SALT LAKE CITY (Reuters) - A prominent Mormon feminist, who was excommunicated by the Utah-based church this week after pushing for the ordination of women, said on Wednesday she plans to appeal the decision.
Kate Kelly was stripped of her membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Monday after a three-man disciplinary council ruled she had violated the “laws and orders” of the faith and that her actions amounted to apostasy.
“I don’t think they made the right decision,” Kelly told Reuters in Salt Lake City. “I didn’t do anything wrong.”
Under church rules she has 30 days to appeal. The petition will be considered by some of the same regional church leaders in Virginia, where Kelly previously lived, who held the council that excommunicated her. Those councils are sometimes referred to as church courts.
Church officials say the purpose of disciplinary action is not punishment, but rather it is aimed at encouraging those who have made mistakes to repent. No comment on Kelly’s appeal decision was immediately available from the church on Wednesday.
If the petition is rejected, which Kelly says she expects, the 33-year-old former human rights lawyer can then escalate her appeal to the church’s First Presidency in Salt Lake City. Such appeals are rare, church officials say.
Kelly said she plans to exhaust the appeals process. It was not clear how long that might take.
“I‘m going to press and press and hold them accountable,” she said. “I have nothing to lose, I have nothing to be ashamed of and I have everything to gain.”
In 2013 Kelly founded a group called Ordain Women which has pressed for gender equality and urged Mormon leaders to seek spiritual direction from God on the issue of ordination.
The church’s lay priesthood gives men the power to perform rituals, including baptisms, confirmations or blessings. Women may only hold leadership roles in auxiliary organizations.
Without an appeal, Kelly could in theory regain membership if she renounces Ordain Women and takes down its website. Kelly would also have to be re-baptized, something she said she will not do.
Another prominent Mormon activist has also faced church disciplinary action in recent weeks.
John Dehlin, founder of Mormon Stories, a podcast and online discussion forum of church issues, history and practice, is set to meet with his regional leader in northern Utah on Sunday.
Reporting by Jennifer Dobner; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Sandra Maler