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N.C. Church Kicks Out Members Who Do Not Support Bush

Nine members were voted out of the church May 2 at Pastor Chan Chandler's urging, members say. Forty others quit in protest.
Nine members were voted out of the church May 2 at Pastor Chan Chandler's urging, members say. Forty others quit in protest. (By Andre A. Rodriguez -- Associated Press)

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Associated Press
Sunday, May 8, 2005

WAYNESVILLE, N.C., May 7 -- 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 did not support President Bush. Nine members were voted out at a Monday church meeting in this mountain town about 120 miles west of Charlotte. Forty others in the 400-member congregation resigned in protest.

"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 told WLOS-TV in Asheville on Friday that the actions were not politically motivated, but on Saturday he refused to comment, citing the advice of his attorney.

During the presidential election last year, Chandler told the congregation that anyone who planned to vote for the Democratic nominee, Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.), should either leave the church or repent, former member Lorene Sutton said.

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 may disallow memberships if a church's bylaws allow 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.

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