Marital Woes

Defrocked eMinisters


A Pennsylvania couple whose marriage fell apart after seven months has managed to put an asterisk next to every wedding performed by an Internet minister. Contemplating divorce, the couple wondered if their marriage, performed by a friend who got certified online, was legit in the first place. They asked a York County judge, who ruled that it was not. Half of the sorta-divorced couple, Dorie Heyer, told The Associated Press that a wedding like hers "makes a mockery out of the whole marriage system."

Further cementing the deal, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives is considering legislation that would exclude ministers from performing weddings if their churches offer ordinations by mail or through electronic means. Other states are poised to follow suit. Many states, from conservative Virginia to happy-go-lucky Nevada, already insist you be affiliated with a "regularly established church or congregation" to be qualified to OK a marriage contract.

The Universal Life Church says it hopes to challenge the Pennsylvania ruling. If the precedent stands, it would be a blow to the church, which has ordained more than 18 million ministers since it was founded in 1959. The organization brings 10,000 people into its priesthood each month, according to Andre Hensley, the church's president, who says 80 percent join for the sole purpose of performing marriages.