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Pennsylvania Judge rules in favor of online-ordained ministers, citing 1st and 14th Amendments

Published Thursday, Jun. 9th, 2022

A U.S. District Judge in Pennsylvania recently ruled that county employees cannot deny online-ordained ministers the right to solemnize marriage in the state, and that any attempts to do so may result in their termination.


This is excellent news for AMM Ministers in Pennsylvania! 



The settlement reaffirms the right of ordained AMM Ministers to officiate weddings and other ceremonies in Pennsylvania, as outlined by the state’s marriage laws and the U.S. Constitution.



The judge’s decision brings an end to a lengthy lawsuit filed by Universal Life Church Monastery Storehouse against two Allegheny County officials whose departments allegedly practiced an unconstitutional pattern of discouraging online-ordained ministers from performing marriage: Michael McGeever, in his official capacity as the Director of Court Records; and Patricia Capozoli, in her official capacity as Wills and Orphans’ Court Division Manager. 


The final order states that “a government policy or practice that… denies, discourages, or otherwise chills the religious practice” of ministers ordained through an online church, including the solemnization of marriage, “would violate the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.” 


Read the final order here. 


US District Court Building in Pittsburgh

U.S. District Court, Western District of Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh

(Photo via



Judge J. Nicholas Ranjan further ordered that: 


  • County employees and agents must be trained and directed not to interpret the meaning of the marriage law §1503(a)(6), which states that any “minister, priest or rabbi of any regularly established church or congregation” can perform marriage in Pennsylvania. 


  • County employees and agents must avoid advising anyone on whether or not a religious organization or officiant is authorized to solemnize marriage. 


To ensure that these protections for ministers are followed, the Department of Court Records must post on its official marriage license webpage and in its physical office that staff cannot advise anyone as to the legal qualifications of anyone to serve as a marriage officiant.





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