I.Any leader of any religious or spiritual group will be required to have at least four years of religious training and receive ordination from a seminary or religious training institution accredited in the United States.
a.No person shall be permitted to use any religious title such as Pastor, Reverend, Priest, Priestess, Father, Mother, Sister, Brother, Rabbi, Imam, Guru, Preacher, Prophet, Apostle, Spirit Guide, Shaman, or any other title denoting religious and/or spiritual and/or supernatural power or authority without ordination or titles granted from a U.S.-accredited seminary or religious training institution registered with the state and without a clergy/ministerial license from the state in which religious duties are performed.
II.Accreditation shall be granted to U.S. seminaries and religious training institutions that adhere to the following standards:
a.Have a permanent physical address with the majority of the teaching staff possessing PhD degrees and a minority of the teaching staff possessing a minimum of master degrees; all degrees must be relevant to the courses taught in the seminary or religious training institute; all degrees must be from U.S.-accredited higher learning institutions, or comparable accreditation from out-of-country higher learning institutions.
b.Require all faculty and staff to undergo an extensive criminal background check and provide verifiable personal references prior to being employed.
c.Applicants for courses must undergo an extensive criminal background check, complete a psychological evaluation, and provide verifiable personal references prior to acceptance.
d.Require all students to personally attend the physical address of the seminary or religious training institution for at least ¾ of all courses required for graduation; online or distance learning courses shall comprise no more than ¼ of all required coursework.
e.Require all students to pass courses in counseling, psychology, and financial accountability.
1.Counseling courses’ topics must include best counseling practices for children, adults, and the elderly, as well as best practices for addiction counseling, marriage and family counseling, and trauma and grief counseling without compromising the seminary or religious training institute’s clearly defined beliefs and practices.
2.Psychology courses’ topics must include child psychology, teen and young adult psychology, adults and elder psychology, and the identification of various aberrant and/or criminal behaviors without compromising the seminary or religious training institute’s clearly defined beliefs and practices.
3.Financial accountability courses’ topics must include best financial practices for 501(c)3 organizations, personal finance, best financial transparency practices, best investment practices, and financial ethics.
III.Respect for First Amendment rights by the state shall be given to and maintained for historically-held religious beliefs of U.S.-accredited seminaries and religious training institutions, and to places of worship such as centuries-old beliefs pertaining to marriage between one man and one woman, same sex relationships, abortion, euthanasia, dietary and dress requirements, etc.
a.U.S.-accredited seminaries and religious training institutions shall publish clear and unambiguous statements of beliefs, morals, practices and religious/spiritual restrictions.
b.Accreditation shall only be granted to those seminaries or religious training institutions whose belief system and practices do not violate state and federal laws pertaining to age of marriageability, forced marriage, polygamy, “honor” killings, female genital mutilation, human sacrifice, animal cruelty, tax-evasion, the manufacture, possession, use, and/or sale of mind-altering drugs and any similar substance banned by law, unlawful restraint, unlawful imprisonment, kidnapping, child labor, truancy, child abuse, child neglect, physical assault, sexual assault, forced labor, slavery, racketeering, rioting, sedition, terrorism, and other such crimes.
IV.All seminarians and religious training institute students shall be required to complete at least a one-year internship in religious organizations (churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, etc.) that are registered as 501(c)3 with the federal government and registered with the Secretary of State in the state of the religious training institute.
V.All graduates ordained by seminaries or religious training institutions shall be required to attend continuing education conferences once a year after graduation at any U.S.-accredited seminary or religious training institution.
a.Continuing education conferences must consist of a minimum of eight hours and contain counseling, psychology, and financial topics
b.All U.S.-accredited seminaries and religious training institutions shall be required to revoke ordinations of those graduates who fail to comply with required continuing education conferences, or who demonstrate unethical, immoral, and/or illegal behavior inconsistent with the beliefs and practices of the U.S.-accredited ordaining seminary or religious training institution and/or in violation of criminal laws.
c.All U.S.-accredited seminaries and religious training institutions shall maintain records and report to accrediting agencies those ordained graduates whose ordinations have been revoked.
VI.All seminaries and religious training institutions shall conduct yearly evaluations of all ordained graduates for the first three years after graduation, and then shall conduct evaluations every five years.
VII.Ordination shall be bestowed only by U.S.-accredited seminaries and religious training institutions upon its graduates.
VIII.Ordained graduates must obtain a clergy/ministerial license in the state in which they practice their religious duties.
a.Under penalty of fines and/or arrest and prosecution no person may use a religious/spiritual title to organize and lead “virtual” or online religious groups and/or groups that meet in any designated place at any time, operate and/or advertise “church,” “ecclesia,” “temple,” “mosque,” “ministries” or “missions” or “schools” or other such entities, publish religious/spiritual videos and/or religious/spiritual audio or publish written religious/spiritual statements, pamphlets, booklets, and/or books, or publicly speak without ordination from a U.S.-accredited seminary or religious training institution and without a clergy/ministerial license issued by the state in which that person resides.
b.The fee for obtaining a state clergy/ministerial license shall not exceed $100.00, and a clergy/ministerial license will be in effect for one (1) year
c.The state has the authority to revoke the license of any ordained clergy/minister who has violated state and/or federal laws such as those found in III.b.
d.Under penalty of fines and/or arrest and prosecution no one whose ordination and/or clergy/ministerial license is revoked can continue to practice as a clergy/ministerial member or use a religious title.
e.The state is required to report to the issuing seminary or religious training institute the name of the person whose clergy/ministerial license has been revoked.
f.In adherence to the constitutionality of Full Faith and Credit of any state’s revocation of a clergy/ministerial license, the issuing seminary or religious training institution will be required by the state in which it operates to likewise revoke the offending clergy/minister’s ordination, under penalty of losing state accreditation for failing to revoke ordination.
IX.Private houses, whether in a neighborhood or as stand-alone properties, cannot be used as weekly or monthly meeting places for unrelated people to assemble in groups of more than ten (10) for religious/spiritual purposes and meet only once a week for no more than three hours.
a.Private houses in neighborhoods are prohibited from being used as places of worship due to traffic and pedestrian safety issues, parking issues, square footage per person issues, septic tank/sewer capacity issues, noise and nuisance issues, fire safety issues, child safety issues, handicapped person safety issues, and all other standards required in public building codes.
b.Stand alone house structures may be converted to public places of worship only if such a structure and its location meet safe traffic and pedestrian standards, parking capacity standards, square footage per person standards, septic/sewer capacity standards, fire safety standards, child safety standards, handicap accessibility standards, and all other building code standards.
X.Houses of worship shall be required by the state to be registered in the town or county in which they operate and must keep that registration updated yearly.
XI.Houses of worship shall be required by the state to have annual independent auditors examine all financial records and issue a report.
a.Independent financial auditors must not have any conflict of interests in their duties to audit houses of worship, such as being members of the house of worship, or having family members or other associates as members of the house of worship.
b.All financial records from independent auditing examinations shall be made public record in the registration records in the town in which the house of worship operates.
XII.The state shall publish a publicly accessible list of all clergy/ministers licensed in that state which includes the name of the U.S. accredited seminary or religious institution that issued ordination. The state shall also publish a publicly accessible list of all clergy/ministers whose licenses have been revoked.
Some of the points in this proposed bill are already covered in existing state or federal laws – not only for religious organizations but also for non-profits and businesses – but these laws are not being enforced consistently. Our legislators and our courts need to ensure that existing laws and enacted laws based on proposed bills such as the one above are actually enforced.
The regulations proposed in the above bill protect religious rights. Cults/coercive groups, and many new religious/”spiritual” movements operate by secrecy and unaccountability, and most if not all of these kinds of groups have a LOT of dark secrets (e.g., crimes) the leaders and many of their followers want to keep hidden. Conscientious, qualified religious leaders should want to offer their congregants and the general public full disclosure and full transparency. These regulations do not restrict religious rights but rather enhance religious rights by giving religious leaders and their groups credibility as law-abiding members of society.
In addition to the need for a clergy authentication law, and in the interest of consumer protection, a federal law is also needed to require all forms of written and spoken media, including but not limited to television, radio, social media sites, webhost owners, and search engine companies to only give posting and/or hosting space/advertising space to those businesses, non-profits, and religious organizations which are licensed and whose licenses are maintained each year.