Hundreds of people are formally renouncing their membership in the Mormon church in protest over a new policy that punishes same-sex couples and their children, an attorney assisting them said.
Utah lawyer Mark Naugle, 30, whose family split with the church 15 years ago, is offering his services pro bono to those who want help with the paperwork involved in getting off the rolls — which have 15 million members.
In the week since the policy was announced, 1,700 people have contacted him, he said.
"People are fed up and just don’t want their name associated with the church any more," Naugle said.
Salt Lake City realtor Joey Furtado, 42, became a Mormon as a teenager in Brazil and spent two years as a missionary before moving to Utah. But by 2001, he was disillusioned with his adopted faith and stopped attending services.
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But he said he never bothered to make it official, in part because he worried it would be a hassle.
"I have a friend who sent a resignation letter and months later had members of the church knocking at his door trying to reactivate him," Furtado said.
But after the church's declaration last week, Furtado decided to cut ties for good.
"I am not a gay man. I have a girlfriend and two sons, so the policy does not affect me directly, but I have seen families in a situation like this," he said.
"I don’t want to have anything to do with them anymore ... enough is enough."
Leaving the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints doesn’t require legal representation, but Naugle said that his forms simplify the process and he acts a buffer between clients and church leaders who may try to convince them not to leave.
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He said that like Furtado, many of those who have contacted him have already stopped participating in the church and just want to formalize it. Others are still attending services for family or professional reasons even though they disagree with church teachings and policies.
A spokesman for the church declined to comment on the resignations.
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Last week, the church instructed its local leaders that same-sex couples are apostates and that children living with them can't take part in church activities, including baptism, until they're adults and leave home.
"The church has long been on record as opposing same-sex marriages," spokesman Eric Hawkins said when the policy was announced.
"While it respects the law of the land and acknowledges the right of others to think and act differently, it does not perform or accept same-sex marriage within its membership."
Naugle said that in addition to the 1,700 people who contacted him directly, other Utah residents are attending a mass-resignation march and rally in Salt Lake City on Saturday.