A Birmingham lawyer was ejected from the Church of the Highlands on Sunday after attending an Easter Sunday worship service, when his ex-wife complained that he was in violation of a court order.
Bart Slawson posted his account of the ejection on Facebook.
“I just went to Easter Sunday to worship Jesus at the church,” Bart told AL.com. “I’ve got 10 policemen in my face, searching me. I was sitting on the couch. I was on my way out. I got a text message from a friend so I sat down to read it.”
A sergeant from Irondale Police Department helped handle the situation, Bart said. “He was very professional and polite,” Bart said. “He kept saying, ‘There are two sides to the story. The restraining order doesn’t say church.'”
The head of church security made it clear to him he was banned permanently not only from the main campus at the Church of the Highlands in Irondale, but from all 15 of its branch campuses.
“The head of security told me I can’t come back ever again,” Bart said. “It’s a big part of my life. I think that’s wrong. It’s shocking, it’s frightening and it hurts. I go for comfort and to help people.”
Efforts to reach the head of security at the Church of the Highlands and the Irondale police sergeant who handled the situation were unsuccessful as of Tuesday afternoon.
But Bart and Kristi gave essentially the same account of what happened at the church, in separate interviews with AL.com.
Kristi said she arrived at church at 7:15 a.m. to serve on the coffee team, which hands out coffee to arriving churchgoers.
Buddy Floyd, an usher and Dream Team member at the church, saved her usual seat in a pew behind Pastor Chris Hodges, she said. “I usually sit behind Chris Hodges on the second row,” Kristi said.
“I sat Kristi in her seat but didn’t save her one,” Floyd clarified by email. “One just happened to be open near Pastor Chris.”
Kristi said she was on her way out of the sanctuary when she saw her ex-husband.
“I was 10 steps out of the sanctuary and saw him sitting there,” Kristi said. She told Floyd that her ex-husband was in the church and that she had a protection order against him.
“Within 30 seconds I was swarmed by people at the church,” she said. “I saw the uniformed security people the church has, running toward where he was.”
She pointed him out, and he was questioned by church security officials and Irondale police.
“I do have a protection from abuse order,” said Kristi Slawson. “The security at the church embraced me very quickly and took me away from where he was.”
Kristi said she always carries the court order against her ex-husband.
“I keep the protection order in a folder in my purse,” Kristi said. “My first instincts were to find somebody and show them the protection order.”
Bart said he never saw his ex-wife and didn’t know she was at the same service.
“I pulled my restraining order out,” Kristi said. “I was crying and upset. I stayed up in the offices until he was escorted out. They told him he was never allowed to attend any Church of the Highlands services at any of the campuses.”
Bart said that the divorce agreement includes a mutual restraining order, so he could have called the police on her if he had seen her first. Kristi agrees that’s true, but she also has a protection order in addition to that, she said.
Kristi said her first husband died in 2009 after more than two decades of marriage. She married and divorced another man before marrying Bart, her third husband.
Bart and Kristi married in 2015. Both had a previous spouse die. The mother of Bart’s 15-year-old daughter died in 2014. He had been married and divorced twice previously. Kristi was his fourth wife. Bart and Kristi had their divorce finalized last month.
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SOURCE: AL.com – Greg Garrison