FARGO – A new lawsuit alleges the Eastern North Dakota Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America discriminates against conservative members.
The suit, filed in Cass County, names the ELCA, the synod, the Norman Evangelical Lutheran Congregation of Kindred, a pastor and several members of the church as defendants.
It was filed by Raymond and Joan Grabanski. Raymond says his family is now being forced out of the church.
The Grabanskis are seeking in excess of $50,000 in damages.
Grabanski says tensions first started in 2014 when he told a hiring committee he was opposed to hiring an openly gay pastor for scriptural reasons.
The committee approved the pastor, who has since served and left the church.
In the time since, Grabanski, a member of the church for 23 years, claims his family has been ostracized for continuing to express their opinions.
“My wife was a teacher there for 15 years. I was a Sunday School teacher for 10,” Grabanski said.
Following a meeting between Grabanski and church leaders about the tensions last month, he says his family was asked to leave. Now, Grabanski says it's not a matter of choice.
“In fact, we've been threatened if we didn't leave. They'd try to remove us as troublemakers,” Grabanski said.
Grabanski also says during the suit, he's legally considered to be trespassing if he steps on church grounds.
Asked why he doesn't choose another church, he says the church claims to be accepting of people of all viewpoints.
"’All are welcome.’ That's the public statement, but what happens in reality is they hire attorneys to trespass the Grabanskis out of the church,” Grabanski said.
He says he filed the suit because he wants the alleged defamation to end and he plans on going back to the church once it's over.
"As soon as it's over, I can go in that church because I am a member. They haven't -- can't get me out as a troublemaker because I haven't raised any trouble,” Grabanski said.
Attempts to reach church leaders were unsuccessful, but Grabanski provided recorded conversations he had with various church leaders in recent months, including one in which a leader cites Grabanski's behavior as their true contention and claim his accusations of discrimination are false.