August 22nd, 2013
03:07 PM ET

Gay detective's mother booted from church

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
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(CNN)–The mother of a gay detective has been booted from the Tennessee church she attended for decades.

Elders at Ridgedale Church of Christ told Linda Cooper and two relatives that their public support for Kat Cooper, Linda Cooper's gay daughter, went against the church's teachings, local media reported. In a private meeting, reports say, Linda Cooper was given a choice: publicly atone for their transgressions or leave the church.

Linda left the church.

Kat Cooper is a detective with the Collegedale Police Department. This month, she fought successfully for health benefits for her same-sex spouse, Krista, from the town.

The Board of Commissioners passed a resolution allowing for same-sex partner benefits, becoming the first city in Tennessee to do so.

Along the way, the mother publicly supported her daughter. That support appears to have led to a rift with her church.

"My mother was up here and she sat beside me. That's it," Kat Cooper told the Times Free Press of Chattanooga. "Literally, they're exiling members for unconditionally loving their children - and even extended family members."

"Her answer to them ... is that she had committed no sin in her mind. Loving her daughter and supporting her family was not a sin," Kat Cooper's father, Hunt Cooper, told CNN affiliate WTVC. "There was nothing to repent about. They certainly couldn't judge her on that because that was between her and her God, and it was not their place to judge her for that."

"The sin would be endorsing that lifestyle," Ken Willis, a minister at Ridgedale Church of Christ, told to the Times Free Press. "The Bible speaks very plainly about that."

The news enflamed the passions of critics and supporters of the church's action.

A phony Facebook page for the church was created by one critic, who posted glib messages affirming same-sex marriage shortly after the controversy went viral. "There's nothing about girl on girl in Leviticus," one post reads.

Mary Sturdibint, a Collegedale resident, told WTVC, "I don't think they should be kicked out of church. If you're going to kick out someone, it needs to be the two that are same-sex that's married. I do believe in that."

Willis declined an on-camera interview with WTVC but released a written statement.

"This is an in-church private issue. Because emotions are so inflamed at this point, I choose not to comment any further," it read.

"The church is overseen by elders. I am a minister, not a pastor and therefore, do not have the authority to speak further on this. The news is getting mixed reviews."

Multiple calls to the church and the Coopers by CNN were not returned.

Church of Christ structure

What happens next for the small suburban church remains unclear.

There is no denomination to hand down an edict praising or condemning the local church's decision.

Churches of Christ are a loosely joined group of independent churches that are autonomous by design. There is no denominational oversight, formal structure or even a denomination headquarters.

Local churches are governed by appointed elders in a structure the church traces to the early followers of Jesus described in the New Testament, said Ronald Highfield, a professor of religion at Pepperdine University.

"They're organized in congregations with their own local leadership so that no other congregation, no set of congregations, no convention can exercise any ecclesiastical discipline over another congregation," said Highfield, who is also an elder in his local Church of Christ congregation.

While there are no documents or position papers by the church on the issue of homosexuality and how members ought to interact with lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender family members, he said that on the issue of sexual orientation, churches in the denomination fall on a spectrum from progressive to conservative.

Most churches, Highfield said, hold a traditional Christian belief that sex is to be reserved for married men and women and that sex outside of that marriage arrangement is wrong, regardless of what the church believes about sexual orientation.

"There is an implicit covenant when you're a member of a congregation to adhere to the scriptures and the authority," he said.

So, he said, supporting a view that could be seen as undermining the teaching of the church could be grounds for excommunication.

Highfield was unfamiliar with this particular congregation until the story broke and said as for its decision, "whether it's just or fair, I'm not going to make a judgment."

Not a new issue

For decades, churches have wrestled with the issue of homosexuality, leading to splits and schisms of individual congregations and entire churches.

Some churches, like the Episcopal Church, have shifted from the traditional Christian position on marriage to now bless monogamous same-sex unions and perform same-sex marriages in states where they are legal.

While churches that have formally shifted their policies on same-sex marriage are in the minority, Americans' opinion of such marriage has shifted significantly from opposition to support.

A CNN/ORC poll conducted in June, when the Supreme Court was deciding the fate of the Defense of Marriage Act and the validity of a California law banning same-sex marriage, 55% of Americans said marriages between gay or lesbian couples should be recognized as valid. That marked an 11-point swing from 2008, when 44% of Americans said the unions should be legal.

The public outcry about the exile of the parents of a gay adult child from this Tennessee congregation seems to mirror this shift in public opinion.

Some pollsters and commentators have pointed to tension about same-sex marriage as a reason for an exodus from churches, particularly among young people.

Many mainline Protestant churches have seen a decline in membership, while pollsters have noted a steady increase in "nones," or people saying they have no religious affiliation. In its latest surveys, the Pew Forum on Faith and Public life puts "Nones" at 20% of the population.

Pew has also noted that at the same time younger Americans are leaving churches, older Americans are returning in a pattern that matches historical trends that have shown people become more religious as they get older.

Because there is no central office for Churches of Christ, reliable numbers on membership are difficult to come by.*

When the Ridgedale congregation next updates its membership rolls, it will be crossing out the Coopers. The family told the local newspaper they were devastated to leave a church where they had been active for 60 years.

For now, both the Coopers and their former church are standing by their own convictions, and after six decades of traveling together, they are heading in different directions.



Difficult, but not impossible. There are 12,438 Church of Christ congregations in the United States with 1.55 million adherents according to publisher 21st Century Christian's annual "Churches of Christ in the United States" which they have compiled since the 1970s.
H/t @BobbyRoss

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Church • Gay marriage • Gay rights

soundoff (3,329 Responses)
  1. may40

    If you don't agree with the Words of the Bible then you don't become a Christian. Not a big deal. There are plenty of religions that don't think anything of sin, she can go and join those churches/religions. You don't say a darn word about Islam and how they treat women so keep your mouth shut and mind your own business when it comes to Christianity. Btw, she wasn't booted she left because she didn't believe in the Word of God. As long as a Christian Church is not hurting anyone physically, leave your nose out of their business.

    August 22, 2013 at 8:01 pm |
    • midwest rail

      Prototypical contemporary evangelical Christian atti*tude – arrogant, condescending, and hateful. Well done !

      August 22, 2013 at 8:02 pm |
    • aldehyde

      That is a pretty BS response, the bible forbids TONS of things that modern christians do all the time.

      Leviticus 11:7-8 reads:
      And the swine, though he divide the hoof, and be clovenfooted, yet he cheweth not the cud; he is unclean to you.

      Of their flesh shall ye not eat, and their carcase shall ye not touch; they are unclean to you.

      Leviticus 19:28 states:
      Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD.

      Leviticus 19:27 states:
      Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard.

      Exodus 21:17 states:
      "And he that curseth his father, or his mother, shall surely be put to death."

      Give me a break, hypocrite.

      August 22, 2013 at 8:05 pm |
    • High Tide at Folding Canyon

      You your self should keep your fingers out of your boyfriend's backside cavity.

      August 22, 2013 at 8:06 pm |
    • Athy

      Great post, may40. Keep it up. You're doing atheism a great favor.

      August 22, 2013 at 8:14 pm |
    • Pam

      What's so funny about that is that just this morning God and his so-called illegitimate son, Jesus, said that that whole religion stuff is BS! Yep, God is actually a cool guy and turns out, Jesus isn't really his son! They just laugh and laugh at you bigoted, vicious, horrible christians. By the way, you're going straight to hell and Jesus, it turns out, is gay! Who knew?

      August 22, 2013 at 8:20 pm |
    • skarphace

      I am sorry, but the reason you become a Christian is not to obey the laws of the Church, but to build a personal relationship with God. If you do not understand this, then you are not truly a Christian, may40. Let other people worry about their personal relationship with God. Worry, instead, about your own.

      August 22, 2013 at 8:46 pm |
    • pothead

      Oh May, are you to struggling with doubts? You seem very uptight. We have all been there. We are here for you sweety.:-)

      August 22, 2013 at 10:15 pm |
  2. Charles Bowen Solomon Stone

    Why are the righteous so wrong ....Southern Christians are a lot like the Taliban but with their hand in your pocket instead of a knife at your throat.... What's the cost of christ in your church 10 to 15% or more...... After or Durring every service they pass the hat and the pastors get fat while their congrigation suffers their arrogance, what whould jesus say about that?Charles Bowen Solomon Stone

    August 22, 2013 at 7:59 pm |
  3. DocHollywood

    Yep, if there's a God and he/she's paying attention, then there will surely be a lot of parishners from this church that's headed to hell. Someday so-called Christians will learn to actually practice the Book they say should control all aspects of their lives. Someday.

    August 22, 2013 at 7:55 pm |
  4. Yinka Salaudeen

    What a shame, You booted someone from the church,while you go against a cardinal commandment of "thou shall not judge"

    August 22, 2013 at 7:53 pm |
  5. Evil Church

    This is the main reason why the christian religion is going down. Jesus never ever said a word about gays or even abortion. It was all made up by Paul the usurper. Lady, you are better not being a part of such a disgusting group. Jesus would never ever set foot in such a place.

    August 22, 2013 at 7:53 pm |
  6. MarK

    "We go to church to learn how to be more judgmental." Marge's response to Bart when he asks why they go to church. OUCH!

    August 22, 2013 at 7:47 pm |
    • Reason over faith

      Why are these supposed Christians so cruel? Because their faith is based on ignorance, not enlightenment.

      August 22, 2013 at 7:49 pm |
  7. jimmy

    wow. lucky she didn't let them know that she also believes the earth is round. they'd be burning her at the stake.

    August 22, 2013 at 7:46 pm |
  8. Miked

    Would the church ever boot someone that has a physical deformity? Or if they were born with both male and female genitals, like a hermaphrodite? Of course not because they were born that way. God put gays on earth to show us that there is a human soul in all of us, sometimes the outer shell doesn't match the soul inside. Humans are not perfect; sometimes the laws that humans write are not perfect neither. Just the Jesus came to change the Messiah laws, there will be new scrolls to be opened in the future (Read Rev 5:1-5). Also, remember, Matthew 7:1-2 "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."

    August 22, 2013 at 7:45 pm |
    • VelveteenLady

      Given the track record, it is useless to use biblical quotes in refuting bigots. They simply quote other parts of the Bible, to prove their point. Leave them to their own devices. It's between the exiled and their former church. Being exiled from a church that is not accepting of everyone, is a blessing. It gives this family a chance to seek out one, whose hearts will be open to them, without condition.

      August 22, 2013 at 8:08 pm |
  9. sisterchef

    The church is wrong. Their own operations manual says so. Here is to good, strong and loving parents.

    August 22, 2013 at 7:41 pm |
  10. markiejoe

    "The Bible speaks very plainly about that."

    No Pastor, the Bible does not speak plainly about "that" at all. In fact it barely mentions "that". And the couple times it does mention "that", it is badly translated and ambiguous within its contextual meaning.

    August 22, 2013 at 7:40 pm |
  11. Mrmagoo

    Wowsers!! Anchor had huge knockers mmmmm

    August 22, 2013 at 7:38 pm |
    • Another Thought For You

      Hey Magoo...marginalizing the anchor based on the size of her chest isn't any less offensive then what the church is doing. Grow up.

      August 22, 2013 at 7:51 pm |
    • VelveteenLady

      Dear Troll:
      I'm wondering how many bowls of ignorant you had for breakfast. You are proof that evolution can go in reverse.

      August 22, 2013 at 8:10 pm |
      • pothead


        August 22, 2013 at 10:23 pm |
  12. Jim P.

    " in a structure the church traces to the early followers of Jesus described in the New Testament" Needs the word "claims" in there as record keeping over 2,000 years is more than a bit sketchy to say the least especially for a church which does not seem to have existed prior to 150 years ago or so.

    August 22, 2013 at 7:38 pm |
  13. Jeff6187

    There are some wonderful churches out there. There are some horrible cults out there. Cults call themselves churches, but it doesn't make it so. The God of my understanding is inclusive, personal to anyone who wishes it, and concerned as much with love than anything. I think if God and various cult leaders sat down and listed all the sins, they two lists would be very different. It's for that reason that the churches to truly believe in and preach the word of God leave the judgement and punishment of sin to ... God!

    August 22, 2013 at 7:37 pm |
    • Reason over faith

      The only difference between a religion and a cult is the number of followers.

      August 22, 2013 at 8:01 pm |
      • VelveteenLady

        Your post doesn't even begin to make sense. Oh, I'll bet that you made up that little ditty that you posted. Try again and again. Eventually, you will get it right.

        August 22, 2013 at 8:13 pm |
  14. Nodack

    Doesn't surprise me one bit.

    August 22, 2013 at 7:37 pm |
  15. Malefique

    She's better off without church.

    August 22, 2013 at 7:37 pm |
    • Hello

      Everyone is!!

      August 22, 2013 at 7:41 pm |
      • Reason over faith

        The most deadly virus ever set upon mankind is organized religion. This church is pathetic with its narrow views and blatant ignorance of the teachings of their supposed savior.

        August 22, 2013 at 8:00 pm |
      • VelveteenLady

        You don't speak for me, so change the word "everyone".

        August 22, 2013 at 8:13 pm |
  16. Chuck

    Another example of those "good loving Christians" that we all look forward to having to put up with and their B.S. Hypocrites in auction....................

    August 22, 2013 at 7:32 pm |
    • Divdar

      Once again, someone trying to define and measure others based on their definition of Christianity. Try measuring yourself by your own standards.

      August 22, 2013 at 7:40 pm |
  17. snowdogg

    what would Jesus do?

    August 22, 2013 at 7:32 pm |
    • RobK

      Jesus would say "Go and sin no more."

      He also said "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law."

      August 22, 2013 at 7:45 pm |
      • Malcolm

        John 14:27 Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you.

        Gotta love the contradictions in that book! Maybe its time to join the modern age and stop following ancient myths. Modern morality wouldn't attempt to hurt a mother for supporting her daughter.

        August 22, 2013 at 8:12 pm |
    • seethetruth

      I think Jesus would say, shame on you...CHURCH people...for turning away anyone. Now if only our churches would ask ALL who are unworthy and have any sin be banished. That will never happen because money is too important to the organization of religion. I cannot understand this type of behavior. We are all sinners. Get rid of all the elders, deacons, priests who have sinned. The church would be empty. We need to rebuild the church just as we need to rebuild this nation of ours. May God have mercy on all of us and our wicked souls. Mercy that we do not extend to our fellow humankind.

      August 22, 2013 at 7:56 pm |
  18. Another Voice

    One of the key signs that differentiate cults from religions is that cults will try to separate family members from one another and true religions will not. This congregation is led by cultists.

    August 22, 2013 at 7:32 pm |
    • skarphace

      No. The only thing separating a cult from a religion is its acceptance in society. It wasn't long ago that the Mormon religion was considered a cult. As Mormonism is now accepted by our society, it is now widely regarded as a religion.

      On a different note, to somebody in a specific religion, all other religions are cults. To an atheist, all religions are cults. In other words, atheists consider x number of religions to be cults while religious people consider x-1 number of religions to be cults (where x is the total number of religions). Since at most one religion can be the true religion, the vast majority of people on this planet are in a cult, by any definition.

      August 22, 2013 at 7:46 pm |
      • Athy

        The difference between a cult and a religion: In a cult, the guy at the top is insane. In a religion, the guy at the top is dead.

        August 22, 2013 at 7:58 pm |
  19. skarphace

    The irony of our society is that although Christ taught forgiveness, love, and to not judge others, Christians are the often the most judgmental, unforgiving, and hateful of all groups in our society and it is often the atheists that are most accepting.

    August 22, 2013 at 7:30 pm |
    • skarphace

      In thinking about my comment, I thought of something that made it more ironic. Just imagine, if someone was to say to an atheist, "I am now an atheist," and the atheist was to respond, "But aren't you gay?" and then after a response in the affirmative was to further respond, "Well, then I am sorry, but we don't accept gays."

      If an atheist can accept a gay, and a Christian cannot, then what does it say about that Christian? Of the two, who is indeed more Christ-like?

      August 22, 2013 at 7:38 pm |
      • DJ

        forgiveness is different from acceptance..christ to her to repent ans sin no more..he never accepted sin except on the cross when he became sin so that all could be saved

        August 22, 2013 at 7:45 pm |
        • skarphace

          Yes, Christ did teach forgiveness. Too bad the elders of that church do not follow the teachings of Christ. Doubly bad for the children who are influenced by such non-Christ-like leaders.

          August 22, 2013 at 7:47 pm |
        • sandalista

          How did that work for him?

          August 22, 2013 at 7:57 pm |
      • Divdar

        I think you need to meet of Christians face to face. Christians are the first on the scene of disasters offering help. They give a larger portion or both time and money to charity than non-Christians. Progress we have made in science and medicine are due to a large part because of Christians (look how many hospitals or university have been founded by Christians). I can accept my brother, even though he is cheating on his wife, but I'm not going to lie for him. Does that mean that I am rejecting him? Absolutely not. If I am against gay rights, should a pro-gay group reject me from membership? Absolutely.

        I find more non-Christians judging others (see this message board) than Christians. Most tend to forget that their isn't anything different from a Christian to a non-Christian. They are exactly the same, with the same flaws and issues. They are just people. Non-Christians tend to judge Christians with to a moral standard of what they think Christians should think and act. Then they won't hold themselves to that same standard.

        August 22, 2013 at 7:50 pm |
        • skarphace

          I was not speaking of all Christians, Divdar. I went to Church most of my life and met many Christians who were indeed good people. However, many of them were indeed quite judgmental. Remember, the woman in this article got banned from her church merely because she refused to be judgmental of her own daughter.

          August 22, 2013 at 7:58 pm |
        • skarphace

          And speaking to your argument about "group membership", what are the requirements to joining the "group" of Christianity? As far as I have learned, the only requirement is that you accept Jesus Christ as your personal lord and savior. Therefore, your "membership" should not be determined by religious leaders, but by God himself. It is indeed a personal relationship between you and Christ.

          In addition, Jesus clearly taught that we should be "fishers of men", which means that Christians should find sinners and teach them the way of Christ. To reject sinners is to be in opposition with the teachings of Christ.

          August 22, 2013 at 8:04 pm |
    • DJ

      Practicing Christians should never accept sin.

      August 22, 2013 at 7:42 pm |
      • skarphace

        However, practicing Christians should ALWAYS accept sinners as we are all sinners. By not accepting people who commit a specific sin, the Church is giving up on trying to save them, and this is the biggest sin of all for a Church.

        August 22, 2013 at 7:49 pm |
      • Charles Bowen Solomon Stone

        Why are the righteous so wrong ....Southern Christians are a lot like the Taliban but with their hand in your pocket instead of a knife at your throat.... What's the cost of christ in your church 10 to 15% or more......Charles Bowen Solomon Stone

        August 22, 2013 at 7:52 pm |
      • Reason over faith

        DJ. You make no sense at all...i thought your mythogy states we are all sinners.

        August 22, 2013 at 7:56 pm |
  20. Skeptic

    Say 'No' to money is not something the church would do.

    August 22, 2013 at 7:30 pm |
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About this blog

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.