A First Nation clergy member recently asked if being ordained as a ceremonial minister qualified him to provide premarital counseling in Tennessee, which entitles the bridal couple to a discount off of the regular $100 marriage license fee:

Tennessee Code Annotated §36-6-413(b)(5) provides that couples who complete premarital preparation courses shall be exempt from the $60 fee otherwise imposed by that code section. The course must not be less than four (4) hours and completed no more than one year prior to the date of application for the license. Parties may attend separate classes. If they do, separate certificates must be filed.

Our reply:

Simply being ordained does not qualify a ceremonial minister to provide counseling, but Tennessee law does not restrict legally ordained ministers from doing so.

Tennessee Code Chapter 63-22-204 (a) states:

Nothing in this chapter shall be construed as limiting the ministry, activities, or services of a rabbi, priest, minister of the gospel or others authorized by a regularly organized and functioning religious body in performing the ordinary duties or functions of the clergy; nor shall anything in this chapter apply to or be construed as limiting the activities or services of Christian Science practitioners. Nor shall any rabbi, priest, or minister who offers counseling services, even if fees are charged, be subject to the limitations of this chapter, as long as they do not hold themselves out as licensed pastoral therapists or licensed pastoral counselors and as long as they do not purport to provide the integration and professional application of resources and techniques from the religious community’s traditions of pastoral care and counsel along with recognized principles, methods and procedures of clinical psychotherapy.

We highly recommend that anyone planning to provide such counseling should undertake training specific to performing this role.

You may request Tennessee-based ordination at FirstNationMinistry.org/us/tennessee.

Have any questions regarding this subject? Please let us know!