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Mormon Church Excommunicates 'Ordain Women' Founder

Mormon women's rights activist Kate Kelly was excommunicated by the church Monday.

Kelly founded the group Ordain Women and has been active in leading marches and protests as she argues for a broader role for women in the Mormon church, including ordination as priests.

The decision to excommunicate her was made by three male church officials in Oakton, Virginia.

In preparation for the council hearing, Kelly said that she sent the council, or "bishopric," a letter explaining why she should not be excommunicated, along with more than 1,000 letters of support on her behalf. She included photos of herself growing up in the Mormon church and explained how she was a devout follower but had been asking "tough questions" her entire life, and would not stop doing so.

"I will not stop speaking out publicly on the issue of gender inequality in the church," she wrote. "I cannot repent of telling the truth, speaking what is in my heart and asking questions that burn in my soul."

The bishop sent an email to Kelly Sunday night saying they had not yet reached a decision, according to a post on Kelly's Ordain Women Facebook page.

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"After having given intense and careful consideration this evening to your membership status, and after carefully reviewing the materials you sent to us, we have decided that we want to prayerfully consider this matter overnight," the bishop said in an email to Kelly, according to the Facebook post.

Hundreds of supporters held vigils under the banner of "Stand With Kate" across the country, including a major rally in Salt Lake, near the Mormon temple.

"I don't feel like Mormonism is something that washes off," Kelly told the Associated Press Sunday. "That identity is not something that they can take from me."

The church sent Kelly a letter earlier this month accusing her of apostasy for her work leading the marches and the online portion of Ordain Women. They also threatened another member, John Dehlin, who runs a forum for Mormons questioning their faith.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints released a statement Sunday night explaining that the council proceedings in Virginia, between Kelly and her bishop, are private matters.

"In the Church, we want everyone to feel welcome, safe and valued, and of course, there is room to ask questions. But how we ask is just as important as what we ask. We should not try to dictate to God what is right for His Church," Church spokeswoman Ally Isom said in the statement.

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