Online chapel the Church of Fools, stay with us here, has been forced to excommunicate some members of its congregation.
The Internet church launched last week and has already been overrun with worshippers. But some have behaved so badly that church wardens have been forced to "use the Smiting button" or instantly log-out some members.
Stephen Goddard, co-editor of Ship of Fools, the webzine behind the church, said: "There's been an endemic problem with people logging in with unpleasant or racist names. Also blokes chatting up girls, not bad in itself, but some are doing so in an unpleasant, profane and very persistent manner." Goddard said the problems were difficult to avoid in the chatroom environment and had not spoilt the experience - "we wanted to set up a sacred space for contemplation and it's been far more successful than we expected."
The church has had to ban people from taking their avatars to the pulpit area and remove a function which allowed people to "shout" at the whole congregation.
In the last few days the site has averaged 8,148 visitors a day. Church of Fools launched on 11 May and is funded to the tune of £5,000 by the Methodist Church UK. Goddard said: "Methodists have traditionally tried to engage people in a forward-thinking way."
Goddard told The Register that the site was an offshoot of the UK's largest Christian webzine Ship of Fools. The webzine takes a humourous look at Christian issues - "God with a grin". Goddard said readers of the site had long wanted an online chapel to talk and worship in. The site is running as a three-month experiment with backing from the Methodists and National Christian Resources.
Visitors to the site can pick a cartoon character and visit the church. Donations of money, bandwidth or security software are also welcome. ®
Stephen Goddard asked us to note that the Church of Fools site has been swamped after previous media reports. If you can't access the site, please try again later.