‘Repent or get out!’ Tennessee church targets family who campaigned for gay rights

RIDGEDALE Church of Christ in Tennessee got its godly knickers in a twist when it learned that one of its parishioners ­– Kat Cooper, a gay detective – had championed a lengthy (and successful) campaign to grant benefits to same-sex couples employed in Collegedale’s local government.

Cooper’s mother, Linda, stood by her side throughout the process. She held tight to her daughter’s hand at a July meeting over the issue. And the two embraced after the City Council’s 4-1 vote on August 5.

Detective Kat Cooper, right, and her wife, Krista, listen as Collegedale city commissioners discuss extending benefits to same-sex partners.  Cooper has been with the Collegedale Police Department for over 11 years, and she and Krista were married in Maryland in May. Photo by Doug Strickland.

Detective Kat Cooper, right, and her wife, Krista, listen as Collegedale city commissioners discuss extending benefits to same-sex partners. Cooper has been with the Collegedale Police Department for over 11 years, and she and Krista were married in Maryland in May. Photo by Doug Strickland.

Leaders at Ridgedale Church of Christ were outraged. They met in private with Kat Cooper’s mother, aunt and uncle on Sunday after the regular worship service. They were given an ultimatum: They could repent for their sins and ask forgiveness in front of the congregation or face exile.

Said Kat Cooper:

My mother was up here and she sat beside me. That’s it. Literally, they’re exiling members for unconditionally loving their children – and even extended family members.

But Ken Willis, minister at the church, insisted that the family’s support of Kat Cooper was as good as an endorsement of homosexuality.

The sin would be endorsing that lifestyle. The Bible speaks very plainly about that.

Willis, a father himself, said the church didn’t expect the Cooper family to disown their daughter.

But you certainly can’t condone that lifestyle, whether it’s any kind of sin – whether they’re shacked up with someone or living in a state of fornication or they’re guilty of crimes. You don’t condone it. You still love them as a parent.

Hunt Cooper, Kat’s father, said his wife is still too distraught over the church’s actions to comment.

She is just so traumatized and so upset. It has been days and she’s still crying. It’s almost like losing a family member.

Linda Cooper’s parents were practically founding members of the Dodds Avenue congregation, Hunt Cooper said. Her father was a church elder and his picture still hangs on the wall there. Kat Cooper grew up helping her grandfather clean the pews and helped her grandmother hang bulletin boards for Sunday school.

This is not just some casual church they dropped in on.

Hunt Cooper said his family rejects the notion that being gay is a lifestyle choice. And his wife, along with her brother and sister, believed repentance would be hypocritical. So the decision to leave, devastating as it was, was a simple one.

There’s no sin to repent for. And she’s not going to turn her back on her daughter.