WAYNESVILLE, N.C. - A pastor of a small Baptist church led an effort to kick out church members because they didn't support President Bush, members said.
The nine members were voted out at a Monday meeting of the East Waynesville Baptist Church in this mountain town about 120 miles west of Charlotte. WLOS-TV in Asheville reported that 40 other members resigned in protest.
"It's all over politics," said Selma Morris, the church's treasurer. "We've never had a pastor like that before."
Pastor Chan Chandler had told the congregation before last year's presidential election that anyone who planned to vote for Democratic Sen. John Kerry should either leave the church or repent, said Lorene Sutton, who said she and her husband were voted out of the church this week.
"He's the kind of pastor who says do it my way or get out," she said. "He's real negative all the time."
Morris said some church members left after Chandler made his ultimatum in October.
Chandler didn't return a message left by The Associated Press at his home Friday, and several calls to the church went unanswered. He told WLOS that the actions were not politically motivated.
North Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Jerry Meek sharply criticized the pastor Friday, saying Chandler jeopardized his church's tax-free status by openly supporting a candidate for president.
"If these reports are true, this minister is not only acting extremely inappropriately by injecting partisan politics into a house of worship, but he is also potentially breaking the law," Meek said.