been raised by contemporary poskim regarding joining interdenominational organizations, presumably for similar reasoning.)

A better idea might be to develop an Orthodox Jewish equivalent ordination, perhaps offered automatically at Bar/Bat Mitzva (when the typical Orthodox Jewish boy/girl already know more about halacha than most Reform rabbis). Considering that the Jews are meant in their entirety to be a mamlecheth kohanim w'goy qadosh ("a kingdom of priests and consecrated nation"), this actually seems entirely appropriate.

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    "perhaps offered automatically at Bar/Bat Mitzva (when the typical Orthodox Jewish boy/girl already know more about traditional Judaism than most Reform rabbis)" - Criticize Reform for what it is, not for caricatures. – Yishai May 12 '15 at 17:58
  • re: #3, I think I understand your argument to be that if this is explicitly pluralistic, meaning that no religion has a greater claim on truth than any other, it is implicitly akin to מודה בע"ז, however I don't know that this church endorses such a metaphysical pluralism as opposed to a more pragmatic kind, and regardless, I don't know that receiving ordination from them implies consent to any doctrine inasmuch as they don't appear to have one – wfb May 12 '15 at 18:04
  • #1 seems like the only strong claim, here. (I admit a bias as I had commented on it.) #2, as you imply, is not Mar'it ayin. You are permitted to use the legalities of tax laws for any reason. If the IRS permits it, it's not illegal, so how can it be marit ayin? #3 doesn't seem to follow from the claims of Wikipedia about what the org. does. It states that it does not enforce belief in any specific religion and members include atheists. My brother tour guides Christian Pilgrims visiting Israel and cites the Gospels as part of the tour. Does the citing alone imply modeh ba'avoda zara? – DanF May 12 '15 at 18:10
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    The Bar Mitzvah idea is theoretically interesting, but counter-productive even w/o your comparison. (BTW, the claim, I think may be false, but in its context it IS stereotypical.) Bar Mitzvah is merely the START of learning and, AFAIK, the youngest person to receive a "rav" status was R Elazar ben Azariah at age 17, IIRC. None of the great sages got it at 13, and these days, I know no one of the stature of R. Elazar or the other sages of that time. – DanF May 12 '15 at 18:17
  • There is no ma'aris ayin from non-Jews, fwiw. – ezra Mar 18 at 2:59

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