Mail-Order Church Cleared


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Maybe some of you remember this story from awhile back. After six years of court battles, Kirby J. Hensley and his mail-order Universal Life Church were cleared of all charges in the State of California. A San Jose municipal judge dismissed a $625 fine and a one-year suspended sentence against Hensley involving a 1969 conviction for selling courses from a non-accredited institution. The conviction was overturned by a federal appeals court back in 1973, but the loose ends were not cleared up until several years later.

Hensley, at the time, 63, and a one-time Baptist preacher and self-designated “bishop” of the Universal Life Church, claims to have ordained more than two million people by mail, and issued some 10,000 honorary doctor of divinity degrees at a charge of $20 each. The year after all this was cleared up, a court ruled that Hensley’s “church” is entitled to federal tax exemption.

After the reversal of his conviction, Kirby Hensley had gone on to dedicate the First Church of Universal Life of Berkeley, California. Hensley claims he had freely dispensed 2.5 million ordination certificates (including for some animals) and, for a fee of $20 each, 20,000 D. D. degrees. The Berkeley edifice, built by Mormons in 1954 for $210,000, is the largest property acquired by his non-creedal, non-doctrinal autonomous “congregations.”

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About Roland Ledoux

Pastor of Oasis Bible Ministry, an outreach ministry of teaching, encouragement and intercessory prayer from the Holy Bible, the written Word of God and author of the ministry website, For The Love of God. He lives in Delta, Colorado with his beautiful wife of 50+ years and a beautiful yellow lab whom they affectionately call Bella.
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