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. Mike

    F____ing christians!

    August 22, 2013 at 4:11 pm |
    • Ed

      May God punish you.

      August 22, 2013 at 4:33 pm |
      • Dyslexic doG

        since there is no god, I think Mike is safe. 🙂

        August 22, 2013 at 4:37 pm |
  2. Steve S

    I'm surprised her Church didn't burn her at the stake?

    August 22, 2013 at 4:11 pm |
    • Miss Y

      Dramatic much? Good grief. While I happen to disagree with them, the church has a right to enforce whatever philosophy they choose to embrace. If this is what they're like she's better off finding a more tolerant church.

      August 22, 2013 at 4:18 pm |
  3. Dyslexic doG

    and Christians proudly claim that morals and family values are a direct result of christianity and that without christianity mankind would revert to evil acts.

    well Christians, so much for that flocking theory!

    Christopher Hitchens would be laughing hysterically!

    August 22, 2013 at 4:11 pm |
    • The really for real Scotsman

      No one cares what ol Chrissy would think.

      August 22, 2013 at 4:26 pm |
  4. Mike

    and this is exactly why people are leaving "the church"

    August 22, 2013 at 4:10 pm |
  5. JLG

    Reason number 147 why I'm atheist.

    August 22, 2013 at 4:10 pm |
  6. Sherri

    The bible also says to use a stick no bigger than your thumb to beat your wife. It says to cut off a person's hands if they steal, poke out their eye etc. We don't do those things any longer. So don't keep saying 'the bible says it's wrong' etc. The bible says a lot of things. That does not make them right. The bible was written by human men. Men living 2000 years ago in a very different world. People used the bible to justify slavery also. And to deny women the right to vote. The bible has been used to justify everything over the years. It is a book. Nothing more. A book written by men.

    August 22, 2013 at 4:10 pm |
    • Maria Tomkins

      I could not have said it better myself. I agree with you 100% Sherri. Well said!

      August 22, 2013 at 4:25 pm |
  7. Donna

    What a bunch of hypocrites. Shame on them. This mother has done nothing... We are all suppose to love one another, it says so in God's word.

    August 22, 2013 at 4:10 pm |
    • RobK

      Do we love someone if we do not warn them of the danger they are facing? Does love mean that we support everything our family members do? Even lying, theft, murder, ...? I think not.

      August 22, 2013 at 4:15 pm |
      • truthprevails1

        What danger??? You can't equate LGBT to murder or theft. These people do not choose to be LGBT, they are born this way. They are not committing any crime by being who they are.

        August 22, 2013 at 4:20 pm |
        • Sara

          One assumes he means the danger of going to hell.

          August 23, 2013 at 10:38 pm |
        • truthprevails1

          It's that or the 'potential danger to children'.

          August 24, 2013 at 5:32 am |
    • Mary Poppins

      And God's word IS.........................Ohhhhhhhhhhh supercalifragilisticexpealadocious, even though the sound of it is something quite atrocious!

      August 23, 2013 at 10:26 pm |
  8. Wrong again

    Once again, this shows how non-Christian, Christian people can be.

    August 22, 2013 at 4:09 pm |
    • RobK

      The comments here show more how unChristian the non-Christians are then anything else.

      August 22, 2013 at 4:16 pm |
      • BIllB

        Your comment shows what an ignorant jacka$$ you are.

        August 22, 2013 at 4:20 pm |
      • truthprevails1

        I'm thankful to be unchristian. It enables me to keep an open mind and doesn't give me an excuse to be a bigoted ass...we non-christians don't need a book to tell us who we can and can't love or how to treat people....we're not so weak.

        August 22, 2013 at 4:23 pm |
        • Rett

          "It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick....i did not come to call the righteous but sinners"

          August 22, 2013 at 10:45 pm |
  9. Woody

    The bible is little more than a book of compiled stories written by people as they saw the world 2,000 years ago . The human is but a mammal on the planet earth and Men still like to rule the world with ignorance using a book that was man written . Religion is man made and little more than a business that sells something that may or may not exist for money . Lots of Christians want to believe Jesus was a white european too but in reality would have looked more like Mr. Obama as Jesus if he was was born on the continent of Asia at Asia minor . Man simply makes the rules to his taste when in actuality the only rules are owned by nature .

    August 22, 2013 at 4:09 pm |
    • Miss Y

      I seriously doubt that many people think Jesus was a "white European"; that's a gross generalization.

      August 22, 2013 at 4:20 pm |
      • Lefty Coaster

        Millions of portrait paintings in Christian homes across this nation disagree with you 🙂 It's absurdly rare in the US to find a depiction of Jesus as anything other than Caucasian, don't you think?

        August 22, 2013 at 4:37 pm |
  10. Wrong again

    Once again, this show show how non-Christian, Christian people can be.

    August 22, 2013 at 4:08 pm |
  11. rich

    Given a stark choice between family and church, family will overwhelmingly win.

    August 22, 2013 at 4:07 pm |
  12. pauleky

    Seems most Christians are the most un-Christian people on the planet. If they think their god will reward them for this ignorance and hate, they'll be sadly mistaken. If Hell exists, they will surely be there. Gays? If they're good people, I'm guessing not so much. This is 2013 – time to move out of the Dark Ages.

    August 22, 2013 at 4:07 pm |
    • Frank

      Or they are more Christian than normal, depending on your viewpoint.

      August 22, 2013 at 4:08 pm |
  13. RobK

    All the hate and vitriol in these comments seem to be coming from those that hate Christianity. Which is not a surprise, given the lack of hope that must reside in their hearts. All that is left is bitterness at the emptiness they must feel. How could one not feel pity and love for such a lost soul.

    August 22, 2013 at 4:06 pm |
    • pauleky

      You couldn't be more wrong.

      August 22, 2013 at 4:08 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG


      if you're Christian you must believe every word of the bible, so you must agree with this vile behavior. If you don't agree with this vile behavior, you must not believe every word of the bible so you are not a true Christian.

      according to Christians, the bible is the word of god. you can't pick some lines that you want to believe in and others you disregard!!! are you saying that you know better than god?!?!

      and you accuse Atheists of being arrogant! we know there is no god. you believe there is one but presume to know better than him. that's the ultimate arrogance (or the ultimate hypocrisy!).

      aaaaah the mind numbing foolishness of religion!

      August 22, 2013 at 4:08 pm |
      • @@

        @ Dyslexic doG
        You couldn't be more wrong about having to believe every word in the Bible. That is your narrow interpretation of Christianity. That is no different than this congregation's narrow interpretation of the Bible. Pot, meet kettle....

        August 22, 2013 at 4:14 pm |
        • The really for real Scotsman

          dog tends to define what is a true christian and what isn't. It's funny to see the fallacy played out so well.

          August 22, 2013 at 4:28 pm |
    • Sue

      Spot on!

      August 22, 2013 at 4:14 pm |
    • gadlaw2012

      It's not hate toward Christianity you are seeing, it's an acknowledgement of the utter lack of compassion in the philosophy of christianity which favors stone age ignorance and prejudices over science, compassion and reality. We see prejudice, ignorance and hate and point it out, your only defense is to say that we 'hate' christianity.

      August 22, 2013 at 4:15 pm |
      • RobK

        Of course it is hate. The world hates Christianity. Jesus said that it would be so. If we don't experience the hate of the world, perhaps we are not as Christian as we thought we were.

        August 22, 2013 at 4:19 pm |
    • camom

      Not really.. I was a Christian, and I saw all these ugly things that I dislike about Christianity. I wonder if the priest has soul. I wonder if the church is the place for deceit and discrimination. So I left. I still believe in God, but I don't believe in the church and the priests.

      August 22, 2013 at 4:15 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      I am atheist – or more accurately, a Naturalist.
      While I don't believe in anything supernatural, that doesn't mean I hate Christianity.
      I'm disdainful of some specific sects of Christianity for various reasons (like the Baptist, Mormon and Catholic churches) and dislike certain specific Christians as individuals.
      I have hope – just not in an afterlife of eternal bliss, and neither do I fear eternal torment.
      I am neither bitter nor empty inside. I live in wonderful home full of music and art and learning and laughter and plenty of love.
      I teach my kid about all sorts of religions! We've a big old bookshelf dedicated to the myths of any number of cultures through history. I live in what is arguable the most culturally diverse city in the world. I'm in a townhouse complex where all the children play together – Christian, Hindu, Muslim, pagan and secular.

      Careful with your assumptions there, RobK

      August 22, 2013 at 4:19 pm |
      • the_reader

        This is an excellent account. I have often noticed that so called atheists and agnostics know a lot more about religion than "regilious" people.

        August 22, 2013 at 5:24 pm |
  14. Blood of Christ

    Religion is, by far, the greatest scam ever perpetrated on humanity.

    August 22, 2013 at 4:06 pm |
    • The really for real Scotsman

      Nope, when your daddy said he was pleased that your momma got pregnant, THAT was the best scam of all time.

      August 22, 2013 at 5:33 pm |
  15. Loe

    Good move by the church. Gays are filth trying to indoctrinate children.

    August 22, 2013 at 4:06 pm |
    • The Lamb of Christ

      Yes, better to teach the children to hate than to love.

      August 22, 2013 at 4:07 pm |
    • pauleky

      The fact that you just called gays filth says a lot about you. I guess "judge not" can be ignored, right? Pathetic...

      August 22, 2013 at 4:08 pm |
    • truthprevails1

      1 out of 4 children will be born LGBT. This is a simple fact that can be proven.
      Care to explain what someone who is LGBT has EVER done to cause you direct harm in this world???

      August 22, 2013 at 4:09 pm |
      • sblome

        Hi truthprevails1 – I completely agree with you about people being born LGBT - it's not a choice. LGBT people deserve full rights as citizens. They certainly don't need persecution by narrow-minded religions. I would just like make a factual correction - surveys indicate about 3-5% of the population identifies as LGBT, so this would be about 1 in 20 kids born LGBT - even more reason to ensure the rights of a this relatively small minority group. I'm a straight ally and have been actively fighting for LGBT rights for several years.

        August 22, 2013 at 4:32 pm |
        • truthprevails1

          Thank you for that. I wonder how many have remained in the closet due to the persecution they know will happen. My niece is a lesbian and the wonderful Momma to a month old little girl. I have numerous friends who are LGBT and for them and all others I will continue to stand. I think it's a sad world we live in when we still see no much bigotry and hate. Sadly, as with everything else, change takes time...eventually the hate and bigotry will go away...just not soon enough.

          August 22, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
  16. Seyedibar

    "Gay Detective's Mother Booted From Church"

    You say that like it's a bad thing. Church is for dimwitted losers who willingly segregate themselves from society to mask their fear of real world science and history. No person needs a church, and likewise churches have no need of independent thinkers. Hence this decision benefits all involved for the better.

    August 22, 2013 at 4:05 pm |
  17. Frank

    Religion is wrong.

    August 22, 2013 at 4:05 pm |
  18. The Cross

    Think about it. Religion has actually convinced people that there's an invisible man living in the sky who watches everything you do, every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a special list of ten things he does not want you to do. And if you do any of these ten things, he has a special place, full of fire and smoke and burning and torture and anguish, where he will send you to live and suffer and burn and choke and scream and cry forever and ever 'til the end of time!

    But He loves you. He loves you, and He needs money! He always needs money! He's all-powerful, all-perfect, all-knowing, and all-wise, somehow just can't handle money! Religion takes in billions of dollars, they pay no taxes, and they always need a little more. Now, you talk about a good B S story. Holy ****!

    August 22, 2013 at 4:05 pm |
    • Frank

      I also heard one about a guy that lives in the north pole and gives out presents. Both are ridiculous, but at least Santa is a nice guy.

      August 22, 2013 at 4:07 pm |
      • Dyslexic doG

        and I read about Santa in a book, so he must be true!

        August 22, 2013 at 4:13 pm |
      • Michael

        Funny as hell! (oops)

        August 22, 2013 at 4:18 pm |
    • magnum12

      In the coming years, as evil powers continue to grow in the world, things will continue to worsen and the good people will continue to live as best they can among the wicked. Turmoil, chaos, oppression, and conflict will increase dramatically. Storms, earthquakes, calamities, plagues, and wars will intensify. The division between those who worship Christ with pure purpose of heart and those who worship the adversary of all righteousness will grow and become more obvious. There will be no fence sitters and all the world will be forced to choose between the two sides.Unfortunately, those who choose Christ will be a much smaller group. During these times, choosing to follow Christ will not be popular and will put those who so choose at odds with those in power. It will probably mean severe hardships, imprisonment and possibly even death (as we are now seeing in Muslim countries). There is a way for peace that alone will produce results, and that way is to keep the commandments of God. If that way were followed, all the problems that are so serious in the world could be solved, and peace would come to this unhappy earth. Though the world may be filled with distress, if we know that God lives, and our lives are righteous, we will be happy, there will be peace unspeakable because we know that God approves our of lives.

      August 22, 2013 at 4:13 pm |
      • ken

        If all sins were illegal and everyone obeyed the law, who would be righteous?

        August 22, 2013 at 4:30 pm |
    • BU2B

      George Carlin, classic.

      August 22, 2013 at 4:16 pm |
  19. Jumphigh

    God is the ultimate authority-period. If He says something is wrong, then it's wrong. It's NOT judging. It's reading and living by God's Word. Those who quote the 'judge not' verse....aren't YOU judging the church's actions??

    August 22, 2013 at 4:04 pm |
    • RobK

      We are to judge actions and doctrine to see if they are in accordance with God's Word. We do not judge the eternal destination of anyone's soul. That is in the hand of the Almighty.

      August 22, 2013 at 4:09 pm |
    • Luke

      The bible says its wrong. It also says that burning trees can talk, and that some dude named Jesus could walk on water.

      August 22, 2013 at 4:09 pm |
    • pauleky

      Um, yeah, but most of us don't believe in your sky fairy and his crazy book. Funny, I'm guessing you don't live by a lot of the tenants in that book. Pick and choose, just like all the others.

      August 22, 2013 at 4:09 pm |
      • Miss Y

        I think you mean "tenets" – tenants are people who rent your house, LOL (yeah, I'm a grammar Nazi, can't help it)

        August 22, 2013 at 4:26 pm |
        • Athy

          That isn't bad grammar, that's bad spelling.

          August 22, 2013 at 5:39 pm |
    • jrs

      wake up you fool...al they want is money...poor misguided...close mind

      August 22, 2013 at 4:10 pm |
    • Aalo

      But how do we know it's his words. Can't he come down and tell us in his voice? Isn't it HIS responsibility to guide the way?

      August 22, 2013 at 4:10 pm |
    • Galumbits

      It's great that you believe that, but unless this particular god spoke directly to someone and that conversation was witnessed by someone else, then where exactly is this god's word coming from? Oh yeah. From a Bible that's been altered by human men since the supposed word of god was written down.

      August 22, 2013 at 4:10 pm |
    • JP

      Which God? And which book are you reading? There's so many versions, why is yours the most "right?"

      August 22, 2013 at 4:11 pm |
    • truthprevails1

      That is gullibility at its finest. How weak of a person you are to need such a vindictive hateful god to worship!

      August 22, 2013 at 4:12 pm |
    • nullhogarth

      This is all moot; god does not exist. Why do you people persist in believing fairy tales? Look at reality as it is, either accept it and get along with it, or reject it and go mad, but don't try and tell people you've figured it out, because you haven't.

      August 22, 2013 at 4:12 pm |
    • Chef Sun

      May I ask if this god person called you on your mobile or used email to state his position? Would you mind forwarding the message to us?

      August 22, 2013 at 4:13 pm |
    • Revolution

      If God is real, then let God come and speak for itself. In the meantime, burn every church to the ground.

      August 22, 2013 at 4:20 pm |
      • RobK

        That's a good witness for atheism.

        August 22, 2013 at 4:25 pm |
  20. TonyInNYC

    I wonder what the median age is of people who attend that church.

    August 22, 2013 at 4:03 pm |
    • NuViZion.us

      Yeah that would certainly explain a lot.

      August 22, 2013 at 4:15 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.