The ACLU filed three civil actions in Philadelphia County Court today on behalf of three couples whose marriages are jeopardized by a separate ruling in York County, PA last September.

The saga began last September after Universal Life Church minister Adam Johnston’s ordination was declared invalid by Judge Maria Musti Cook. Johnston contacted the ULC who enlisted the support of the ACLU of PA and responded to Judge Cook’s unconstitutional ruling with a press release. In addition to assisting the ACLU in research and putting them in contact with its ministers, the ULC retained the counsel of Davis Wright Tremaine to explore its own options and legal recourse for their PA ministers.

The actions filed by the ACLU and the law firm of Drinker Biddle & Reath on behalf of three couples, two married by Universal Life Church ministers and one by a Jesuit priest, seek to declare “…that their marriage is valid under the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania”, effectively overturning Judge Cook’s ruling.

“What we want is to fix a problem that never should have existed in the first place,” said Mary Catherine Roper, staff attorney with the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “The state has no business invalidating marriages just because it doesn’t like the kind of minister who officiated them.”

Chaplain Freeman at the Universal Life Church Monastery stated that “…any decision affecting a minister’s right to perform marriage rituals, as well as funerals and baptisms would be in violation of existing case law established under the only Federal decision to date in Universal Life Church v. The State of Utah.”

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