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Gay Detective’s Mother Booted from Church after Decades of Attendance

( [email protected] ) Aug 23, 2013 04:00 AM EDT

The mother of a lesbian detective has been booted from her longtime Tennessee church, according to CNN.

Elders at Ridgedale Church of Christ, near Knoxville, told Linda Cooper and two relatives that their public support for Kat Cooper, Linda’s gay daughter, went against the church's teachings, local media reported.

In a private meeting, reports say, Linda Cooper was given a choice: publicly atone for their transgressions or leave the church, CNN reported.

Linda left the church.

Kat Cooper is a detective with the Collegedale Police Department. This month, she fought successfully for health benefits for her same-sex spouse, Krista, from the town.

Messages left at the church and the police department went unreturned Friday.

Along the way, Linda mother publicly supported her daughter. That support appears to have led to a rift with her church.

“My mother was up here and she sat beside me. That's it,” Kat Cooper told the Times Free Press of Chattanooga, according to CNN. “Literally, they're exiling members for unconditionally loving their children - and even extended family members.”

Kat Cooper's father, Hunt Cooper, told CNN affiliate WTVC that his wife’s answer to them is “she had committed no sin in her mind. Loving her daughter and supporting her family was not a sin.”

“There was nothing to repent about,” Hunt said. “They certainly couldn't judge her on that because that was between her and her God, and it was not their place to judge her for that.”

Ken Willis, a minister at Ridgedale Church of Christ, told to the Times Free Press, according to CNN, that “the sin would be endorsing that lifestyle.”

“The Bible speaks very plainly about that,” Willis added.

Willis declined an on-camera interview with WTVC but released a written statement.

“This is an in-church private issue. Because emotions are so inflamed at this point, I choose not to comment any further,” it read, according to CNN. “The church is overseen by elders. I am a minister, not a pastor and therefore, do not have the authority to speak further on this. The news is getting mixed reviews.”

A phony Facebook page for the church was created by one critic, who posted glib messages affirming same-sex marriage shortly after the controversy went viral. “There's nothing about girl on girl in Leviticus,” one post reads.

There is no denomination to hand down an edict praising or condemning the local church’s decision. Churches of Christ are a loosely joined group of independent churches that are autonomous by design, according to CNN. There is no denominational oversight, formal structure or even a denomination headquarters.

Local Church of Christ churches are governed by appointed elders in a structure the church traces to the early followers of Jesus described in the New Testament, said Ronald Highfield, a professor of religion at Pepperdine University.

“They're organized in congregations with their own local leadership so that no other congregation, no set of congregations, no convention can exercise any ecclesiastical discipline over another congregation,” said Highfield, who is also an elder in his local Church of Christ congregation.