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New Web site offers reviews of churches

A graduate student at DePaul University, atheist activist Hemant Mehta avoided being a church hater by becoming a church rater.

Enlisted four years ago on a lark to attend about a dozen Chicago-area churches and honestly rate his experience, Mehta’s beliefs did not change, but his attitude toward organized religion did.

His journey inspired an interreligious group of entrepreneurs to recently launch ChurchRater, a new approach to church shopping modeled after Yelp, a popular Web site where users rate local businesses. By inviting ordinary worshippers to post reviews from the pews, the site aims to help Christians navigate the more than 330,000 churches across the U.S. to find where they fit on Sunday morning.

The Rev. Jim Henderson, an evangelical pastor from Seattle and one of the site’s founders, insists that Sunday morning worship is when most churches choose to open their doors to the public and hence invite critique. Churches should welcome the evaluations at, he added. While Henderson and his staff work to filter unnecessarily vile material to keep reviews useful, he said hard truths can hurt and help.

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By Manya A. Brachear, Tribune reporte

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