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A WGVU initiative in partnership with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation using on-air programs and community events to explore issues of inclusion and equity.

Kent County Judge Sara Smolenski is denied communion because she's married to a woman

Communion bread and wine behind a rainbow flag with a forbidden sign in front of it

Judge Sara Smolenski of the Kent County District Court has been a member of St. Stephens Catholic Church for her entire life, and has never had an issue receiving communion until last week. 

“I had a call from the parish priest and he asked me to please respect the church and not come up for communion.” 

Father Scott Nolan has been at St. Stephens for the last three years, and according to parishioner Kelly Shadoens this is not the first time he denies communion to a gay person. 

“He singled out a same sex couple last, late last January and denied them communion at a mass, in front of their daughter with no prewarning.” 

She says that communion is meant for everybody and is the reason she goes to church. 

“It is the culmination of the mass is communion. It is you receiving the body and blood of Christ. Its meant to be a healing kind of thing.” 

While Annalise Laumeyer from the Catholic Diocese of Grand Rapids say they are grateful to Smolenski for her service they do support the actions of Father Nolan.

“Those who approach the Body and Blood of Christ may not wound that same Body by creating scandalous distinctions and divisions among its members. Lifelong Catholics would surely be aware of this…….Father Nolan approached Judge Smolenski privately. Subsequent media reports do not change the appropriateness of his action, which the diocese supports.” 

But Smolenski says she questions whether Father Nolan has the right to deny her communion. 

“When he says respect the church its at that exact respect and love I have for the church that I feel so strongly in opposition to his stance.”  

Michelle Jokisch Polo, WGVU News.