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June 24th, 2010
09:27 AM ET

Woman sues church over gay marriage

Years before the nation's capital legalized same-sex marriage in March, one church in Washington, D.C., opened its doors to gay couples as part of its mission to establish an "inclusive body of Biblical believers."

Pastors Christine and Dennis Wiley performed a 2007 commitment ceremony at their altar.  That action split the historically black church, prompting half of the congregation to leave.

Yvonne Moore not only left Covenant Baptist, where she had worshipped for nearly 40 years: she filed a lawsuit for her weekly tithes because, as she said, "They didn't respect the members enough to listen to us."

Moore said she attended the 2007 commitment ceremony and found it "totally disgusting."

"I don't believe in that, I'm southern Baptist," Moore told CNN's Soledad O'Brien.  "The bible speaks against that. You cannot take that in the church."

So she sued the church for a portion of the estimated $250,000 that she estimates she had paid in weekly donations over the past 37 years.

Read how race and ethnicity can be a challenge to gay acceptance

Moore's now former pastors believe that gay rights are a natural extension of the black Civil Rights movement.

"I don't think we as a people have a lock on civil rights," Pastor Dennis Wiley said.

The struggle for civil rights is something that Moore can relate to:  Growing up in Florida, she said she was one of the first blacks to eat at a lunch counter in her hometown.

But she is still on the fence about comparing her situation, as an African-American, to that of the gay community.  She said Dennis Wiley asked her to consider the situation of her friend, who is gay.

"Dennis asked me ... 'How do you feel the way you were treated and just think about the way he was treated.'  And I was like, 'Oh, OK,'" Moore said.

She later dropped her lawsuit, but has not returned to the church.

Editor's note:  CNN's Soledad O'Brien follows a same-sex couple in their struggle against the legal and personal obstacles to become parents. Can these men achieve a life as mainstream as their parents? Watch "Gary and Tony Have a Baby," 8 p.m. ET Thursday.

- CNN.com Senior Producer

Filed under: Baptist • Belief • Gay marriage

soundoff (342 Responses)
  1. Confoosed

    Oh, and one more thing... I wonder how this discussion would go on FOX News' site?

    June 24, 2010 at 11:29 am |
  2. Jessica

    REAL THREATS TO HETERO MARRIAGE
    #1 threat to Hetero marriages = MONEY
    #2 Adultery

    CHRISTIAN SOLUTION:
    Ban Gay People (first from marriage, then from existing)

    June 24, 2010 at 11:27 am |
  3. ChrisinSoCal

    April... you're such a loyal follower of the Bible, are you? So... never eat shrimp? Wear mixed fabrics? Don't even get me started about the role a woman is to play. Remember, the Bible is a guide for those who choose to live by it. Me? I'd rather be a good person – everyday – and make the world a little bit better rather than to throw my judgement around all week so I can go be a good person for 60, or 90 minutes on a Sunday morning. Live your life as a good person and let it all be sorted out in the end.

    June 24, 2010 at 11:25 am |
  4. Laura

    This is an example how Christianity is corrupted over the time. Don’t try to re-write the Bible. It stays clearly against gay’s way of life. Don’t offend the rest of people who don’t want to make our churches accommodative to the sin. Even gay born this way it doesn’t become “natural”, it means something wrong with them and they need help.

    June 24, 2010 at 11:25 am |
    • maggie

      States clearly? In which language? What context? Which translation?

      June 24, 2010 at 11:39 am |
    • Tuth

      Pretty much sin is sin. Doesn't matter what type of sin or how those that justify it. Those that say their born to be gay. I don't believe that's true. I believe from generational curse or was expose by someone at very early aged. Example of generational curse alcoholics, drugs and so on. How a person can try alcohol; like how they feel and if continues to ended up being hook; the same with drugs. It only takes one time for most people to get hooked and hard to stop. Then make up excuses to why they need it. Everybody in there family has a alcoholic or drug addiction at least one.

      June 24, 2010 at 11:40 am |
    • Leah (TXanimal)

      Tuth: when were you exposed to straight behavior so that you got "hooked" on it?

      June 24, 2010 at 11:55 am |
    • Terri L

      Laura, again...when churches kick out all those who sin your arguement will mean something until then it is just empty. Doesn't the Bible read "let he who is without sin cast the first stone"? You holier than thou folks go against what the Bible teaches yet you are still in the churches.

      June 24, 2010 at 11:57 am |
    • JohnQuest

      Truth, when was it that you "decided" not to be gay. You know that is saying that you at least thought about being gay.

      June 24, 2010 at 12:09 pm |
  5. ballz

    Sorry Leona, but good luck in getting a dime out of a lawsuit with a church. The church hold onto its money tighter than gays with their rights.

    June 24, 2010 at 11:23 am |
  6. AGeek

    The irony involved with this woman can be cut with a knife. What we need are laws against aggravated stupidity and crimes against common sense.

    June 24, 2010 at 11:22 am |
  7. James

    Leviticus, Romans. Read them. This church is blasphemous. Their actions are in contradiction with their own book's teachings. That's not judgement, it's fact. Bless you hearts.

    June 24, 2010 at 11:18 am |
    • Terri L

      when the church starts kicking all "sinners" out your arguement will hold water...until then it is empty.

      June 24, 2010 at 11:28 am |
    • Confoosed

      The problem isn't with booting sinners... its with this chruch celebrating sin by allowing gay marriages inside it. My church understands that I sin and have lied and stolen. They let me stay in the church. However, They don't celebrate the fact that I stole and lied. Her church was wrong for celebrating sin and she was wrong for trying to take back money she donated to God.

      June 24, 2010 at 11:35 am |
    • Leah (TXanimal)

      Leviticus condemns certain PAGAN RITUALS for MALE LEVITICAN PRIESTS. It is by no means a "catch-all" to be used to beat up on gays. And until you start living by and preaching every OTHER guideline in the Levitican holiness code, your argument is irrelevant. Same with Romans...it's referring to pagan fertility rituals...and the word "lust" in biblical context is very different from the meaning our culture has assigned to it. This is the problem when you try to use modern-day interpretations of ancient texts while completely disregarding historical and cultural context.

      June 24, 2010 at 11:52 am |
    • Terri L

      Confoosed since Churches regularly post signs reading "sinners welcome" and all of us are said to be sinners I would say sinners are definitely celebrated by the Church. Our sins are between us and the Father, not our fellow man, to be worked out.

      June 24, 2010 at 12:21 pm |
    • kapukane

      Grow up. Educate yourself.

      June 24, 2010 at 12:25 pm |
    • Steve

      I suggest you read ALL of Leviticus. There are over a dozen rules in that code that are completely ridiculous today. Most of them punishable by death. Don't curse at parents. Don't trim your hair around the temples. Don't approach an altar with defective eyesight. Don't eat shellfish. Don't eat rabbit. Don't wear clothing of mixed fabrics. Don't plant different crops side by side. Don't touch the skin of a dead pig. etc. etc.

      What makes homosexuality so much worse that it trumps all others. Why are Christians so obsessed with it? Are you really all closet cases?

      There are also some abhorrent rules in the bible about owning slaves and raping women. Both of which are perfectly legal if you do it right.

      And if you still want to live by that, go ahead. But don't force a 3000 year old worldview (yes it far predates Jesus) made up by uneducated goat herders on modern people who want to have nothing to do with it.

      June 25, 2010 at 12:00 pm |
  8. Mattew

    It's interesting how many assumptions, mis-leading, and simply ignorant comments are on this site. Both sides simply throw trash at each other to see who can bury the other in nonsense.

    No proof about the gay lifestyle being a birth trait but liberals claiming such. Christians harassing/judging others. You go to any other website of news and you don't have to see the crap that CNN readers sling back and forth at each other to either rile up the others or make some stance the ONLY way to live and see life.

    Each side claims to know EXACTLY how we should treat people. Frankly, I just see a lot of people living in vaccuums thinking that their sheltered life is the way everyone should live. (Liberial and Christian) So many combative athiests and religious people on this site that it almost makes it unreadable. Neither side displays love just hatred towards other people's views because we can't have other views aside from what's post here apparently.

    June 24, 2010 at 11:18 am |
    • Jen

      I can understand what you're saying, Mattew. I, personally, am agnostic. It does not matter to me what people do or don't believe in. What upsets me are the people who judge others simply because they are different and use the Bible and God as a shield. That's when I start with my opinion on the matter.

      June 24, 2010 at 11:27 am |
    • skier31

      You say all of this, yet you take the time to read everything. I agree with what you say, but you don't have to read the comments you could stop after the story.

      June 24, 2010 at 11:30 am |
    • Josh

      You must not be gay. Because a gay person knows they are born gay, there doesn't have to be documented scientific evidence that liberals or conservatives can quantify or prove. You know what they say, if you don't like something go on the internet and complain. You did a good job here. I suggest you read through more articles on CNN and post how unhappy you are that the world's population isn't hugging each other and swaying to the beat of "We are the World". It's bigotry and religious pettiness that equates to a civil unbalance in our nation. Open your eyes!

      June 24, 2010 at 11:38 am |
    • Ibobo

      Matt, your post is dumb. You can hate an ideology – like the gay political war machine designed to brainwash America's view on this – without hating the people themselves.

      June 24, 2010 at 11:44 am |
    • kapukane

      It is not "liberals" claiming gays were born gay. Gays have always known they were gay from birth. Gays don't need science to tell them what they already know..... I def. know I was born this way. There is no choice involved in the slightest. It is natural and innate. It is biology and science. Every year more and more evidence supports this....the prevailing evidence shows it clusters in families and is most likely inherited from the mothers side. Gay people have always existed from the beginning of time. It is normal and natural for our species just like in the animal kingdom. I thank God for being born this way. It has made me into the man I am today. It has led to tremdous spiritual growth.

      June 24, 2010 at 12:16 pm |
    • Leah (TXanimal)

      Since when are "liberal" and "Christian" mutually exclusive? On a related note, I know plenty of political conservatives who are gay as gay can be...my ex is one of them! Stop thinking inside those little boxes...if you remove labels from people and accept them as the complex INDIVIDUALS they are, you might learn a thing or two about yourself!

      June 24, 2010 at 2:35 pm |
  9. Law Suit

    As frivolous as they come. I'm gonna sue this church because they let this woman be a member.

    June 24, 2010 at 11:18 am |
    • liftoff

      And I am going to sue you because you did not allow me to be a party to your lawsuit. 😉

      June 24, 2010 at 11:33 am |
  10. Seibold

    What a cool piece. I certainly respect both sides here. I love seeing happy married couples regardless anyones beliefs. Soledad O'Brien always has her finger on the hot spot.

    June 24, 2010 at 11:17 am |
  11. Josh

    I'm constantly disappointed with Christianity. How long will people follow the herd before they realize that the bible -or other variations of it- have been around for thousands of years and preachers have been picking and choosing what they want to preach about based on current "morals" and "values"? Look at Joel Olsteen, he doesn't even drive himself to work and why should he? He spent over $90 million converting the Rockets arena into a church and why? Because his investors know that people pay to go to church. It's why preachers preach what they preach. I saw a sign on the freeway that said a particular church was your answer to emotional distress, divorce, teenagers, etc. what a deal! I just have to go to church, blindly worship an omnipotent being and I don't have to deal with my teenager? Sign me up! So long as I spend $250,000 over 37 years I'm certain to go to heaven and live for eternity worshiping a God that would send me to hell if I didn't blindly follow him. What a joke! It's because of this you have people like her. It's God's will... HA!

    June 24, 2010 at 11:16 am |
  12. Tina

    It is not apples to oranges. It's bigotry and hatred any way you slice it. I find it a tad hypocritical that many of the people who have been fighting for equal rights for minorities are the same ones who do not want gays to have rights. Gays choose to be outed?? Ummm why shouldn't they be allowed to live their lives open and free just like the rest of us? It's akin to mixed-race people who pretended to be white if they were light-skinned enough so that they could live their lives with freedom and respect. Should they still be forced to do that??

    June 24, 2010 at 11:14 am |
  13. skier31

    If she is so opposed to the whole gay marriage thing, then why did she go to the ceremony? And as far as getting her money back, is she going to give it to another church? Is she going to re-file all her taxes since she wants to get her "charitable" contributions back? I guess charity only counts if it is for people you like. Good thing people who donate to Salvation Army etc.... don't feel the way she does.

    June 24, 2010 at 11:14 am |
  14. atlantaRN

    hypocrisy. the battle in the black church is only there when convenient. How about the record numbers of illegitimate children that are born to parishioners that is soo widespread..no one talks about that probably because nearly 80 percent of the black church would ceast to exist. this is one of hte main reasons i left organized religion so long ago

    June 24, 2010 at 11:14 am |
  15. mi

    To everyone that thinks this women is justified... you are THE MOST ignorant people on this planet. Just know that you are slimy people and people should be suing you for being so incredibly out of line.

    June 24, 2010 at 11:14 am |
  16. cdw

    That's the problem. The history books and what you learn in school is totally wrong

    June 24, 2010 at 11:13 am |
    • skier31

      Not if you have a good teacher.

      June 24, 2010 at 11:17 am |
  17. swiss536

    It still amazes me how so many people (not even just Christians) pick and choose which parts of their religious doctrine to believe or not believe. People love to use religion to justify their bigotry.

    June 24, 2010 at 11:13 am |
  18. april

    I am a Christian. I try really hard not to judge others, for all people sin and fall short of the glory of God. That being said, according to the Bible, to lie with men as women is a sin. It's right there, in the New Testament. Granted- it is listed in the same verse as other sins, such as lying and stealing. So while it is wrong for anyone guilty of sin (everyone) to judge another sinner, we do not throw parades for liars. We do not fight in court for the rights of thieves. I firmly believe in live and let live, I don't pretend to know that I will be forgiven for my sins, or that anyone else won't. But a church who follows the teachings of Jesus has to acknowledge that sin of any kind should be repented from, not celebrated.

    June 24, 2010 at 11:11 am |
    • Damon

      I agree with all that you've said. However, if you are a Christian, have faith and KNOW that your sins are forgiven.

      June 24, 2010 at 11:18 am |
    • Matt

      So.... Straight married couples don't lie? Presumably pretty much all churches will marry a straight couple without needing to prove that they never lie. It seems like churches are trying to pick and choose which sins to ignore.

      June 24, 2010 at 11:43 am |
    • MaiaD

      Um, actually, April, that line is in the OLD testament. Geez, I'm not a Christian, I am gay and even I know that!!!

      BTW: your book says nothing about women "lying together", so I'm guessing you Bible thumpers don't have a problem with lesbian marriages?

      June 24, 2010 at 1:07 pm |
    • bobcat1a

      April; do you follow the rest of Leviticus as well or do you just pick and chose the parts of the bible you follow?

      June 24, 2010 at 4:33 pm |
    • Selfish Gene

      April, that is the rhetoric of the westboro church. Are you sure you don't mean OLD testament??
      In the same book you cling to, it says you cannot wear blended fabric. No poly cotton church t-shirts or you are damned to hell. ~Lev 19:19

      And here is one I just love. Make sure you buy the slave girl before raping her. BUT If you don't, go sacrifice a ram. and its all good.

      Lev 19:20 " 'If a man sleeps with a woman who is a slave girl promised to another man but who has not been ransomed or given her freedom, there must be due punishment. Yet they are not to be put to death, because she had not been freed.
      21 The man, however, must bring a ram to the entrance to the Tent of Meeting for a guilt offering to the LORD.
      22 With the ram of the guilt offering the priest is to make atonement for him before the LORD for the sin he has committed, and his sin will be forgiven.

      It's your bible. Why do atheists know more about it?

      June 25, 2010 at 10:42 am |
  19. bostonjim

    I only object when it's three men- mostly just because I never cared for Steve Guttenberg.

    June 24, 2010 at 11:10 am |
  20. Tee Cee

    Do any of you people read the bible? We are all born into sin and have sinful tendencies so yes they may have been born that way. But, people are also born with the tendency to murder, lie, steal and commit adultery. Should it be acted on? NO..it's wrong and it's not just this womans belief it's in the bible....READ IT FOR YOURSELF and STOP JUDGING HER!!!!

    June 24, 2010 at 11:10 am |
    • Jen

      Lying and committing adultery are not punishable by law, so why should gay marriage be? Murder and theft are because 1. you are taking another's life, which you have no right to and 2. you are stealing the products by which someone makes their living or personal items that you have no right to. You have the right to marry whomever you love because you're straight. Why shouldn't gays be "allowed" to marry whomever they fall in love with?

      June 24, 2010 at 11:18 am |
    • GI Female (vet)

      The Bible was written via man. Translated multiple times, and tailored to fit those with the most money. I’m a God fearing woman; I don’t need the exact words of the Bible to guide me. I have faith in the Lord, a good heart and head on my shoulders. I can’t recall ever having a tendency to do harm to another..

      June 24, 2010 at 12:32 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.