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Cat Ordained as Minister: Now Let Us Purr

July 28, 1989

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (AP) _ Teddy is an ordained minister who can perform religious services, marry people and baptize them - provided he doesn’t get distracted by a mouse.

Teddy happens to be a calico cat who got a preacher’s credentials after the Better Business Bureau in Huntsville decided to check out a mail-order business.

Kathleen Calligan, Teddy’s owner and the president of the Huntsville Better Business Bureau, said she spotted an ad in a free-circulation newspaper for United Christian Church and Ministerial Association in Cleveland, Tenn.

Ms. Calligan filled out an application for her cat, mailed in $20 cash and waited about a month. Teddy received his preacher’s license last week by return mail.

Ms. Calligan stressed that nothing illegal was found with the way United ordains people, or pets. But she added that she sent in the bogus application to point out the nature of the business.

″I don’t want to say this is good or this is bad, but they just ordained a cat. This could be Charles Manson,″ Ms. Calligan said.

The founder and president of the United Christian Church & Ministerial Association rejected her criticism, saying Ms. Calligan lied and fraudulently obtained the license.

″I can’t check all these licenses. This is a master liar,″ the Rev. H. Richard Hall said of Ms. Calligan’s application.

The Better Business Bureau office in Chattanooga, Tenn., has received a few calls about Hall’s organization since the beginning of the year, according to John Myers, president of the office.

″We have questioned them about whether this is a diploma mill,″ Myers said. ″They offer phony credentials.″

Myers said such licenses granted through the mail give the false impression that the holder has been through a post-secondary school education.

Hall said his organization checks out most applications, but this one slipped through.

While Ms. Calligan did not state that the applicant was a cat, she did provide enough unusual information to raise questions, she said.

On the application, Ms. Calligan wrote that the applicant’s birthdate was April 2, 1989, and that the cat’s calling to the ministry was ″to make people happy and not hunt birds.″

She listed two Huntsville preachers as references to be contacted. Both had been briefed on the application and were told to tell United officials that the applicant was a cat. Neither was contacted, Ms. Calligan said.

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