Monday, May 9, 2005

Ousting of Churchgoers Called 'Misunderstanding'

WAYNESVILLE, N.C. -- Calling it a "great misunderstanding," the pastor of a small church tried to welcome back nine members who said they were removed for their political beliefs, but some insisted he must leave for the wounds to heal.

The Rev. Chan Chandler did not directly address the controversy during the service at East Waynesville Baptist Church but issued a statement afterward through his attorney saying the church does not care about its members' political affiliations.

"No one has ever been voted from the membership of this church due to an individual's support or lack of support for a political party or candidate," the statement said.

Nine members said they were ousted during a church gathering last week by about 40 others because they refused to support President Bush. They attended Sunday's service with their lawyer and supporters.

"This all started over politics and our right to vote for whoever we wanted to," said Thelma Lowe, who has been attending the church for 42 years. She and her husband, Frank, a deacon at the church for 35 years, were among those voted out.

"Things will never be the same here until he leaves," she said.

The ousted members have said Chandler told them during last year's presidential campaign that anyone who planned to vote for Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.), the Democratic nominee, needed to leave the church in the mountain town about 125 miles northwest of Charlotte.

"He needs to leave," Marlene Casey, 42, a lifelong member, said of Chandler.

Chandler invited all church members to attend a business meeting on Tuesday. "This should all be cleared up by the end of the week," he said in an interview after the service.

"He's a wonderful, good old country boy," Pam Serafin said in defending Chandler. "There are always two sides to every story."

· SAN ANTONIO -- City Council member Julian Castro, 30, and retired Texas appeals court judge Phil Hardberger, 70, will meet in a runoff next month because neither won half the votes in Saturday's mayoral election. Elsewhere, voters in Dallas rejected a proposal to increase the mayor's power, and Austin approved extending a smoking ban to bars, bowling alleys and pool halls.

· PHOENIX -- One of the quintuplets born to a surrogate mother last month was upgraded to fair condition, hospital officials said. Javier Moreno had improved after a six-hour heart surgery last week, a Phoenix Children's Hospital spokeswoman said.

· COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The judge overseeing the case of Charles McCoy Jr., who was charged in 12 highway shooting incidents, declared a mistrial Sunday after jurors said they could not reach a verdict after four days of deliberations. Prosecutor Ron O'Brien said he would retry McCoy, 29, who could face the death penalty if convicted of aggravated murder for the one death.

-- From News Services

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