Tales of a Fake Minister; Why Clergy Must Be State Licensed

A few years ago, I performed a marriage ceremony for my old friend Don Schaller’s son, Kane. It was great fun. I went online and bought a $25 license from the Universal Life Church organization. My signature on the marriage license was considered legitimate. The 300+ people attending the ceremony at Squaw Valley thought I was the real deal.

This is outrageous… and dangerous. I bought a black robe and a sash and BINGO, I’m legit. What nonsense.
By tradition, clergy are not state licensed as are psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors, marriage and family therapists, social workers, etc., etc. I have a PhD in psychology, but can not legally do psychotherapy because I do not have a license. To get a license, I would need to go through a lengthy period of training and pass a rigorous state exam, including supervision by licensed psychologists. Since psychologists do a variety of things like teach, research, consulting, etc., I can call myself a psychologist, but not one who can do therapy. Buy me a beer, though, and I’ll tell you how to solve life’s problems; I just won’t call it therapy. BUT, as a ULC minister, I’m sure I can do pastoral counseling. What the hell is the difference? Let’s not forget Jim Jones of the People’s Temple who was ordained as a Disciples of Christ minister.

I’m not saying that if Jones had been certified by the state, the Jonestown disaster would not have happened. After all, there are lots of cases where licensed therapists of all kinds go off the rails and do weird and awful things, like having sex with patients and forming cults.

I am suggesting that if people like Jim Jones, David Koresh, or Marshall Applewhite of Heaven’s Gate had to keep their state licenses current, like therapists and realtors and hair stylists do, maybe they could have been reined in.

Many people are lost and gullible. A smart guy with a robe, a white collar, and sash can do his will.


God has given me, Rev Rick, the light to see what my sheep need to get into heaven. Look at my robe. Look at my sash. Look at these silly gestures I am making. For you to find eternal bliss, you need to give me 25% of your net worth. Trust me, I am a man of the cloth.

3 thoughts on “Tales of a Fake Minister; Why Clergy Must Be State Licensed

  1. Richard says:

    As one ordained minister to another, I can tell you are in need of some pastoral counseling. At some point, you acquired a false belief that a state license “protects people” from beliefs that may not be so, and helps prevent the gullible masses from donating their hard-earned money to charlatans. Do you think that licensing priests would have changed anything for the Catholic church, or for Jerry Falwell? (Maybe requiring Continuing Education credits and tests every few years about “God” would have made a difference?) I understand that there are many people with state-licenses who convince psychoanalysis “patients” to come to them for YEARS, at the cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars, just to analyze their dreams, pretty much based on the ideas of a single man. And state-licensed investment brokers who urge putting huge amounts of money into questionable investments from which they profit. Then there are unlicensed people who purport to make accurate predictions of the future, and ask people to believe them, often for a lot of money. (I am speaking of economists, of course. Palm readers are more reliable.) How about the most prevalent purveyors of life-damaging pontification: parents. They should be licensed. Come to think of it, maybe there should be a license classification for “friend.” In reality, state-issued licenses do little more than create a minimal barrier for entry into areas of life that certain groups of people want to restrict to themselves. Demonstrating competency (such as with a doctor or lawyer) can be achieved without state involvement.

    And newsflash, Rick: You ARE the real deal.

    Rev. Richard

  2. Dona. Smith Powers says:

    Ordination requires study and contemplation.
    The value of education is that it can take us out of our usual mental constructs and get us to hear beyond what can be physically proved. Most of life is in this realm of experience. Awareness is the key.

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