Congregation of Universal Wisdom

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Preach to the choir
Icon religion.svg
Crux of the matter
Speak of the devil
An act of faith
Laying on of hands to the vertebrae shall be the sole means of maintaining the LIFE FORCE through Universal Wisdom
—Congregation of Universal Wisdom[1]

The Congregation of Universal Wisdom is a quack religious organization founded by chiropractor Walter P. Schilling (c. 1944[2]–). The group's beliefs are a hash of chiropractic philosophy and New Thought beliefs, with a strong dose of anti-vaccination bullshit tossed in.[3] There are no real chapels and no requirement for members to meet. Prospective ministers need only to submit a dissertation that is examined by five other ministers. An essay cited by the United States National Institutes of Health calls the organization a "sham religion" used by thousands of parents to avoid getting their children vaccinated.[4]

The organization believes in a universal intelligence similar to New Thought Christianity, and they believe that the only way someone can be healed is through the manipulation of the spine. The primary purpose of the "congregation," however, is to allow members to claim a religious exemption from vaccination laws.[5][6] They define vaccination as sacrilegious:

It shall be sacrilege to depart from the precepts of the Congregation by the following:

a. The ingestion of medication or other chemical substances that defy natural law.

b. The injection into the body of medication or other matter of substances that defy natural law.

c. The application of medication, chemicals or other foreign matter or substances unharmonious to the laws of nature.

d. The inhalation of medication, chemicals or other foreign substances in disharmony with the laws of nature.
—Congregation of Universal Wisdom[7]

External links[edit]


  1. Purpose.
  2. 'Religious' objections to vaccinations? There really aren't any by Mark A. Kellner (Feb 7, 2015, 1:35pm MST) Deseret News.
  3. Douglas G McNeil Jr., Worship Optional: Joining a Church To Avoid Vaccines. The New York Times, 14 January 2003.

    In New Jersey, where Dr. Schilling says he has 2,988 members, this certificate guarantees a waiver from the state's requirement for vaccinations against polio, measles and a dozen other childhood diseases, no questions asked.

  4. Anthony Ciolli, Mandatory School Vaccinations: The Role of Tort Law. National Center for Biotechnology Information, National Institutes of Health, September 2008.

    In fact, thousands of parents have joined mail-order or sham religions, such as the “Congregation of Universal Wisdom,” so they can qualify for religious exemptions and not have to go to the trouble of vaccinating their children.

  5. This sometimes ends up in court, e.g., Turner v. Liverpool Cent. School, 186 F. Supp. 2d 187 (N.D.N.Y 2002) where a mother sued her local school district claiming a religious exemption from mandatory vaccination because of membership in the organization.
  6. Jann Bellamy, Vaccination mandate exemptions: gimme that ol’ time philosophy., 15 December 2011.

    The ease with which parents can transform anti-vaccination sentiment into a religious belief is demonstrated in Turner v. Liverpool Central School District, in which the court upheld a claim of religious exemption based on membership in the Congregation of Universal Wisdom, a church whose principles were founded on chiropractic philosophy and which held no regular meetings. The court found that “the one consistent aspect of plaintiff’s testimony was that she believed in a universal life force or wisdom and that immunization would be violating that life force.” This was sufficient to meet the state’s statutory religious exemption requirements.

  7. Sacrilege.