A House of Order? Serious Problems of Notice in Kate Kelly Excommunication

June 23, 2014 | 90 comments
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The disciplinary council for Sister Kate Kelly met yesterday. Today, the council announced that they had decided to excommunicate her, for “conduct contrary to the laws and order of the Church.”

This result is very troubling.

I have serious doubts about the substantive result here. I will set them aside for this post and instead focus on an important procedural matter: Sister Kelly was never informed that she was to be tried for “conduct contrary to the laws and order of the Church,” was never given a chance to defend herself from that charge, and was ultimately excommunicated for an offense to which she had no way of responding. This is astounding.

As noted on her website and in the media, Sister Kelly was informed by e-mail, on June 8th, that the bishopric was considering church discipline “on grounds of apostasy.”

In response, she submitted a letter explaining that she had not committed apostasy. This was necessary as the court was scheduled after she had left the state, so she could not attend in person. In addition, Nadine Hansen wrote an excellent brief, examining the question in detail and concluding that Sister Kelly did not commit “apostasy” as defined in the church handbook.

The brief may have been persuasive, since the bishopric did not in fact find Sister Kelly guilty of apostasy. However, they ruled that she should be excommunicated for “conduct contrary to the laws and order of the Church.”

This is an exceedingly troubling outcome. To arrive at this result, the bishopric must have done the following:

1. Brought new charges against Sister Kelly, at the hearing — a hearing in absentia, where she was not present
2. Decided to deliberate on those charges
3. Did not inform her of those charges
4. Did not allow her to make any statement in her defense regarding those charges
5. Made a decision on those charges
6. Excommunicated her, based on those new charges

All within a single day, all without providing the least notice to Sister Kelly.

As documented by Nadine Hansen and others, the Kelly court has already been a site of numerous procedural irregularities. This latest is simply the most egregious.

Church membership is too important to be handled in ad hoc and arbitrary ways. The Handbook exists for a reason, to provide order for what could otherwise be a highly irregular process.

Because of the complete failure to notify Sister Kelly of the grounds on which she was apparently being tried, the bishopric process fails the most basic requirements of notice and chance to defend oneself. Church leaders should reverse the Bishopric decision. If Sister Kelly is to be tried for other charges, including “conduct contrary to the laws and order of the Church,” then her local leaders should inform her of those charges and call a new hearing, complete with notice and a chance to respond.

==

Update: Some folks have stated in comments that the letter language is the same for every letter and simply means that an excommunication took place. If that’s the case, and no new charges were brought, then the particular notice issues raised in this post — questioning whether Sister Kelly was tried on new charges without notice — would be satisfied. I’ve updated the post to note this.

Also, some folks have noted in comments, there are apparent disagreements of fact between the chronologies set out by Sister Kelly and that set out in the excommunication letter. I hope that it’s correct that Sister Kelly had additional opportunities to be heard. If she was not, it would be deeply troubling.

90 Responses to A House of Order? Serious Problems of Notice in Kate Kelly Excommunication

  1. BM on June 23, 2014 at 5:17 pm

    Might it be, simply, that the bishopric is using a high-level-of-generality term for apostasy? Wouldn’t apostasy be considered within the umbrella of “conduct contrary to the laws and order of the Church,” given the CHI definition of apostasy?

  2. Tim on June 23, 2014 at 5:17 pm

    The OW link now states that the panel “convicted her on the charge of apostasy.”

  3. Kaimi Wenger on June 23, 2014 at 5:21 pm

    The copy of the letter that I’ve seen does not contain the word “apostasy” at all. Just the phrase, “our determination is that you be excommunicated for conduct contrary to the laws and order of the Church”

  4. Jeff G on June 23, 2014 at 5:21 pm

    “she had no way of responding”

    That’s a bit of a stretch. You can certainly say that the church made it more difficult than it could have for her to respond, but it is simply not true that it left her no way whatsoever of responding.

  5. nearingkolob on June 23, 2014 at 5:23 pm

    Tim, where do you see that?

    I didn’t see the word apostasy anywhere in the “Notice of Decision” letter:

    http://wp.me/P4ipn7-nk

  6. BM on June 23, 2014 at 5:23 pm

    Sure, but to the point in your post, that doesn’t mean they brought different charges, giving rise to a serious notice/due process concern. The magic word “apostasy” doesn’t need to be used for it to have been the theory behind her excommunication.

  7. SilverRain on June 23, 2014 at 5:26 pm

    I think this whole thing has been a powerful demonstration that Church courts are not judicial courts.

  8. ji on June 23, 2014 at 5:28 pm

    A person facing a council for adultery could get a notice saying he or she was excommunicated for conduct contrary to the laws and order or the church, or something along those lines. There is nothing sinister in tat.

  9. Mike R. on June 23, 2014 at 5:29 pm

    From HB1, 6.10.7, referring to written notice of a decision: “This notice consists of a general statement that the person has been placed on formal probation, disfellowshipped, or excommunicated for conduct contrary to the laws and order of the church.” Looks like it’s just the language they use regardless of the charge, rather than a separate charge. The bigger procedural irregularity is that the person never gets any more specifics — there’s no written judgment explaining the council’s reasoning, just a generic letter saying you’re out, now here’s what you have to do to get back in.

  10. Tim on June 23, 2014 at 5:32 pm

    Try the first link in the above post for mention of apostasy. I hadn’t read the letter–that’s interesting that they avoided using the word apostasy. It’s also interesting that OW apparently currently assumes that it was for apostasy even if the letter doesn’t specifically state it.

  11. Geoff on June 23, 2014 at 5:34 pm

    Very interesting.

    But it’s hard to say she was helpless to respond. She refused to have a secure Skype call since she was unable to fly out. Seems like the bishop, for whatever other faults he has as a human, went to pretty good lengths to try to get her to actually be an active voice in the proceedings.

  12. queuno on June 23, 2014 at 5:35 pm

    It’s been widely reported across the journalistic wasteland known as the Bloggernacle that she had options to attend in person but declined them.

  13. nearingkolob on June 23, 2014 at 5:37 pm

    Tim, the first link is the OW response which says “convicted her on the charge of apostasy.” But the action Notice of Decision letter from the bishop does not mention apostasy. Anyway…

  14. Nate on June 23, 2014 at 5:40 pm

    Kaimi: I don’t buy it. First, she was not tried “in absentia” as that term is normally used. Her bishop apparently offered to reschedule the hearing or have her participate by video conferencing. Not ideal but well within, for example, the kind if procedures used in American courts for a distant party. In absentia generally means a hearing where the party is denied any chance to participate. That was not the case here.

    Also reading the letter I think it pretty clear that she was excommunicated for seeking to persuade others to adopt her interpretation of church doctrine after being counselled by priesthood leaders not to. This pretty clearly seems to be a reference to apostasy as defined by the CHI. One may disagree with the substance, but the procedural argument here is, I think, a contrives red herring.

    Note, based on what I know I don’t believing excommunicating Kelly was the right call, but I just don’t find your argument here persuasive.

  15. Nate W. on June 23, 2014 at 5:40 pm

    Kaimi,

    Even in a court of law, it’s the content of the findings that count, not the name of the legal theory. If the findings as applied to any legal theory justify the outcome, then the judgment will be affirmed. In this case, even though the bishop does not use the word “apostasy,” the remainder of his decision supports a finding of apostasy under the first prong of the definition in the 2010 handbook. While there are a great many things to be troubled about in this process, I don’t think this appears to be a substantial error.

  16. Nate on June 23, 2014 at 5:43 pm

    Sorry for the typos. I am on my phone.

  17. Rigel Hawthorne on June 23, 2014 at 5:46 pm

    “You must be TRUTHFUL in your communications with others regarding matters that involve your priesthood leaders”

    Although the details of the communications from the priesthood leadership side are, and should be, confidential, this requirement for rebaptism speaks to what I suspected after hearing Sister Kelly’s interviews.

    Though the news of her outcome saddens me, I wish she had been willing to bear with her inauthenticity and dropped all of her OW actions and stayed a member. Haven’t we all had to endure with the feeling of inauthenticity at one point in our church lives or another? If she is beyond the point where she can bear with that feeling of inauthenticity, then perhaps the outcome will be something she finds to be a relief.

    I remember her reaction when the church asked that her group demonstrate at conference in the area where other demonstrators are traditionally stationed, and she responded that her group was not one of those other groups, her group WAS the church. Well, technically, she, individually, is no longer able to speak as being a member of the church in good standing.

  18. Jax on June 23, 2014 at 5:46 pm

    Isn’t “Apostasy” contrary to the laws and order of the church? I see no reason whatsoever to think anything nefarious here. Much ado about nothing here Kaimi.

  19. James Olsen on June 23, 2014 at 5:47 pm

    I’m not sure that anyone is suggesting that Church courts are judicial courts – though anyone that failed to see substantive points of overlap would be blind. Kaimi’s point, if I understand it, is that a court of any kind can’t simply make it up as they go along. Doing so inevitably results in big problems. On an empirical level, the Church seems historically to agree with this point.

    I also suspect that Kaimi’s not opposed to a judge in Israel having some latitude in reviewing a case – particularly if the situation is new and complicated. Many judgments in life need to be made as best we can, without clear rules to spell it out for us (ultimately, all rules/laws are this way). This fact, however, makes regularized procedure more, not less important.

    One might also think that – much like others throughout history – the council received genuine revelation on how to ultimately conclude the trial, without a clear specification for how to get there. And if the situation is new and complex, one could understand the council sort of bumbling their way through it. Again, lots of historical examples for this. Such a scenario, however, does not necessitate flouting the procedure. In fact, it rather calls for a more painstaking attempt to follow it – to stave off criticism if nothing else. High profile cases cry out for this even more.

    In the end, I think charity all around is called for.

  20. T.P. on June 23, 2014 at 5:50 pm

    It is my understanding that Kate Kelly was not offered the option to participate in her defense through Skype as Ally implied. They said they did….but they didn’t.

  21. Jax on June 23, 2014 at 5:57 pm

    T.P.,

    So the bishopric lied, and said they offered her a way to participate but didn’t really offer it?? Where did you get that info??

    Also, I disagree with Kaimi completely that his is a “exceedingly troubling outcome”. I, and many others, are not troubled at all. Rather, we are relieved to see the church hold true to their standards and glad to see them willing to discipline those who were given the option of repenting but would/could not.

  22. Anonymous on June 23, 2014 at 5:58 pm

    You’re grasping at straws. This was not a trial. Certainly, apostasy is “conduct contrary to the laws and order of the Church.” It is this type of legalistic, semantic game playing by the OW crowd that is part of the problem here.

  23. Joelyn on June 23, 2014 at 6:03 pm

    I’m sorry, but it seems you are only hear Sister Kelly’s side of things minus a couple of formal emails or statements from the Bishop. You seem to be reading an awful lot into a mere slice of what a Bishop puts into this process, and I’m grateful the Bishop had not published more; that information is confidential and between Sister Kelly and her Bishop.

    If it were my membership in question I would be there to defend myself and try to work with the leadership. If what I’ve read is correct she flat out refused their counsel and chose not to participate in the process because they didn’t tell her what she wanted to hear. Disciplinary counsels are meant to help navigate trouble. When the person in question refuses to participate what do you expect the leadership to do? And the question no one has seemed to answer is why her records were not transferred when she moved? She has been in Provo for quite some time and the transfer process can be done in one day. Why was she not actively pursuing membership in her current ward and counsel from her current leaders? Your posts have been, in my opinion, very slanted and narrow minded. The microscope seems clearly focused on the leadership when it should be equally focused on Sister Kelly.

  24. Dennis on June 23, 2014 at 6:13 pm

    Something similar happened with Mike Quinn’s excommunication. His court was convened for apostacy (or some such thing) related to his writings and he ended up being excommunicated for not cooperating with the process. Moving the procedural goalposts is typical church behavior in these cases.

  25. LVH on June 23, 2014 at 6:32 pm

    This is an attempt to cause controversy and nothing else. “Conduct to the laws and order of the church” and “apostasy” are hardly two significantly different things. One would include the other. Also, she was offered to both reschedule the council and/or attend the council via web conference. Since we seem to want to question the validity of a disciplinary council by comparing it American legal proceedings. : If one is not willing to avail oneself of the options to participate, but instead decides to attend a self supporting vigil, then one’s defense will certainly be weekend by their own refusal to fully participate.

  26. Mormnorm on June 23, 2014 at 6:34 pm

    Kaimi requires a standard that does not apply. Where a party admits to having actually received notice of a hearing — as KK did — the issue of the appropriateness of service is waived. Further, this is more like Due Process is a reduced standard of merely giving an opportunity to tell one’s side of the story. She was given that opportunity as chose to do it in the press rather than the council.

    This is not a case governed by the Rules of Criminal Procedure. Is there really any question that she had notice and had a chance to tell her side of the story? Further, such issues are not protected by the Due Process Clause 6th Amendment which requires some exacting notice like a criminal court where each of the charges are enumerated. It is more like a civil court where notice pleading suffices and a reduced standard of review is appropriate. She knew she was being tried for apostasy and if she cared more about her membership than press coverage she could have easily been present to answer to any specific questions.

    Further, KK organized ex-Mormon who had asked to have their names removed and anti-Mormons to show up at priesthood meeting and take pictures of themselves for the purpose of embarrassing the church. That is very troubling and it is easy to construe to amount to apostasy in my view.

  27. PaulM on June 23, 2014 at 7:13 pm

    Two years ago I was tried in absentia for apostasy and excommunicated. I had already accepted a job in a new location ~1200 miles away and the stake president knew it. When he called to inform me that they were going to hold the disciplinary council I informed him that I would not be able to attend Monday – Thursday but would be happy to attend if they held it on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday as I was traveling back to my old home every week until the kids finished the school year. He held it on a Tuesday. And the only reason I knew they even held the council was when I received the letter announcing my excommunication two weeks later. Maybe if I had been a higher profile apostate I would have been granted the weekend trial or offered the opportunity to Skype into it proving that the Church maintains a hierarchy even among those it considers apostates. I appealed to the FP on procedural grounds but received no answer so I assume the FP really could not care less about following its own outlined procedures.

    Like Kelly, the letter outlining the rationale behind my excommunication also contained some odd elements. The SP charged me with “repeatedly acting in clear, open, and deliberate opposition to church leaders.” I thought to myself if by “leaders” he was referring to himself in the plural then that was probably accurate. The fact that he omitted “public” from his finding made sense but I was personally brutal to the guy in private (he couldn’t avoid me as we worked together and ran in the same social circles). He had made some pretty horrific mistakes in private that resulted in some pretty public results for my wife and I, lacking what most people would characterize as empathy, over the next two years would never allow him to forget those mistakes and made repeated demands for a very public apology to my wife. For the SP the act that most got his goat was when I raised my hand in opposition to his sustaining vote at ward conference as that was about the most public manifestation of my opposition. So the inital charge made some twisted sense. But the next sentence threw me for a loop as it referenced “[my] seeming indifference to the prospect of being arrested.” What?! That I definitely do not remember.

    Fast forward 18 months and I and my family are well established in our new ward in our new home and I meet with my new SP to start the process of being readmitted to the church. I highlight that I’ve done everything prescribed and abstained from everything proscribed in the letter announcing my excommunication but the SP keeps asking me about “the event” and whether or not I feel any remorse. I search my mind but can’t for the life of me figure out what he’s talking about. He says without demonstrated remorse for the event that my re-admittance is DOA so I ask him for some more details– a refresher. The SP gets a summary transcript from SLC which, of course I am not allowed to read, he then summarizes. Turns out I was accused of a felony– which was a complete fabrication. Back and forth with the SP a few times as well as SLC. The Brethren are sticking by their man– if he said it happened then it happened because the Church does not make mistakes in such matters. So now I am left in ecclesiastical purgatory because I will not confess and show remorse for something that never happened.

    The moral of my story. The Church does not give one whit about procedure. If an SP desires an outcome he can produce it– plain and simple.

  28. billy joel on June 23, 2014 at 7:14 pm

    law professors, smdh.

  29. Shawn E. on June 23, 2014 at 7:31 pm

    After reading the post, and the comments, perhaps the original post needs correction/redaction. Its very premise seems flawed, and the claims lean hard toward dubious – perhaps without malice, and likely perhaps from simple ignorance of all the facts.

    Still, the merit of it remaining on TS is not tenable.

  30. MD on June 23, 2014 at 7:42 pm

    PaulM – if you felt the outcome of your council was manufactured, why did you not appeal the decision?

  31. Frank Fourth on June 23, 2014 at 8:03 pm

    Nate, yes she was tried in absentia, meaning in her absence. While it may be true that in routine pre-trial matters a party or her/his attorney may appear via telephone or video conferencing, that is not true of the actual trial. Otherwise, all of the parties would not have a meaningful right to confront and cross examine each other. In federal court, she would have had the option of asking that the proceedings be transfered to the district in which she live. In other words, she wasn’t there.

    What would have been the burden of having this in Salt Lake since everything in the record was public. Its not like there were witnesses that were only available in Virginia. Can’t the Spirit speak in Utah as well?

    And if not following leaders is a lesser include offense of of apostasy, why not make that clear from the beginning so that the party knows what’s going on. Otherwise you have a switcho chango. That’s part of the problem with the whole disciplinary process. They try to make it look fair when its not.

    If this was not a real trial, then why go to the trouble of giving notice in the first place. Why not just hold the whole thing in private and let the party know after it is all over if at all.

    Either it looks like a court, or its a Star Chamber. It can’t be both.

  32. Mormnorm on June 23, 2014 at 8:35 pm

    Frank: KK was placed on probation in her ward. She was given notice. She moved after the proceedings were started. She never requested that the proceedings be moved — she was clear that she would not participate in a court of only males. She simply showed contempt for the entire process. KK is not a victim; she was looking for the publicity.

    It is also common to do administrative hearings and arbitrations by phone or video-conference. The right to cross examine witnesses (which certainly does not apply in this context) is provided by simply being given the chance to ask questions of those who testify. That happens all of the time buy phone.

    How do you know “everything in the record was public”? What is the record? Where is the public record? I know that KK turned everything over the press and therefore has no expectation of privacy regarding this matter (she has clearly waived any expectation of privacy by going to press and disclosing everything).

    There is no such thing as a “lesser included offense” in a church court. You are misapplying the criminal code. The suggestion that she did not know what she was being tried for is just not credible.

  33. PaulM on June 23, 2014 at 8:59 pm

    MD,

    I did appeal. No response. I said the church does not care about being fair.

  34. MD on June 23, 2014 at 9:17 pm

    Surprised to hear you got no response, especially where you were accused of a felony. Unless I’m mistaken, appeals for a stake disciplinary council go to the First Presidency. I wish you the best working with your new stake president, and hope he’s more discerning. Your reinstatement will be worth the wait and trouble.

  35. Jax on June 23, 2014 at 9:55 pm

    Completely agree with #29…

  36. whizzbang on June 23, 2014 at 9:56 pm

    #33-I know of a guy in our stake the Stake was bending over backwards to meet with, and he wouldn’t budge an inch to meet with them.So, he left them with no choice. The council never happened but I don’t know what more the Church could have done. So, in your case it must be a local thing. I’d say wait out the Stake Pres. and see what the new guy says

  37. JH on June 23, 2014 at 10:27 pm

    It would be helpful if Ordain Women would post all of the letter Kate Kelly received from her Bishop. She seems comfortable sharing the full text of other letters, despite their personal nature, with every major news media outlet, so it seems odd she hasn’t shared the full text of this one. Maybe the rest of the context would hurt her cause in the media?

  38. JH on June 23, 2014 at 10:28 pm

    Never mind. I missed it.

  39. JH on June 23, 2014 at 10:33 pm

    Interestingly, the full text of the letter calls into question Kate Kelly’s repeated claim that she had informed her bishop of OW’s activities and that he never said there was any problem with them. The bishop goes out of his way to say that was not the case.

  40. Xander Harris on June 23, 2014 at 10:35 pm

    Leprous TBM troglodytes! Foul not these comments with faithiness!

  41. Jon on June 23, 2014 at 11:09 pm

    Haha, it’s not a court of law or even a business with business law. It is a church. You opt in and you can leave just as easily.

  42. theoldadam on June 23, 2014 at 11:13 pm

    She just might be a whole lot better off now.

    Luther was…after he was excommunicated.

  43. el oso on June 23, 2014 at 11:19 pm

    Paul M,

    Paul M,
    Did you not get a formal letter informing you of the court? That is certainly one point in the appeal to your current SP. Also, for the FP appeal, do you personally know any general authorities or others close to them? I would bring your case to their attention, particularly the single witness conviction.
    I am also suprised that your current SP does not see through the felony issue, since (I assume) there were never any formal legal charges brought. The old SP likely knew that it was, at best, a he said-she said situation and a very unlikely felony case. You certainly never got due process like any felony charge would bring. Point that out to your new SP.
    I do not know where you live, but occasionally the local mission president could help out. Sometimes they can pull strings in SLC also.
    This is the infrequent, but very difficult situation that getting crosswise with your SP in North America can result in. In other areas the area presidency polices the local leaders more and can intervene sometimes. I feel for you. I am sure that some of my suggestions you have already tried, but some may help.

  44. PerniciousFerret (@rhinosaur31) on June 23, 2014 at 11:59 pm

    Do some fact checking next time bro. Here is a link to the actual excommunication letter.
    http://www.deseretnews.com/media/pdf/1365030.pdf

  45. Dan on June 24, 2014 at 12:20 am

    So now the gnashing of blogs and gnashing of posts begins, finding fault with the Church.

  46. Mitch Shira on June 24, 2014 at 12:36 am

    Dude, your facts are kinda far fetched. I’ve hardly been following this whole OW thing and already I smell some false facts at the opening of your article. The letter is public, and it contradicts what you say about Kate Kelly “having no time to respond”. It appears they strived to work with her over and over, even warned her, and she ignored and kept persisting in ways contrary to doctrine of the church. I know some people like Kate Kelly. They only hear what they wanna hear and tell others bits and pieces of the story to try and prove their point. I’m saddened that she’s been excommunicated, not because of what the “church did”(which seems to be what every one is pointing their finger at), but it is because what she did or didn’t do. Hope she can be rebaptized soon. I can hardly imagine what she’s going through.

  47. Mitch Shira on June 24, 2014 at 12:41 am

    Yeah I just read it again. This is pretty upsetting. I’m not talking about what happened between Kate Kelly and the church, but more so you. Please remove this article and get your facts straight. I would suggest reading the letter Kate posted herself. You paint an VERY different picture than what the letter states.

  48. Claudia on June 24, 2014 at 12:55 am

    http://www.deseretnews.com/media/pdf/1365030.pdf Just so you know. She was really looking for this. She wanted attention and play victim. If you want to fall for her lies, shame on you. I don’t like people who lie and she is a liar.

  49. Kaimi on June 24, 2014 at 3:33 am

    Thanks for your comments, folks. It’s good to see a variety of perspectives.

    I’ve drawn the facts here from Kate’s letter and post from a few weeks back.

    Please keep in mind that Kate is a real person. She’s a friend of mine, and she’s genuinely committed to the gospel. Comments that make personal attacks on her (i.e., “she is a liar”) are unwarranted and will be deleted.

    Thanks!

  50. John on June 24, 2014 at 4:24 am

    Blah blah blah, blah blah. Malkovich, Malkovich. Malkovich? MALKOVICH!!!!!!!

  51. John on June 24, 2014 at 4:31 am

    Someday I hope Kate will look back on this day and recognize it for what it is; a blessing. Spiritual peace can only be found by being authentic. She has a chance.

  52. Meg Stout on June 24, 2014 at 6:43 am

    Hi Kaimi,

    I felt it would be important for Kate to attend her disciplinary council in person, which is why I offered her use of my frequent flyer miles to get back to Vienna. Kate never responded, so it’s possible that her mailbox was overwhelmed and the staff answering “contact us” messages on the website were overwhelmed and didn’t pass the message along. It’s also possible no one noticed when I finally posted my offer publicly. One person characterized that post as “mean spirited,” and that person might have merely had sympathy for Kate, not any way to inform Kate of my offer.

    I’m not sure if Kate or those advising her had actually ever participated in a disciplinary council. It’s unfortunate that she chose not to avail herself of the various available means for doing so in her own case.

  53. Naismith on June 24, 2014 at 6:50 am

    Kaimi, it would be a great public service if you could use your connection to do some fact-checking on the veracity of the offer of a secure internet connection, which appears to be the challenge to your assertion of no notification. Thanks.

  54. Meg Brite on June 24, 2014 at 8:50 am

    Kaimi,

    Your entire premise is wrong. The language used about “conduct contrary” is the standard boilerplate that is mandated by the instructions for notification given in the CHI. The handbook also stresses that communications are intentionally to be kept vague and not include specifics (because, as we have seen here, they do leak and the particulars of why someone is appearing before a court are frankly nobody’s business but that person, the common judge, and the Savior)

  55. Peter LLC on June 24, 2014 at 9:19 am

    Church membership is too important to be handled in ad hoc and arbitrary ways.

    Yep. Imagine the hue and cry if, for example, you were baptized by one holding his left hand to the square. Why removal of the saving ordinances, on the other hand, is permitted to be handled in such a slipshod manner escapes my limited means of comprehension.

  56. Dave on June 24, 2014 at 9:27 am

    Given the whole chain of events leading up to the court and the information thus far made public, does anyone really think Kelly’s physical attendance at the court would have changed anything? Since they basically called her a liar in the letter reporting the result, it seems clear they would likely have discounted any facts she presented. And pointing out procedural flaws seems irrelevant in an LDS church court. If they discount her facts and ignore her legal arguments (definitions and procedure, certainly not irrelevant to the proceeding) why even bother?

  57. Heather on June 24, 2014 at 10:02 am
  58. Cherilyn Bacon Eagar on June 24, 2014 at 10:04 am

    I’m sorry that this has happened to Kate Kelly, and I can only understand how difficult this is for this LDS woman and those who agree with her. But I have a different perspective on it. Here’s my view on this action: A church is required to register as a 501 c 3 under state and federal corporate laws. That requires a constitution and bylaws with definitions of membership and removal and dissolution of corporation, etc.

    In the corporate world, these constitutions can vary, but that corporation, if it is privately held, regulates who the voting membership is and what the rules of disengagement are. It’s not unusual that those bylaws stipulate “without cause.” Private corporations are not required to function as a court of law. That is the right of a corporation and those that have been elected to the board, whose function is a fiduciary duty.

    The problem here is that when an individual who identifies and is accepted as a voting member is at odds with the bylaws and the goals of that corporation, that corporation has the right to remove its members, especially if they deliberately seek media to disparage that corporation.

    Imagine if a voting shareholder of a privately owned company such as Hobby Lobby had gone to the media and proclaimed it was at odds with the owners’ views on abortion and was using the media to lobby for change. Frankly, the Green’s, who own that company and the board members who have a majority stake in it, have every right to remove that person as a shareholder. They own the brand, the “imprimatur.” The employees or voting members do not.

    On another level, I simply disagree with the myopic view some disgruntled women have of the role of women in the LDS church. This is an attitude issue. The LDS Church has done everything it can do to suggest, encourage, urge its members to treat each other fairly, men and women in marriage especially.

    People – including lay leaders of any organization, church, company – are not perfect. Life is simply not fair. People will treat others unfairly. How we respond makes the difference. I have not always been treated fairly, but I have chosen to ignore the unfairness, and to go about making my own success and to laugh it off. That has empowered me. My mother taught me to just “let it go” and to “just go on.” She taught me that I could be and do and accomplish great things and to not let negativism or what negatives others give me define me.

    Attitude makes all the difference. I choose not to be a victim. I choose to be a victor. I choose to take adversity and turn it into advantage. For me, the sky’s the limit. It boils down to some additional cliches: It’s an attitude of gratitude. Do you see that glass half full or half empty? How will you live your life?

    For Kate and others I’ve watched before her, the victim role has not had a good outcome.

  59. Jax on June 24, 2014 at 10:38 am

    perhaps this page offers a good solution for those who think Kate Kelly has been treated unfairly.

    Personally I’m a bit appalled that this people would set up this type of event, advertise it, and that others would participate. Talk about faithlessness!!

  60. Michelle on June 24, 2014 at 11:19 am

    Here is a link to the full letter. There is no argument here, the bishopric has been meeting with her for many months. None of this came out of the blue like she attempting to make it sound. Facts are important. http://www.deseretnews.com/media/pdf/1365030.pdf

  61. Dave on June 24, 2014 at 12:24 pm

    Re-read the letter Michelle. Even in the letter, there is no statement the bishopric ever met with her. There is only once that the bishop met with her, and that was along with the stake president, who (according to Kelly) did all the talking. So the letter confirms Kelly’s claim that she never met with the bishop to speak with him about OW or other issues. That certainly makes Kelly’s absence from the trial, conducted by the bishop, more glaring. The letter does not dispute her claim that she told them months before she left that she was going to move out of state, yet they took action only as she was leaving — like the last Sunday, after she said her good-byes to the congregation. I don’t generally second guess local leaders in church courts, but to the extent we have public knowledge of how things were conducted, they were not conducted well.

  62. Steve Smith on June 24, 2014 at 12:27 pm

    “There is no argument here, the bishopric has been meeting with her for many months. None of this came out of the blue like she attempting to make it sound. Facts are important.”

    Where is the evidence that Kelly is trying to make this sound as if it is coming out of the blue? My impression is that she sees herself as faithful and committed to the LDS church. She consistently talks about her experiences on her mission and as an LDS person. Furthermore, she has consistently been making the case that discipline for her actions is unreasonable and out of line, since she sees herself as simply trying to make the LDS church a better, more fair, and more welcoming place for women. Authorities have no authority if they cannot invoke strong reasoning to back up their authority.

  63. Kaimi Wenger on June 24, 2014 at 12:42 pm

    As I make very clear in this post, I’m writing about a particular facet of notice: That she was excommunicated for an offense that does not appear in her summons letter.

  64. Rod on June 24, 2014 at 12:47 pm

    Being authentic, or true to ourselves or what have you, is a dangerous position. Since we are the “natural man” the very purpose of the gospel of Jesus Christ is NOT to be authentically ourselves but to become like Him. Trying to compromise on this will only lead to sorrow and torment.

    To paraphrase CS Lewis, Christ does not come to torment the natural man but to kill him. He does not want to lop off a branch here and a branch there, he wants the whole tree out. Hand over all your desires, the ones you think wicked and those you think innocent or just. The whole outfit. He will give us a new self. In fact, he will give us Himself. His own will shall become our own.

  65. Jax on June 24, 2014 at 12:54 pm

    Kaimi, are these notices legal document somehow? that the terms must be identical?? I thought they were more personal notices. And as such, people will often change terms or phrases to avoid sounding repetitious. Is seems pretty clear/understandable that “Apostasy” would constitute ““conduct contrary to the laws and order of the Church.” Why does it matter if it says “apostasy” or not. There doesn’t appear to be anything nefarious to most of us. Can you give any reason why these letters MUST be coordinated and use the EXACT same terminology? Or why it is so “exceedingly troubling” if they don’t?

    You gave a list of 6 items that the Bishopric “must” have done… but your very first one is wrong. He could have just used a different phrase in a personal letter. That isn’t earthshattering or terrifying.

  66. Jon on June 24, 2014 at 1:32 pm

    You have to remember the church is going to keep its conversations, or rather the conversations of Kate’s local leaders with Kate as mentioned in the letter private consistent with Church policy, so all we are getting essentially is what Kelly is reporting publicly. This makes all the assumptions you have made (#1 – #6), just that, assumptions, because you don’t have the actual records of the conversation from the local church leaders.

    The letter indicated an openness to video conferencing, rescheduling to a date Kelly can make her hearing so she can defend herself, and she refused both, so your statement that she was not given a chance to defend herself is inaccurate. The letter also indicates several meetings with her where she was advised of what she is doing (as I mentioned, the church doesn’t share these private conversations, so we only have what Kelly says).

    “Conduct contrary to the laws and order of the Church” is apostasy, it’s actually classic apostasy.

    This was NOT handled in an ad hoc way, I don’t know how you can read the letter Kelly shared and come to this conclusion, this is simply false.

  67. Jax on June 24, 2014 at 1:35 pm

    ” how you can read the letter Kelly shared and come to this conclusion”

    It’s easy, make a bunch of terrible assumptions, accept everything the apostate says at face value while doubting everything the faithful say, and squint!

  68. JimD on June 24, 2014 at 1:37 pm

    I, for one, think this is a fascinating topic; and I look forward to similar analyses of the Church actions taken against Denver Snuffer and his followers. Because surely the primary goal here is to ensure a consistent LDS disciplinary process, rather than a grasping-at-straws-attempt to defend one particular excommunicated member whose political/ecclesiastical views happen to align rather neatly with those of the good Professor?

  69. Kaimi Wenger on June 24, 2014 at 2:01 pm

    “Apostasy” is specifically defined in the handbook. Words matter. If the bishop found that Sister Kelly violated the handbook definition of apostasy, he should have said so. If she was being tried for something else, she should have been given notice of other charges.

    If the letter is saying one thing to mean another, perhaps in an informal or vernacular way, that would satisfy the notice issues raised in this post. If it’s not, then those notice issues remain.

  70. Kaimi Wenger on June 24, 2014 at 2:31 pm

    One other note, to the dear People With Opinions weighing in on this post.

    Welcome. This is a blog post. It’s a person discussing an event. You are guaranteed to love it, or you get your money back. Heck, I’ll give you double your money back if you don’t love it, cause I’m just that nice of a guy.

    It’s entirely possible that I’m wrong in my analysis here. It wouldn’t be the first time I was wrong on something, and it certainly won’t be the last. If you really need a blog where no one is wrong, you should check out By Common Consent.

    If you think I’m wrong in this post or any other, feel free to weigh in in comments to explain your own perspective. Some of you have already done so. I appreciate your comments.

    Please bear in mind that comments should comply with the T&S comment policy.

    Thus, while it is obvious to everyone that I am a horrible human being, of dubious parentage, terrible-smelling, and unable to tie my own shoes, you should probably avoid saying those kinds of things in comments.

    Thanks!

  71. Jax on June 24, 2014 at 2:37 pm

    “If the letter is saying one thing to mean another, perhaps in an informal or vernacular way, that would satisfy the notice issues raised in this post.”

    So maybe you’ve made completely baseless accusations against a Bishop and SP? And on an issue where the facts aren’t clear, you choose to side with the excommunicated rather than with the ordained?

    Anyone shed light on disciplinary councils for me? If they find other poor conduct during a trial/hearin/whatever are the allowed to hand down discipline for those actions as well, or are the required by the CHI to make separate notifications and hold a separate trial/hearing/whatever?? Or can they adjust the “charges” during the trial/hearing/whatever without it being an impropriety. Is this procedure all spelled out in the CHI (step 1, step 2, …etc), or are these things left up to a Bishop’s/SP discretion and promptings.

  72. Nathan Whilk on June 24, 2014 at 2:41 pm

    #69

    Other commenters have said this, but you still don’t seem to have understood it, so I’ll repeat it:

    The Handbook prescribes that every letter announcing excommunication say that it is for “conduct contrary to the laws and order of the Church”; every specific cause there might be for excommunication is subsumed within this more general phrase. In particular, it is contrary to the laws and order of the Church for a member to engage in apostasy.

  73. Jon on June 24, 2014 at 3:07 pm

    Remember, handbook definitions of apostasy don’t exist in a vacuum, the church has not (to my knowledge) rejected New Testament definitions of apostasy, along with many other teachings on it by church leaders over the years…they don’t have to quote the handbook all the time, and if you’re expecting us to believe someone with Kate’s intelligence does not understand the church’s definitions of apostasy, either at the handbook level or overall scriptural/teaching based definition, seems a bit disingenuous. I believe Kate has a very good understanding of what apostasy is.

    My guess is, the meetings she had included reminders of what those definitions are.

    My biggest gripe in all this is with Kate’s gross misrepresentation of the process, the local leaders’ treatment of her, the significance of her movement (OW’s facebook page barely passed 4,000 likes after going live last year, while another site called Mormon Women Stand, which I believe may be more representative of women in the church gained over 29,000 likes in their first month).

    Seems to be an overall lack of personal responsibility on Kate’s part.

  74. PaulM on June 24, 2014 at 3:26 pm

    Jon and Jax:

    Review my comment above regarding my situation. BTW, I do have EVERY conversation I ever had with my SP and bishop RECORDED. I know what was said and I can prove it with their own words in their own voices. Based on my personal experience the assumptions Kaimi makes are not unreasonable. If I ever wanted to intentionally embarrass some leaders and to an extent the Church I could publish some of the stuff they said. I made those recordings so that in the event that I was ever called into a disciplinary council I would have more than just myself as a witness. As it turned out they decided they didn’t want to invite me to my own party because they didn’t want to have to contend with their own words. When I submitted my appeal to the FP (to which I never received a response) I offered to provide copies of the recordings to substantiate my defense (not that I believe anyone in the FP actually read my appeal).

  75. Jax on June 24, 2014 at 3:36 pm

    PaulM I read your stuff above and feel for you. I know nothing about your case, except for what you’ve stated here. maybe you’ve been wronged. I hope not. But I’m sure not going to write a blog post excuriating your SP and making accusations against them simply because you said so. That seems to be what Kaimi has done though. Maybe you actually have good evidence in your case. Great! I truyly hope things get reversed foryou. Kaimi and Kate have none of that, and Kaimi’s assumptions are unreasonable. This post seems to be a hatchet job meant only to destroy confidence in the church system and structure, much like his friend Kate seems to want to do.

  76. Steve on June 24, 2014 at 6:13 pm

    When it comes down to it, the church can hold a court anytime against anyone for any reason. I’ve never heard of anyone successfully overturning the result of a disciplinary council on appeal. Further, there are no real consequences for a local leader who manufactures evidence to get the result he wants. I’m happy to be proven wrong.

  77. EricD on June 24, 2014 at 9:20 pm

    I think people need to stop conflating a DC with a court of law. To say that she was unfairly tried in absentia misses the point. Additionally, her claim that she was unfairly targeted by her previous bishop (because she had moved) who placed a hold on her records is disingenuous. She was already subjected to church discipline by her local leaders, likely the hold was placed so that a new leader in a geographical area isn’t required to “clean up” a disciplinary issue started in a different place. The church (any church, for that matter) isn’t a democratic institution. It is a hierarchical order that follows it’s own rules. That said, why would her bishop go out of the way to refute her allegations that she never communicated this when he knew his decision would likely be placed in the public realm. There is much that Ms. Kelly claims transpired, but she seems to selectively release information when it suits her. I feel (purely my personal speculation) that Ms. Kelly was unhappy with her perception of the situation and standing of women in the church, and wanted out; she simply lacked the desire to remove herself from the organization.

  78. Kaimi Wenger on June 24, 2014 at 9:57 pm

    Some folks have stated in comments that the letter language is the same for every letter and simply means that an excommunication took place. If that’s the case, and no new charges were brought, then the particular notice issues raised in this post — questioning whether Sister Kelly was tried on new charges without notice — would be satisfied. I’ve updated the post to note this.

    Also, some folks have noted, there are apparent disagreements of fact between the chronologies set out by Sister Kelly and that set out in the excommunication letter. I hope that it’s correct that Sister Kelly had additional opportunities to be heard. If she was not, it would be deeply troubling.

  79. Aaron on June 24, 2014 at 10:10 pm

    I think people are coming down a little to hard on priesthood leaders, though I think many people have had bad experiences with some leaders and automatically think the worst. That does not mean no bad was done here by those we expect to lead by example.

    One thing on Kate Kely and one thing on the leadership in Virginia. How Kate Kelly could possibly be s blind is beyond me, to think going on SACRED ground at a very sacred TIME and putting the prophets and apostles on the spot like that is not an astonishing act nearly unheard of in the history of this church (literally the Lords) and to stir such a storm is not unbelievably out of line is just ludicrous. truly, SATAN has deceived many here.

    On the weaknesses of an unpaid clergy that usually has full time jobs along with other problems, how can a church leader wait until Kate leaves the state to take such very serious action? I’m not gonna lie but there does seem to be a recklessness (not to the extent some are saying) here by church leaders that in and of itself undermines the church.

    We can say this is all Kates fault (the churches shortcomings) but that does not give men an excuse who hold the holy priesthood and seem not to get it to be so unprofessional and reckless. And am I wrong or is our church lying about (i don’t know, but even Gods people fall short) not knowing about this and this being all initiated by local leaders, even though other Mormons are being summoned for discipline?

  80. Jax on June 24, 2014 at 10:21 pm

    I don’t see the issue with things being handled in VA instead of Utah. It’s not like they waited YEARS after she moved. How could a new bishopric and SP fairly give any judgment on a person they don’t know. I know that inspiration can happen anywhere, in UT just as in VA, but then why can’t it happen in VA just as well as in UT? Why try to move all the info to new people when some disciplinary actions had occurred in VA before she moved?? That would make it so anyone facing church discipline could just move to somewhere new to escape it and leave all past problems/accusers/witnesses behind. Once action has started somewhere, it makes sense to me to have in continue with the people who started it even if the person runs away. (I don’t know if Kate was running, that was just the hypothetical – but even if she moved for legit reasons, it should stay where it started IMO)

  81. Meg Stout on June 24, 2014 at 10:24 pm

    Hi Kaimi,

    Thank you for #78.

    Also, I do hope I never run into PaulM’s former SP in any way that impacts my happiness. As for the felony thing, perhaps the initial SP came across a report of another PaulM (not the actual PaulM in question) and mistook someone else’s legal troubles as being attributed to PaulM. In fact, such a mistake could have led to all the unpleasantness that followed, speaking as a storyteller and not as a person acquainted with the actual facts. At any rate, it seems like it would be worth a gander at your public record to make sure the mistake isn’t recorded there. If your public record is clean, perhaps you could share that information with the subsequent SP, to demonstrate why you’re having a hard time being penitent for an act you honestly aren’t guilty of having committed.

    I have great faith that God will simply erase any discipline that was wrongly administered. But by the same token, He will not accept someone into His kingdom merely because they managed to dupe their acquaintances on earth. The simple but surprisingly difficult path is: love all mankind, forgive those who have trespassed against you, throw yourself on the atonement of Christ, and strive to live so as to merit the approval of a just God.

  82. Aaron on June 24, 2014 at 10:39 pm

    I respect the fire some have to defend the priesthood. Many know the church is true and don’t want to undermine it and promote doubt, but sometimes that comes across to people as so irrational. It often discredits those and the arguments of people who have a knee jerk reaction to defend all things Mormon, as though we are perfect.

    To many members of the church have had bad experiences with lousy leaders to know better. I think one thing people who want to defend leaders could do is come across as a little more reasonable. Believe me, I defend them (especially those who guide the church at the top) as well. I stand with the prophets more than men I know in stake presidencies, bishoprics, etc, but I do believe the church ( the people, especially leaders) has got to adjust some things and change and they are recognizing this some(how much I don’t claim to know, but not even close to enough ACTION has taken place.

    I am against OW and feel this was best for Kate Kelly even though she cannot see it. It is astonishing she is still in denial. What she did was serious! This is the Lords church and to protest how she did was beyond belief. No sense of the sacred. But I do feel this was good for the church and so will all the other trials this church will face and the blessings. If there is any people on earth that needs to be challenged it is Modern Israel.

    I hope Kate Kelly will repent and humble herself before her Heavenly Father and Savior and not buy to much into the worlds arguments. The fact is there is an outpouring of the Holy Ghost we have access to in this church that no other people do to this extent. Members (females) have the right (with FAITH, PRAYER, ETC) to have the third member of the Godhead with them abundantly. That is the GREATEST gift one can receive and Kate Kelly and those going so CONSISTENTLY FAR were not in harmony with the spirit.There is no doubt in my mind if she will repent He will bless her to know of the truthfulness of the church and His mighty hand upon it, notwithstanding the HUMAN ELEMENT.

  83. Joe on June 25, 2014 at 1:09 am

    Longtime lurker, first time commenter. Most of the comments from #65 on seem to me reasonable and logical. I don’t see the alleged procedural due process notice issue to be anywhere close to what Kaimi originally argued it was. It seems Kaimi now recognizes that as well which I take to be a good sign regarding his reasonableness.

    Kaimi, I hope you also realize that your aside regarding BCC detracts from your arguments here. It comes across as petty and petulant.

  84. Nutcase on June 25, 2014 at 6:17 am

    ¨ so she could not attend in person.¨OP

    She was offered a video conference link-up, others offered to buy the tickets or hand over their FF miles. She had plenty of chances to be there but she chose instead to hold a very public PR stunt probably in the hope of causing further embarrassment to the church.

    Also it is a mere technicality to dwell on the wording since conduct contrary to laws and order of the church covers apostasy and in fact many would see it as a polite way of saying ¨you are an apostate¨.

    You are looking at this case as a lawyer obviously but disciplinary councils are not courts of law nor are subject to due processes. They only ask that they be fair but even then it isn´t mandated so an appeal based on unfairness at the council could be dismissed if the sin was committed anyway.

  85. Anonymous on June 25, 2014 at 9:34 am

    The problem here is that the only communications that are public are those those that Kate Kelly decided to make public. Any other communication in writing or otherwise by the Bishop, including but likely not limited to his offer to change the date or have a video conference are not part of the OW agenda hence not made public. As you know such communication will not be made public by the Bishop or Church out of respect of the person and process, hence you are buying into one side of the story.

  86. Anon on June 25, 2014 at 10:01 am

    “Will not be made public … out of respect…”

    Presumably also because whatever the ethics or actions of the other party involved, they cannot violate priest-penitent privilege, or whatever it’s called in this Church or in the law.

    A question for the lawyers in these parts. If the bishop or stake president did say anything about any meetings or interactions, could they be sued by a publicity-happy church member or ex-member?

  87. Jeff Spector on June 25, 2014 at 10:36 am

    Face it, Sadly, Kate is excommunicated and unless an appeal does go through, which is unlikely, but possible, she will have to eventually come to terms with it. My experience is that it takes a while for the person to actual internalize what has happened to them and, in some cases like this, stay defiant for some period until they feel the absence of the Holy Ghost and peace of being under the covenant.

    Some never get there and do not return. I hope she does. But she will have to realize that her position has put her out of harmony with the Gospel, the Savior and The Church. I know some do not agree with that premise.

    Going on and on about the procedure of the DC and the like is not helpful in assisting Kate in returning to full fellowship, which should be everyone’s desire.

  88. Anon on June 25, 2014 at 12:22 pm

    Okay, so evidently the priest-penitent privilege wouldn’t cover that — that means that clergy doesn’t have to testify in court over confidential interactions — but there might be some argument to be made for filing a breach of confidence tort, if there was a breach of confidence.

    Here’s an old article exploring some of the case law surrounding clergy malpractice suits:

    http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Clergy+Malpractice

    That entry defines clergy malpractice as:

    A breach of the duty owed by a member of the clergy (e.g., trust, loyalty, confidentiality, guidance) that results in harm or loss to his or her parishioner. A claim for clergy malpractice asserts that a member of the clergy should be held liable for professional misconduct or an unreasonable lack of competence in his or her capacity as a religious leader and counselor.

    Since one of the main purposes of the movement we’re discussing here seems to be publicity, I imagine they would be more than happy to sue, if given any grounds to do so. No court is going to touch the question of an excommunication with a ten-foot pole, but if the people associated with the movement could provoke the bishop or stake president into discussing interactions that might be considered confidential in any way, OW’s public image suggests that they would be more than happy to sue over a breach of confidentiality.

    So if I were that bishop or stake president and found myself in this position, I would have requested help from the church legal department as well as from my own lawyer so I was familiar with the case law and could avoid any actions that would expose myself to a lawsuit.

  89. Linda on June 25, 2014 at 1:13 pm

    Excommunication is not a punishment. It is a release from covenants made. If Sister Kelly was standing up and belittling the LDS Church for the doctrine; and was counseled by her Bishop and other Priesthood holders, then she should be released from the promises she made at baptism and in the temple (if she was endowed). It can be viewed as a punishment or a blessing.

  90. Kaimi on June 26, 2014 at 5:15 am

    Thanks for your comments, everyone!