Anti-Gay Advocate Excommunicated

North Carolina man says rare Episcopal church action denying his communion tramples on his free speech rights

ASHEVILLE, N.C., June 9 (AP)--Officials at an Episcopal church have cast out a member of the congregation who has spent years criticizing them for welcoming gay members. He's been banned until he apologizes.

Lewis Green accused the Cathedral of All Souls in the Ashville suburb of Biltmore of trampling on his First Amendment right to free speech.

``I've been writing bad things about gays for some time, deleterious things, and that's what this is about,'' said Green, 68. ``What I'm doing is exercising my First Amendment rights, and if it's about them, too bad. There's nothing they can do about it.''

Church leaders sent Green a letter May 30 notifying him that it was banning him from church property and denying him the sacrament of communion. The rare but reversible step of excommunication is so infrequently imposed that the Episcopal Church USA does not keep statistics.

``In my experience - and I've been in this position in this church for 20 years - I've heard of this maybe three times,'' said Mark Duffy, director of archives for the Episcopal Church USA.

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Green would be reinstated only after studying a Bible passage on how to treat fellow Christians and apologizing in writing for making an obscene gesture to the congregation at a Mass last December.

``Due to your refusal to seek reconciliation with the parish of All Souls and its members, and your continued efforts to attack this parish and its members, I hereby place you excommunicate,'' wrote the cathedral's pastor, the Very Rev. Todd Donatelli.

Green was warned that if he sets foot on church property and refuses to leave, ``a warrant for trespass will be issued and a restraining order obtained,'' Donatelli wrote.

Green has refused to back down: ``I said, 'It'll be a cold day in hell before I apologize.' I don't look at this as a church; it's a liberal Democrat precinct.''

Green regularly has criticized church officials for their acceptance of homosexuality, writing in The Independent Torch, a local newsletter he has published for 13 years.

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