August 22nd, 2013
03:07 PM ET

Gay detective's mother booted from church

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
[twitter-follow screen_name='EricCNNBelief']

(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. oldguy68

    Kind of reminds me of "Harper Valley PTA"

    August 23, 2013 at 10:45 am |
  2. Darwin was right

    The whole driving force behind RELIGION is EXCLUSION. You exclude in order to FEEL SUPERIOR to everyone else who doesn't agree with you. And religion allows you to feel even better about your superior status when you can believe that all the excluded outsiders are GOING TO HELL, YEE – AYYY! If this lady would stop believing in a magic white guy with a beard who lives in the sky, then she wouldn't have this unpleasant experience with bigoted Christians.

    August 23, 2013 at 10:44 am |
    • tb63

      Sums it up perfectly. The Westboro Baptist Church is the ultimate display of that self-declared superiority.

      August 23, 2013 at 11:01 am |
  3. NYVeteran

    And here is Christianity in a nutshell. Ignorance, hatred, fear and isolation. I am very proud of the younger generation for abandoning organized religion (an oxymoron) in drove.

    August 23, 2013 at 10:39 am |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

      Religion isn't all bad. It does inspire people to do good and religious organisations are very good for providing healthcare and education in the developing world.

      August 23, 2013 at 10:45 am |
    • Raj

      I'm sorry – I don't agree with that.
      When Pope Benedict said "Who am I to judge", why are these people still stuck!
      I'm not even Christian – I'm a Hindu and I like the new Pope – he really is the Religious Preacher for the world.

      August 23, 2013 at 10:56 am |
    • newathiest

      Hallelujah! And, whoever said religion isn't "bad" obviously doesn't know what organized religion is responsible for 95% of all wars though out the span of civilized human existence. Religion is not very civil if you ask me.

      August 23, 2013 at 10:58 am |
      • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

        Power and money are the main causes of war. Religion comes a distant third in this race.

        August 23, 2013 at 11:00 am |
        • Doc Vestibule

          Religious arguments have historically been the most often used rationalizations for war, whether the true motvation was power or money....

          August 23, 2013 at 11:20 am |
    • Jack

      The hypocrisy of religion. Isn't it grand. What these bible thumpers are forgetting when using the bible to back up their fear and hatred is the section on judge not lest ye be judged.

      August 23, 2013 at 11:03 am |
  4. Elleuthera

    Any religion that preaches hate and discrimination is NOT pure religion, if you're going to use God's name and Christ name then preach love and peace because that's what Chruches are about. You can believe whatever you want to believe and of course some of you "HARD CORE" religious people will ALWAYS deny this but the TRUTH is 99% of the bibles are MAN MADE with higher religion leaders openions expressed in those bibles and use God's and Chris's name to scare people, and it has proven so. And yes i am Christian too but I don't believe everything I'm told to.

    August 23, 2013 at 10:37 am |
    • Observer


      Many more Christians should be like you.

      August 23, 2013 at 10:43 am |
      • You're almost there

        Majority of Christians are like Elleuthera, but there's no excitement about talking about people who good in the world. That's why you hear about people bashing gays – it's a hot topic and is bound to get ratings.

        August 23, 2013 at 10:58 am |
      • You're almost there

        Before the grammar police show up:

        1) excitement *in talking

        2) who *do good.

        August 23, 2013 at 11:01 am |
  5. Sam

    Yeah, I'm sure it says somewhere in the bible "thou shalt judge or get kicked out of church" or somesuch. Right?

    And where it says "there is none righteous" well, hmm. Must have been a typo.

    But then we get to the story of the pharisee and the publican, where it very clearly says that God is a lot happier with a confessed sinner than he is with a judgmental self-righteous you-know-what. The Bible makes it clear that Homer Simpson has every bit as much chance to get into heaven as Ned Flanders does. If you're concerned about this for you or your loved ones, may I suggest you go back and re-read this part. There's something important here for all of us. Not to mention that whole John 3:16 thing where people seem to miss the "whosoever believeth" part.

    Seriously, it's okay. You can be a sinner and still go to church. Every single person in there is a sinner too. And if you don't go, God still loves you. Don't forget to call or write.

    And try not to be a judgmental self-righteous you-know-what. It's not a good look for you.

    August 23, 2013 at 10:36 am |
  6. emma

    While I support the rights of believers to have their beliefs [however arcane, judgemental, etc.] to boot someone out of a church because their child is [openly] gay seems rather harsh, if not a perverse misreading of God's message. If someone stood by their child through a criminal trial, though theft and murder are specifically condemned in the commandments, would they also be told to leave the church?

    August 23, 2013 at 10:32 am |
  7. amisc

    Is it fair to assume that this church stones adulterers? More likely, they behave like all the others, where they pick & choose what parts of the Bible they will take literally, what parts they will interpret themselves, and what parts they will ignore totally.

    August 23, 2013 at 10:31 am |
    • Travel

      My church does not ignore any part of the Bible. Take Leviticus, for example. It was written by and for the tribe of Levites. It was a priestly code that people chose to follow in an attempt to make themselves pure for God. It is not like God wants us to follow that ancient lifestyle. But learning about the flawed and hypocritical people of that time helps us to understand how God can utilize us.

      August 23, 2013 at 10:44 am |
  8. Clouds 9

    Well, it is Tennessee. Silly kkkristians

    August 23, 2013 at 10:31 am |
  9. Lesley

    I am a Christian and it makes me sick when I hear about such judgmental and cold "Christians/churches" as these people. I wouldn't step foot inside a place with people like that. Fortunately not all churches are like that. Some of the most mean people I have known have "said" they are Christian, and yet some of the kindest people I have known are gay. We need to be kind, loving, and welcoming to ALL people. It's not easy being gay; thank goodness this woman has a supportive mother. Shame on that church for kicking her out. I hope she finds a new supportive church. They are out there. A good book by Adam Hamilton is "When Christians Get It Wrong?"

    August 23, 2013 at 10:30 am |
  10. gg

    This is exactly why Christians get trashed by so many people. I am a born again Christian and I deplore this church's position on this. There is no biblical basis for their demand and as for the St. Mark verse it refers to the evil conduct of someone inside the church. This woman did nothing. This saddens me greatly.

    August 23, 2013 at 10:28 am |
  11. Sure

    "They will know we are Xtians by our love, by our love... yes they'll know we are Xtians by our love."

    August 23, 2013 at 10:28 am |
  12. Jason Young Guy

    So many people or Christians use so many verses to support their own belief within Christianity. However, it's amazing how few of us treat Christ as a living spirit in a personal, real, relationship within us.

    As a retired Concert Pianist and Christian Concert Pianist, I've performed in many, many Churches of all sizes, and I can tell when I walk through the doors, if the Holy Spirit is alive in the Church. People think just because a building is deemed a Church, it is truly just that, a Church.

    A Church is the embodiment of the people, and they determine the dwelling of God within that House. When Christ died, He did not die with the times, He is alive and well in today's time, causing us to judge based upon our hearts. People forget a lot of the books in the Bible were written by man, edited by man, and deliberately structured for the Church during certain times. Those Authors died with the times they lived, unlike Christ who lives eternal in today's times.

    It doesn't mean we don't abide by moralistic standards, but we develop as a human society and species the way God intended. God is not narrow minded nor living in Biblical times.

    So I prayed and asked God about this. The biggest wrong Christ has told me "personally" on this matter when I asked, is the people of Him cast the judgement of one onto the shoulders of another who is not responsible but for her own life. That judgement and wrongful casting of burden onto another is worse than the thoughts they hold in their minds of her son, that He knows what's being said under the breath.

    So real Christians know the real Christ and have a real, living and personal relationship, in which, their decisions and choices in life are based upon His guidance and not the embodiment surrounding a man made doctrine deemed ordained by their own just. Have a blessed one, and may God grant that woman peace within her and her sons life. In my humble opinion.

    August 23, 2013 at 10:27 am |
    • emma

      Um, did you actually read the story? She was asked to leave because her daughter is gay; not her son.

      August 23, 2013 at 10:35 am |
      • watergirl

        *facepalms* you just totally missed their point.

        August 23, 2013 at 10:48 am |
      • Jason Young Guy

        Yes I did, and I stated that I meant her daughter. Daughter or son, it applies to both my friend.

        September 7, 2013 at 11:06 am |
    • Travel

      Thank you! God is alive and available today!

      August 23, 2013 at 10:36 am |
    • watergirl

      This is probably one of the more insightful things I have read, written by a Christian. It is intelligent and thoughtful. I love your second paragraph.

      August 23, 2013 at 10:49 am |
    • Madtown

      The biggest wrong Christ has told me "personally" on this matter
      Can you describe in detail how this interaction went? What did he say? What method of communication was used?

      August 23, 2013 at 11:02 am |
  13. Catholic Priest

    Gay s e x is bad, unless you are a priest and your partner is under the age of 13.

    August 23, 2013 at 10:25 am |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

      Then it's not gay s.ex so.

      August 23, 2013 at 10:29 am |
  14. sybaris

    The difference between me and your god is if I saw a child being ra.ped I would try to stop it.

    August 23, 2013 at 10:24 am |
    • MarkinFL

      Yeah, but it was probably ordered by their god.

      August 23, 2013 at 10:34 am |
  15. jim

    Mankinds greatest sin was the creation of religion.

    August 23, 2013 at 10:19 am |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

      And reality television, specifically 'talent' shows.

      August 23, 2013 at 10:22 am |
      • truthprevails1

        Hey! Survivor is a great reality show. Although Dancing With the Stars is a very different story.

        August 23, 2013 at 10:24 am |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

          Personally, I find Survivor akin to having Torquemada playing ping-pong with my balls.

          August 23, 2013 at 10:28 am |
        • ME II

          Gladiator games.
          Circuses and bread.

          August 23, 2013 at 10:32 am |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

          ME II

          Exactly, or Prolefeed, as Orwell put it.

          August 23, 2013 at 10:34 am |
        • emma

          I'd sooner flossy molars with razor wire than be subjected to 'reality tv'. ["Amazing Race" being the exception unless the couples get shrill.]

          August 23, 2013 at 10:36 am |
    • The bearded one

      Highly agreed. Though as a small ray of hope, i've started to notice the church in any respect acting alot like its being backed into a corner. we may not have to worry about it for much longer.

      August 23, 2013 at 10:26 am |
    • Elleuthera


      August 23, 2013 at 10:41 am |
  16. Bill Deacon

    'When the evil conduct of one person begins to affect others, you should not show long-suffering; and instead of your own advantage you should seek that of the others, so that they may be saved. For virtue involving many people is more valuable than virtue involving only one.'

    St. Mark the Ascetic

    August 23, 2013 at 10:18 am |
    • jim

      The United States has the First Amendment to protect people from St. Mark the Ascetic and his followers.

      August 23, 2013 at 10:21 am |
    • HotAirAce

      Sounds like this dude would advise the RCC to come completely clean on priestly pedophilia and the criminals within the RCC that are covering it up.

      August 23, 2013 at 10:22 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      "It is a truism that almost any sect, cult, or religion will legislate its creed into law if it acquires the political power to do so, and will follow it by suppressing opposition, subverting all education to seize early the minds of the young, and by killing, locking up, or driving underground all heretics."

      – R.A. Heinlein

      August 23, 2013 at 10:23 am |
      • Catholic Priest


        August 23, 2013 at 10:24 am |
      • sybaris

        This is why Vacation Bible School should be banned

        August 23, 2013 at 10:25 am |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

          No, it shouldn't.

          August 23, 2013 at 10:32 am |
      • emma

        Thank God for the separation of church and state...and long may it wave.

        August 23, 2013 at 10:38 am |
      • Milton Platt

        Great quote!!! This can be seen playing out in the Middle east, and here in the USA as well.

        August 23, 2013 at 10:46 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      St. Mark kinda painted God as a despotic overlord.
      "A master is under no obligation to reward his slaves; on the other hand, those who do not serve him well are not given their freedom."

      August 23, 2013 at 10:30 am |
    • gg

      Very poor application of this verse.

      August 23, 2013 at 10:30 am |
    • Observer

      The "evil conduct" here is the hypocrisy of the church members.

      August 23, 2013 at 10:41 am |
  17. sybaris

    Religion, a filthy perverted disease of the mind

    August 23, 2013 at 10:17 am |
  18. gggg

    Once again, a religious organization has shown just how "forgiving" they can be. If I were a member of that church, I'd switch to one that I could claim to be a member of without feeling ashamed. And with this particular person it is apparent that there is absolutely nothing that needs "forgiveness". She is guilty only of loving her family. Yes, my religious affiliation is "none". And this is one of the reasons.

    August 23, 2013 at 10:16 am |
  19. sftommy

    another "Church of Christ" that doesn't follow the teachings of Jesus...same problem with much of the "Right Wing Christians" they've totally missed the message Jesus taught.

    Christian Conservatives are Americans pagans?

    August 23, 2013 at 10:14 am |
  20. pixelmeow

    What true Christians. This should never be done.

    Leviticus 19:18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.

    Ephesians 4:32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

    John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

    John 3:11 For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.

    Quotes from http:// www. openbible. info/topics/ love_your_enemies (remove spaces).

    August 23, 2013 at 10:14 am |
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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.