Date registered: Aug 2002
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Baptist minister pushes out members who oppose Bush
WAYNESVILLE, N.C. - A pastor has led a charge to kick out nine church members who refused to support President Bush, but ousted congregants are considering hiring a lawyer.
The Rev. Chan Chandler greeted people at the door of tiny East Waynesville Baptist Church last night as the church choir practiced. But he was not prepared to talk about his mixing of religion and politics in this mountain hamlet about 125 miles northwest of Charlotte.
"On the advice of counsel, I've been advised not to have any comment at this time," Chandler told the Associated Press. "We will have a statement later."
Members of the congregation said Chandler told them during the presidential campaign that anyone who planned to vote for Democratic nominee John Kerry needed to leave the church.
Longtime member Selma Morris, who was treasurer at the 100-member church, said Chandler's sermons remained political after Bush won re-election. This past week, his comments turned to politics again at a church gathering that ended with nine members voted out.
Morris said yesterday that some of the ousted members planned to meet with an attorney tomorrow to discuss their options. "We're hoping he [the attorney] will make him leave so that the church members can come back," she said.
George Bullard, associate executive director-treasurer for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, told the Asheville Citizen-Times that a pastor has every right to disallow membership if a church's bylaws allow for the pastor to establish criteria for membership.
"Membership is a local church issue," he said. "It is not something the state convention would enter into." He added that the nine memberships were not legally terminated because Monday's meeting was supposed to be a deacons' meeting, not a business meeting.
The head of the North Carolina Democratic Party criticized Chandler on Friday, saying he jeopardized his church's tax-free status by openly supporting a candidate for president.
"If these reports are true, this minister is not only acting extremely inappropriately by injecting partisan politics into a house of worship, but he is also potentially breaking the law," Chairman Jerry Meek said.
"If spending money you don't have is the height of stupidity, borrowing money to give it away is the height of insanity." -- anon