Remember that it is your responsibility to stay informed regarding all state, federal and local laws that govern your ministry. It is your ministry, and your responsibility.
If there is a lapse in your yearly licensing fees to Universal Brotherhood Movement, Inc. (due during your ordination month), then you are no longer provided verification of your ordination or an updated UBM ID card, making any service as an ordained minister suspect.
Before Officiating A Wedding
As mentioned above, you are responsible for educating yourself and for following local laws and requirements in your area, for your particular practice.
Some cities and states require you to register as a minister to officiate a wedding. Check with local authorities to see what the requirements are for your area before you perform any ceremony as an ordained minister. In the US you should generally contact the local “Clerk of the Court” for this information, and also research what the laws are in your area. These requirements may change between counties within the same state.
As mentioned above, you are responsible for insuring that you are legally permitted to perform any ceremony before doing so. One good example of this is New York state, where if performing a ceremony in the five boroughs of New York City, you must register before officiating a marriage ceremony. To our knowledge, this is not currently required anywhere else in the state.
The marriage license, also called a marriage certificate, depending on local custom, is extremely important. When you officiate a wedding, you are responsible for having license/certificate signed by witnesses (if required) and/or signing it yourself as the officiant or minister. This must be done on the wedding day after the ceremony. You are responsible for sending the completed certificate back within the required time to the correct governmental body. Instructions regarding completing the certificate should be on the license or (better idea!) call the local governing body before the wedding to find out what is required of you as the officiant.
Please check local laws for the deadline to mail the signed certificate. Failure to adhere to this deadline could result in fines or even incarceration! For example, in North Carolina marriage licenses must be returned in ten days to the issuing authority. If you do not meet this deadline you are subject to a $200 fine and shall also be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor (if convicted you will go to jail) [NC Statutes 51 –- 7].
You can learn a great deal about the structure of a wedding practice via UBM’s own Weddings 101 certification course.
Before conducting a ceremony always remember to check the guidelines for the location where the ceremony will be conducted. It’s easy to cross a city, county, and even state lines when traveling to a venue, so check on this (and then check again!).
Also, before you agree to officiate a wedding ceremony, contact the local court clerk (or local office that governs weddings) and ask if you are required to register or to present a minister’s verification letter. In some states you can be fined up to $1,000 and up to a year imprisonment for failure to follow certain regulations.
If you have any questions, or would like a Minister’s Verification Letter, please call the office at 954-974-1181. All states and localities have different requirements, so please check in advance.
If you are using your ordination to open a church, center, etc., you must let your clients know under what legal avenue they are coming to you. Example; on your business cards, brochures or advertisements, you must:
- Indicate you are an ordained minister. This can be done in a number of ways: Rev. in front of your name, or Interfaith Minister under your name, or clergy or Ordained through Universal Brotherhood Movement, Inc. In short, provide a clear way of letting anyone know that this is how you are legally practicing.
- You must also obtain any business licenses and/or complete any filings that are necessary for the financial end (such as tax ID, etc). This depends on how you are going to classify your business, i.e. nonprofit, not-for-profit, LLC, sole proprietorship, etc.
- If you are unsure, you can get information locally from your library, contact your local or state government licensing agency, or consult an attorney or accountant. In the US, the Small Business Administration may also be able to provide guidance: sba.gov.
Always remember that you are a professional. Most organizations provide a “Code of Ethics” which controls your moral and ethical standards; UBM requires adherence to our Character Policy, with annual updates. Other standards and policies may also apply.
Universal Brotherhood Movement, Inc. honors your independent ministry. It is up to you to honor and protect the integrity of your ministry and Universal Brotherhood Movement, Inc.
Some resources that may be available in your area to help you start your business:
- Service Core of Retired Executives: score.org
- Local economic development
- Local universities or community colleges may have entrepreneurship resources or classes
- UBM’s own Weddings 101 class can be a great help in beginning a wedding practice
Please contact our office, 954-974-1181, with your questions.
Attention UB Ministers
In our continuous efforts to support each Minister and each
Ministry program, we are once again presenting an important
legal aspect to incorporate in your practice. As always, we are
not offering legal advice and urge you to check your local laws
and requirements. Please read the following article and begin to
implement these steps in your work with each client.
Thank you for your dedication to UB and the important work you
do in the World.
Excerpted from the Autumn 2018 issue of UB GoodNews
LIMITS TO CONFIDENTIALITY
By Rev. Gregory Fisher
As a minister who works with a wide variety of clients, it is important to
explain our position on LIMITS OF CONFIDENTIALITY up front. We must
make these limits clear from the first minute of the first meeting. We cannot
wait until we are challenged because the client has shared something with us
that must be reported because he or she thought that “confidentiality” would
prevent us from doing so. Here is exactly what we must say:
“I will hold all information shared with me as sacred and confidential
#1. If you mention or allude to a possible suicidal act in the present
or future by you or by someone you know,
#2. If you mention or allude to a possible homicidal act in the past,
present or future against any individual by you or by someone you
#3. If you mention or allude to a possible act of abuse in the past,
present or future against a child or a minor by you or by someone
#4. If you mention or allude to a possible act of abuse in the past,
present or future against an elderly or disabled person by you or by
someone you know.
I am bound by law to report these things and; therefore, they are
outside the express limits of our confidentiality agreement. Do you
All of these are reportable actions, and must be conveyed at once to
the local authorities to take appropriate action. In the instance of possible
child abuse, the Department of Children’s Services (or whatever the child
services agency is called in your locale) ask us not to “weigh or judge the
validity or severity of the information.” We must simply report it ASAP.
The same applies to the other issues of suicide, homicide and
We must understand also that “alludes to” includes second or third (or
more) hand knowledge and reports. For example, if a client states that
their friend’s mother told him that someone told her that someone was
having inappropriate contact with kids (0r any other of the reportable
actions), we report it! We don’t question if it is true or not. It’s not up to us
to determine that.
I can relate here a story that I’m aware of because it happened to one of
my friends. She was working with a client and the client’s ten-year-old
son. The mother recounted that her sister had stated that she believed the
son was having inappropriate contact with her five-year-old daughter. The
mother told her sister that it was ridiculous and accused her of lying and
not loving her son. She then took a long part of her session criticizing her
sister for being such a trouble maker and nuisance. She suggested that she
was going to detach from her sister and her niece. My friend mulled it over
after the session and determined that she didn’t need to report the
statements because they had been mentioned to her as an example of how
the client’s sister was lying and exacerbating the problems she was having
with her son. The problem? The sister reported her nephew to the abuse
hotline for sexually assaulting her daughter. The state investigated and
found that the boy WAS abusing his cousin. The client informed my
friend’s supervisor that she had told my friend in a session. My friend lost
Here’s what’s important for us to know: don’t THINK, just REPORT! We
don’t know enough to process the information or conduct an investigation
before reporting the information, and it’s not our job. We report what
we hear when what we hear it. It’s the authorities’ job to investigate and
determine if there is a problem.
Waiting and thinking puts us at risk and also—much worse—puts any
potential victims at risk, as in the example I’ve given.
Explaining these limits to confidentiality at the very first meeting sets the
expectation. For most of our clients, this will seem like a silly exercise—they
have no such issues and may even be perplexed that we have raised the issue.
But our insistence on discussing these situations up front clearly
demonstrates our professionalism, and it avoids any misunderstanding
should an issue emerge as we move forward with helping our clients.
S.L.A.P. ASSESSMENT FOR SUICIDALITY
While I want to reiterate that it isn’t our job to investigate the validity of a
reportable concern, sometimes a client may begin talking in a manner that
becomes curious and may indicate that they are heading toward an act of
self-harm or even suicide. The client hasn’t expressed a statement of
intention, but we are hearing something that seems potentially dangerous.
We’re thinking we need to question further to know how seriously to take the
threat. Now what?
There is a suicidality assessment that can be useful in considering the level of
risk you are encountering with a client (or any person) who has alluded to a
possible self-harm. A client mentioning that they wish they could die (or
wish they could fall asleep and not wake up) or that they have considered
killing themselves, does not mean that they are intending to do so. Here are
some questions that can help you determine if there is any potential that the
client is actually suicidal.
S = Specificity: Have they considered suicide to the extent that they have
an actual plan? Is the plan specific? Do they have a mode of death in mind, a
date, a time, a place? The more specific, the more concerning the threat may
L = Lethality: Is the mode of death the client may be considering actually
lethal? If enacted, would it actually cause death?
A = Availability: Is the mode of death available? Have they made plans to
procure it? Can they?
P = Preventability: Are there limitations or preventions in place that will
keep the plan from being enacted? Are there people around who would be
barriers to the act taking place? Is there a location where the client could
carry out the plan?
So, a client who tells you that they are planning to end their life the next
morning (specific) in a remote area of the woods (more specific, no
preventions) by shooting themselves in the head with a gun (extremely
specific and lethal) that they just purchased and have loaded in the car
(specific, lethal, available, no preventions) is at greater risk than someone
who tells you that they are thinking about ending their life, but they
haven’t considered how, where, or when (not specific, possibly not lethal,
possibly not available, possibly preventable). Or one who says they are
going to take pills (specific and potentially lethal), but don’t have any pills
or access to pills (not available and preventable). Of course, this also
doesn’t consider that they will come up with a very specific, lethal,
available and unpreventable plan as soon as they leave your office.
The SLAP Assessment helps us determine the level of risk in the moment;
but again, any mention of suicide needs to be taken seriously. It is a myth
that people who commit suicide haven’t told anyone, or that people who
tell someone are only looking for sympathy. More than 85% of people who
attempt suicide or are successful in killing themselves have told someone
before carrying out their plan.
Perhaps your client is telling you because they are seeking counseling,
support and help, and perhaps you can be effective in ameliorating their
situation so that the suicide is preventable. But if you have any doubt, and
if the SLAP Assessment gives you an indication that they may be able
successfully to complete their attempt, report the conversation to the
authorities and let them decide how to proceed. Also, in this case, you
should inform the client that you are going to call for assistance. Stay with
the client until help arrives.
Calling for assistance can look like notifying a treating professional who is
more involved in the client’s mental health than you; for example, a
psychiatrist. It can mean calling a mobile crisis response team or crisis
center. Or it can mean calling for emergency services. Dialing 911 will
usually get a rapid and appropriate response—usually law enforcement
will be alerted and will escort the client to emergency services. It is not
typical for an ambulance to be summoned, but the response may vary with
local statutes and protocols. You should learn and be familiar with those
statutes and protocols for your area.
In any case, make sure that the responding personnel are aware of the
story you heard and your assessment of the risk prior to making the call.
It is not uncommon for people to change their story after they become
concerned that there are going to be consequences that may be difficult
or that their very real desire to end their life is going to be thwarted.
Ultimately, it will be up to the treating professionals and perhaps even
the client to determine what needs to happen next. However, it is
important that you be aware that someone who is suicidal may lose the
ability to make their own decision temporarily, and will be committed
involuntarily for mental health treatment to prevent the suicide.
Gregory Fisher is a Licensed Advanced Practice Social Worker, a
Licensed Science of Mind Practitioner, and an Ordained Minister
through Universal Brotherhood Movement, Inc. He works as a speaker,
trainer, writer, counselor and coach and is based in Nashville,
Click here for LIMITS TO CONFIDENTIALITY