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. Deist

    If your religion teaches you to hate another person, you do not have a religion, you have a mental illness!

    August 22, 2013 at 4:40 pm |
  2. AZpastor

    Sorry for the previous incomplete post.

    I'm a pastor and have been for more than 2 decades. This is wrong! As someone indicated, the mother shows her unconditional love for her child and she can't be faulted for that. Her daughter is a grown woman, an educated one obviously, who had made her choice in life and that she's obviously out of the realm of her mother. The mother can not do anything to change that. She can't disown her either, and this seems what the church wanted her to do. She supported and loved her daughter, she didn't stand infront of the church to rally or to force acceptance.

    Sin is sin, there are no "worse" ones. Take an example of a Christian person who is a habitual offender, say stealing, cheating on his wife, greedy, eating too much (yes, that too), or just pick and choose any of the literally hundreds of sins mentioned in the bible. Would anyone condemn his mother if she continues to love him unconditionally?

    This is so wrong on the church part. Jesus came to fulfill the Laws, so that you and I won't be subjected to such Laws for righteousness. Jesus himself was accused for associating w/ folks that the opposition condemned, and eventually killed Him because of it.

    Beware, the church has becoming more and more the OPPOSITION and not followers of Jesus.

    August 22, 2013 at 4:40 pm |
    • Madtown

      Good grief. God frowns upon you, for suggesting that someone is sinning by living as he(God) created them to be. You feel good going against God?

      August 22, 2013 at 4:42 pm |
    • KellyinBoston

      Pastor–Thank you for your kind words towards the family. But your reasoning is flawed in one essential way. The daughter no more "chose" to be gay than she chose to be human or female. God gives you your reality. Then you deal with it.

      August 22, 2013 at 4:55 pm |
      • ll

        Every single person in that church is a flawed sinner. The church structure itself is flawed. Why would they focus on one family looking for a way to kick them out? This church went on a hunt and gave in to their own ranking system of the types of people they hate the most & settled on this particular family. Not a Christian church.

        August 22, 2013 at 5:01 pm |
  3. leah

    When I went off to college, my church kicked me out because I didn't attend Sunday services – Presbyterian (PCA). I was away at college with no car. The pastor went a little screwy and sent out some type of ex-communication letters to the college kids a the time that weren't local. No telling what's on the letter they send out to other churches I might be interested in joining later. The local PCA organization had no problem with it.

    That's the Presbyterian (PCA) church for you there folks – to heck with you young folks and your educations...

    August 22, 2013 at 4:39 pm |
  4. Bob 'rehoboth-beach foodie" Yesbek

    The Lord has spoken. It was Gods will!

    August 22, 2013 at 4:38 pm |
  5. Murphy Smith

    Practice religion, get what you deserve. Pretty straightforward..

    August 22, 2013 at 4:37 pm |
  6. dragonfire0477

    And this is why people are leaving the church in record numbers. It has nothing to do with atheism, or any kind of 'militant attack' on the church...it's all about how they treat others...

    August 22, 2013 at 4:35 pm |
  7. Maria

    Wow, I never thought I'd say this, but I now admire the patriarchal hierarchy of the Catholic Church.

    August 22, 2013 at 4:35 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      We've been praying you would.

      August 22, 2013 at 4:37 pm |
      • Maria

        Sarcasm a bit too much to take, eh?

        August 22, 2013 at 4:38 pm |
        • Bill Deacon

          Maybe so, I didn't recognize it as sarcasm. I think the Catholic church has a very measured and nuanced stand on hom0s3xuality that lines up with the stand she takes on all sin. I continue to pray that reasonable people learn to differentiate that stand from unrestricted acceptance of immorality as well as from hypocritical pharisees.

          August 22, 2013 at 4:42 pm |
      • snowboarder


        August 22, 2013 at 4:40 pm |
  8. kenny

    all this because of a single line in a book of a thousand pages written thousands of years ago by dirt farmers and goat herders??? think about it for a sec or two.... now think about all the lines that YOU COMPLETELY IGNORE!!!!! ..... if god were real he'd be soooo disappointed in anti-gay bigots... so so disappointed...

    August 22, 2013 at 4:34 pm |
    • dana

      He is.

      August 22, 2013 at 4:42 pm |
    • Tom

      Well, actually there's more than a single line, but why quibble? You are on target. I (for real ) know one mother who is so convinced that her gay son is "the thing God hates" she has all but abandoned him-but not before verbally abusing him for years in attempting to "save his soul". That "Christian" mom actually believes the Bible (provenance wholly based upon its OWN allegations & her misguided "faith") over her son's heartfelt pleas.

      August 24, 2013 at 10:57 am |
  9. George

    those without sin cast the first stone ... ( I know I misquoted but you get the idea)

    August 22, 2013 at 4:34 pm |
    • LinCA


      You said, "those without sin cast the first stone"
      I'm without sin but don't think casting stones is very civilized. May I be excused?

      August 22, 2013 at 4:36 pm |
    • Reality

      John 8:7

      When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her."

      Said passage, as per many contemporary NT scholars, was not said by the historical Jesus. One reason for this conclusion is that it appears no where else in the scriptures.

      Actually, all of John's Gospel is of questionable historic value.

      To wit:

      From Professor Bruce Chilton in his book, Rabbi Jesus,

      "Conventionally, scholarship has accorded priority to the first three gospels in historical work on Jesus, putting progressively less credence in works of late date. John's Gospel for example is routinely dismissed as a source......

      From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gospel_of_John#Authorship

      "Since "the higher criticism" of the 19th century, some historians have largely rejected the gospel of John as a reliable source of information about the historical Jesus.[3][4] "[M]ost commentators regard the work as anonymous,"[5] and date it to 90-100."

      "The authorship has been disputed since at least the second century, with mainstream Christianity believing that the author is John the Apostle, son of Zebedee. Modern experts usually consider the author to be an unknown non-eyewitness, though many apologetic Christian scholars still hold to the conservative Johannine view that ascribes authorship to John the Apostle."

      And from Professor Gerd Ludemann, in his book, Jesus After 2000 Years, p. 416,

      "Anyone looking for the historical Jesus will not find him in the Gospel of John. "
      See also http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/john.html

      August 22, 2013 at 4:41 pm |
    • Russ

      @ George: you're quoting John 8:8.
      NOTE: John 8:11 Jesus says "Then neither do I condemn you. Go now & leave your life of sin."

      August 22, 2013 at 4:42 pm |
      • Johnny

        Yes, Jesus was without sin so he could judge, but nobody else could until they are without sin.

        August 23, 2013 at 12:57 pm |
  10. Robert

    Churches should have a say in who their membership is because, after all, their congregations are typically like-minded individuals. This doesn't mean that what some churches teach is necessarily right and therefore worth joining in the first place. Churches that have little or no tolerance for equal rights should be suspect from the start and worthy of ridicule and skepticism. Not everything is about the Bible, and those who choose to live that way are entirely way too close-minded and naïve to have any consequence on reality. Those kinds of people are welcome to each other.

    August 22, 2013 at 4:34 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      The headline is another CNN contrivance. If you read the article it states that the mother left the church of her own accord rather than retract her statements supporting her daughter. "Women leaves church to support daughter" doesn't generate as many hits though, does it?

      August 22, 2013 at 4:39 pm |
      • sam

        Well, she was given an ultimatum: recant or leave. It's not like she set her own terms.

        August 22, 2013 at 5:04 pm |
      • Athy

        It's like "either you resign or I'll fire you." Some choice, eh, Bill?

        August 22, 2013 at 5:47 pm |
    • sam

      Sounds like this family did the right thing in leaving this church.

      August 22, 2013 at 4:42 pm |
  11. AZpastor

    I'm a pastor and have been for more than 2 decades. This is wrong! As someone indicated, the mother shows her unconditional love for her child and she can't be faulted for that. Her daughter is a grown woman, an educated one obviously, who had made her choice in life and that she's obviously out of the realm of her mother. The mother can not do anything to change that. She can't disown her either, and this seems what the church wanted her to do. She supported and loved her daughter, she didn't stand infront of the church to rally or to force acceptance.

    Sin is sin, there are no "worse" ones. Take an example of a Christian person so is a habitual offender, say stealing, cheating on his wife, greedy, eating too much (yes, that too), or just pick and choose any of the literally hundreds of sins mentioned in th

    August 22, 2013 at 4:33 pm |
    • Madtown

      who had made her choice in life
      What choice has she made? To live as God created her?!

      August 22, 2013 at 4:38 pm |
  12. Malcolm in St Louis

    Tennessee plus religion = bigotry

    August 22, 2013 at 4:33 pm |
    • leah

      In no way is this JUST Tennessee.

      August 22, 2013 at 4:41 pm |
    • Gone

      Another state I'll pass up when it comes to where I travel and spend money.

      August 22, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
  13. Reality

    o "Abrahamics" like the members of the topic church believe that their god created all of us and of course that includes the g-ay members of the human race. Also, those who have studied ho-mo-se-xuality have determined that there is no choice involved therefore ga-ys are ga-y because god made them that way.

    To wit:

    1. The Royal College of Psy-chiatrists stated in 2007:

    “ Despite almost a century of psy-choanalytic and psy-chological speculation, there is no substantive evidence to support the suggestion that the nature of parenting or early childhood experiences play any role in the formation of a person’s fundamental heteros-exual or hom-ose-xual orientation. It would appear that s-exual orientation is biological in nature, determined by a complex interplay of ge-netic factors and the early ut-erine environment. Se-xual orientation is therefore not a choice.[60] "

    2. "Garcia-Falgueras and Swaab state in the abstract of their 2010 study, "The fe-tal brain develops during the intraut-erine period in the male direction through a direct action of tes-tosterone on the developing nerve cells, or in the female direction through the absence of this hor-mone surge. In this way, our gender identi-ty (the conviction of belonging to the male or female gender) and s-exual orientation are programmed or organized into our brain structures when we are still in the womb. There is no indication that social environment after birth has an effect on gender ident–ity or s-exual orientation."[8

    3. See also the From the Philadelphia Inquirer review “Gay Gene, Deconstructed”, 12/12/2011. Said review addresses the following “How do genes associated with ho-mose-xuality avoid being weeded out by Darwinian evolution?”
    "Most scientists who study human se-xuality agree that gay people are born that way. But that consensus raises an evolutionary puzzle: How do genes associated with h-omose-xuality avoid being weeded out by Darwinian evolution?"

    August 22, 2013 at 4:31 pm |
  14. Roger

    Clearly, the members of this church are Republicans.

    August 22, 2013 at 4:30 pm |
    • truehoosier62

      You're a complete idiot, as is anyone else who wants to blame the Rupublicans or Conservatives or Christians. The problem with that church is plain, old fashioned biggotry. It has no basis in Christianity, nor does it carry is clout with me, and I'm a Christian.

      August 22, 2013 at 4:35 pm |
      • sam

        This church is pretty convinced it's christian, espousing christian morals.

        August 22, 2013 at 4:44 pm |
    • John

      Clearly you are the one filled with hate and ignorance. Typical response from someone who has no clue

      August 22, 2013 at 4:44 pm |
      • John

        towards truehoosier62

        August 22, 2013 at 4:45 pm |
  15. vatoloke

    Those snake-charmer churches are bad for you anyway. No biggie Mrs. Cooper. You go lady!

    August 22, 2013 at 4:30 pm |
  16. CALiberal

    I wouldn't join any church that would have me as a member.

    August 22, 2013 at 4:30 pm |
  17. Doc Vestibule

    To those who like to condemn this and that from a fiery pulpit, how about you shut up and just sit quietly, smugly assured of your own salvation and everyone else's damnation.
    But keep it to yourself.

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

      What fun would that be?

      August 23, 2013 at 6:34 pm |
  18. randyb12

    Typical redneck hypocrites who know nothing of what Jesus' whole message and life was focused on...love, sacrifice and forgiveness. He never separated himself from sinners because they sinned.

    August 22, 2013 at 4:29 pm |
    • The really for real Scotsman

      Please define redneck. It seems that you are making judgements upon people for their geographical location.

      August 22, 2013 at 4:31 pm |
      • KellyinBoston

        Well, rural, ignorant, undereducated, cult-like belief system based on incorrect understanding of scriptures, generally unsuccessful in life. But I don't think that anyone is suggesting that this is isolated to the Southeast. I think that there are rednecks all over the US (just generally in poorer areas).

        August 22, 2013 at 5:05 pm |
  19. kieran walsh

    A few years back one of my sons called to tell me that he had been baptized into the Church of Christ. When I asked why he said that they had no rules, were very accepting and did not judge people.
    I told him to wait awhile and they would start to have rules and some of those rules would go against his beliefs.
    Time has proven me right.

    August 22, 2013 at 4:27 pm |
    • Russ

      @ kieran:
      FYI: the "United Church of Christ" is on the opposite end of the spectrum from the "Church of Christ."
      it sounds like your son is UCC, not CoC – an entirely different denomination.

      August 22, 2013 at 4:31 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      If there are no rules, what did the Baptism accomplish?

      August 22, 2013 at 4:34 pm |
      • sam

        I'm going to have to guess....(nothing).

        August 22, 2013 at 4:45 pm |
        • Johnny

          Keep in mind that whether the church has rules or not the answer is still nothing.

          August 23, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
  20. Reality

    This family should consider themselves fortunate as they no longer belong to a church/religion that is in fast decay from its very flawed history and theology. Added details available upon written request.

    August 22, 2013 at 4:26 pm |
    • The really for real Scotsman

      Please try to educate yourself. Religion does not equal church. Duh.

      August 22, 2013 at 4:29 pm |
      • Reality

        As requested: i.e. more information on the decay of Christianity and its various Churches.

        Definition of Church:

        : a building for public and especially Christian worship

        : the clergy or officialdom of a religious body
        often capitalized : a body or organization of religious believers: as
        a : the whole body of Christians

        b : denomination

        c : congregation

        : a public divine worship

        : the clerical profession

        Jesus was an illiterate Jewish peasant/carpenter/simple preacher man who suffered from hallucinations (or “mythicizing” from P, M, M, L and J) and who has been characterized anywhere from the Messiah from Nazareth to a mythical character from mythical Nazareth to a ma-mzer from Nazareth (Professor Bruce Chilton, in his book Rabbi Jesus). An-alyses of Jesus’ life by many contemporary NT scholars (e.g. Professors Ludemann, Crossan, Borg and Fredriksen, ) via the NT and related doc-uments have concluded that only about 30% of Jesus' sayings and ways noted in the NT were authentic. The rest being embellishments (e.g. miracles)/hallucinations made/had by the NT authors to impress various Christian, Jewish and Pagan sects.

        The 30% of the NT that is "authentic Jesus" like everything in life was borrowed/plagiarized and/or improved from those who came before. In Jesus' case, it was the ways and sayings of the Babylonians, Greeks, Persians, Egyptians, Hitt-ites, Canaanites, OT, John the Baptizer and possibly the ways and sayings of traveling Greek Cynics.


        For added "pizzazz", Catholic theologians divided god the singularity into three persons and invented atonement as an added guilt trip for the "pew people" to go along with this trinity of overseers. By doing so, they made god the padre into god the "filicider".

        Current RCC problems:

        Too many pedophiliac priests, an all-male, mostly white hierarchy, atonement theology and original sin!!!!

        Luther, Calvin, Joe Smith, Henry VIII, Wesley, Roger Williams, the Great “Babs” et al, founders of Christian-based religions or combination religions also suffered from the belief in/hallucinations of "pretty wingie thingie" visits and "prophecies" for profits analogous to the myths of Catholicism (resurrections, apparitions, ascensions and immacu-late co-nceptions).

        Current problems:
        Adulterous preachers, pedophiliac clerics, "propheteering/ profiteering" evangelicals and atonement theology,

        August 22, 2013 at 4:37 pm |
        • The really for real Scotsman

          As requested, religion does not equal church.

          Again, educate yourself. Btw, throwing around irrelevant copy/paste isn't educating yourself.

          August 22, 2013 at 5:31 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.