Excommunicated Mormon feminist appeals ejection from faith

SALT LAKE CITY Thu Jul 24, 2014 1:29pm EDT

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SALT LAKE CITY (Reuters) - A Mormon feminist excommunicated from her religion after advocating for the ordination of women has appealed the ejection in a letter to the same panel of male church leaders who decided to oust her from the largely patriarchal faith.

Kate Kelly, the 33-year-old founder of the website Ordain Women, was excommunicated in June after church leaders deemed her actions and public statements to have violated the “laws and order” of the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and amounted to apostasy. 

“The decision to excommunicate me has had a deleterious effect on me and on my family,” Kate Kelly wrote in a July 23 letter to regional church leaders in Virginia, where she lived until June.

“It has also been an extremely negative experience for thousand of other Mormons with questions and concerns about gender equity in the Church ... do the right thing and reinstate me to full membership in the Church,” she said.

Launched in 2013, Ordain Women has thousands of supporters worldwide and has pushed for greater gender equity in the Mormon church. Men ordained into the lay priesthood can perform religious rituals, including baptisms, confirmations or blessings, while women's leadership roles are limited to auxiliary organizations. 

Kelly’s widely publicized excommunication prompted calls for clemency, including more than 1,000 letters of support that were sent to church leaders deciding her fate. 

Disciplinary actions within the Mormon church are said to be decided on a local level, but Kelly’s dismissal drew a rare public response from the faith’s highest governing boards.

In a statement, church leaders said questions of faith were welcomed, but that apostasy results when inquiry leads to advocacy which leads individuals away from doctrine and encourages others to follow them. 

A church spokesperson did not return an email message from Reuters on Thursday seeking comment on Kelly’s appeal. 

In her letter, Kelly contends the disciplinary process used against her was unfair and that church leaders failed to ask critical questions about her experience as a woman in the church and were not sincerely interested in her point of view.

“I am and always have been a faithful Mormon. My only ‘sin’ elucidated by you has been in speaking my mind,” she wrote. 

If the appeal is rejected, Kelly can ask the church’s First Presidency to override the decision of local church leaders. 

(Editing by Cynthia Johnston)

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