Woodbridge, VA asked in Gov & Administrative Law for Maryland

Q: How do you obtain a statewide ministerial license in Maryland and Virginia? is one required in both states?

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1 Lawyer Answer
Mark Oakley
Mark Oakley
  • Rockville, MD
  • Licensed in Maryland

A: There are many providers of minister/clergy licenses where you can get "ordained" in a day or less. Maryland does not have a formal set of laws or regulations about this, beyond the general provision of Family Law Code 2-406(a) for performing marriages: "A marriage ceremony may be performed in this State by ... any official of a religious order or body authorized by the rules and customs of that order or body to perform a marriage ceremony...."

Most religious groups operating in Maryland register as a tax exempt entity so as to avoid having to pay taxes on their operations, and in order to do so, must behave according to the tax code requirements to qualify as tax exempt. Among the regulations issued under the Business Regulation Code is this definition of a "Bona Fide Religious Organization":

(1) "Bona fide religious organization" means an organization established for religious purposes or an organization which serves religion by the fostering of religion, including the moral and ethical aspects of a particular faith.

(2) "Bona fide religious organization" includes an organization whose members or congregation are the primary source of revenue and whose purpose is an integral part of the membership's or congregation's mission.

You might check with the licensing division of the local circuit court in your county or City of Baltimore as to whether they look into the bona fides of the person performing the marriage ceremony under the marriage licenses they issue, and how or what database, if any, they consult to confirm the ceremony was performed by an approved officient. You can contact the Maryland Comptroller's office regarding how they determine whether a claimed religious entity qualifies as tax exempt under the religious exemption of the tax code.

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