Democrats voted out of church because of their politics, members say
WAYNESVILLE, N.C., May 6 — Some in Pastor Chan Chandler's flock wish he had a little less zeal for the GOP. Members of the small East Waynesville Baptist Church say Chandler led an effort to kick out congregants who didn't support President Bush. Nine members were voted out at a Monday church meeting in this mountain town, about 120 miles west of Charlotte.
''He's the kind of pastor who says do it my way or
get out,'' said Selma Morris, the former church treasurer. ''He's real negative
all the time.''
Chandler didn't return a message left by The Associated Press at his home Friday, and several calls to the church went unanswered. He told WLOS-TV in Asheville that the actions were not politically motivated. The station also reported that 40 others in the 400-member congregation resigned in protest after Monday's vote. During the presidential election last year, Chandler told the congregation that anyone who planned to vote for Democratic Sen. John Kerry should either leave the church or repent, said former member Lorene Sutton. Some church members left after Chandler made his ultimatum in October, Morris said. George Bullard, associate executive director-treasurer for Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, told the Asheville Citizen-Times that a pastor has every right to disallow memberships 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 members were not legally terminated because Monday's meeting was supposed to be a deacons meeting, not a business meeting. They have a lawyer looking into the situation, he said. The head of the North Carolina Democratic Party sharply criticized the pastor Friday, saying Chandler 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. Doris Wilson, one of Chandler's neighbors and a member of First Baptist Church in Waynesville, said God doesn't play partisan politics. ''I hate to see the church suffer like that,'' she said. ''God doesn't care whether you're a Republican or a Democrat. It just hurts to see that going on.''