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White Mississippi Church to Black Couple: You Can’t Tie Knot Here

By Zachary Conn on July 27, 2012 - 3:32 pm, Posted in Anti-Black

It’s been more than 50 years since Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. famously called Sunday morning at 11 “the most segregated hour of Christian America.” Although many congregations have since integrated – or at least no longer actively oppose the idea – some still haven’t gotten the message.

Just ask Charles and Te’Andrea Wilson of Jackson, Miss. They say a predominantly white church refused to marry them on Saturday because of their race.

The couple had sent out invitations and printed programs announcing that the ceremony would be held at First Baptist Church of Crystal Springs. But the church’s pastor, Rev. Stan Weatherford, called them on Friday to say that wouldn’t be possible.

“He had people in the sanctuary that were pitching a fit about us being a black couple,” Te’Andrea told the Jackson-area NBC affiliate. The Wilsons were not members of the congregation but had regularly attended services there.

Congregants threatened the pastor that if he married the couple “they would vote him out the church,” Charles Wilson said.

Weatherford decided it would be best for everyone if he performed the ceremony at a different church nearby in Crystal Springs, a small town of 5,000 residents a half-hour outside of Jackson.

“I didn’t want to have a controversy within the church and I didn’t want a controversy to affect the wedding of Charles and Te’Andrea,” Weatherford said.

Weatherford said he was surprised by the opposition voiced by what he termed a small minority of the congregation. No African-American had ever been married at the church, which was established in 1883, “so it was setting a new precedent and there are those who reacted to that,” he said.

Church officials now say they welcome any race into their congregation and will hold internal discussions on how to respond should this particular issue reoccur.

To Charles Wilson, the First Baptist Church’s behavior flies in the face of true Christian values. “I blame those members who knew and call themselves Christian and didn’t stand up,” he said.

His wife agreed. She was “brought up in the church to love and care for everybody,” regardless of race.

This isn’t the first time racial strife has struck Crystal Springs.

In 1966, Eddie James Stewart was reportedly the victim of a racially motivated killing while in the custody of the town’s police. They claimed he was shot during an escape attempt.

In 1999, Dan M. Gibson, then-mayor of Crystal Springs, spoke at a gathering of the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC) during a failed run for the Republican gubernatorial nomination. The CCC, at the time seeking a “mainstream” image, is directly descended from the White Citizens Councils that bitterly resisted integration in the 1950s and 1960s.

Nor is the First Baptist Church the only Deep South congregation recently caught keeping Jim Crow on life support.

Earlier this month, a Winfield, Ala., church courted controversy by advertising an “Annual Pastors Conference” with “all white Christians invited.” Rev. William C. Collier defended his event’s racial exclusivity to the Birmingham-area TV station. “We don’t have the facilities to accommodate other people. We haven’t got any invitations to black, Muslim events. Of course we are not invited to Jewish events and stuff.”

“Of course,” indeed. Rev. Collier’s Church of God’s Chosen is affiliated with the racist, anti-Semitic Christian Identity movement, which claims Jews are “the devil’s spawn,” and whites the true biblical chosen people.

  • Michael Curley

    That truly is disgusting, how could any house of god refuse any couple. Can understand a objection to a same sex marriage, but where in the bible does it say white people get to decide how God views any of his creations. 2000 plus years of integration, we don’t know what color Jesus was and it does not matter. I am conservative as anyone, vote republican am behind the 1st amendment 100%, but marvel how this place could view itself a house of worship and not a house of hate. Should have a collection for the couple I promise that many people like myself would love the opportunity to show the couple that got turned away a chance to get married anywhere in the world they want.

  • marta

    The white supremacist go back to the old time Baptist church that was run by the KKK,… now call themselves the Christian Right /Tea Party.

  • aadila

    “The angry ones draw their swords, the angry ones aim their bows to put down the poor and the weakened and to kill those who walk on the path of righteousness.
    But their sword hits their own heart, their bows will be broken. With his poverty, the righteous one is richer than all the angry ones in their abundance.”

    Psalm 37, 14-16

    “You will not be punished for your anger, you will be punished by your anger.”

    Buddha

  • James Lockwood

    If it truly was a small minority of church members, the pastor should have told them that he was going to perform the ceremony at the church. Call their bluff, if the couple agreed. Then if the members voted him out, then he would know that it was not a minority. My brother belonged to an African American church and they started to protest when whites joined. He and the pastor along with others left. They say the most segregated hour in the United States is Sunday morning about 11 am. Guess that is true.

  • http://splcenter.org Jack Wolford

    I start to suspect trouble in a Town or City when it DOES NOT HAVE a Jewish Synagogue ; but, DOES HAVE A MASONIC LODGE . There’s a connection to the city personna. Not all Lodges are bad by far – It’s just the Klan and look alikes won’t tolorate them – being the good ones . Lots of mental illness .

  • Tobias A. Weissman

    Oh! if both my parents were alive, they would throw up. How could this country stoop so low as to have a church of God, especially when we have a black president, deny to marry a black couple. That church is no church. It’s a piece of garbage.

  • http://racistnomore.blogspot.com Shep

    The sad thing is this happens all over the US and it just goes to show we have a lot more work to do for racial unity. I am a native of Mississippi and aware of racism first hand.. we need to unite and defeat this racism.

  • Julia

    Dear God how hypocritical these proclaimed Christians can be! Judgement and hatred in God’s name?? Why? Can anyone tell me WHY??

  • CoralSea

    Aadila – I think you will find that many of the more fervent fundamentalist Christians aren’t keen on psychotherapy or drugs, such as anti-depressants. Instead, they view everything from a religious basis. I take anti-depressants (it’s a chemical thing and spiritually neutral, as far as I am concerned, science-geek that I am). Wiccans also believe in Karma and in reincarnation, and that the reason for life is to learn basic lessons — like not wishing ill on other people.

    Reynardine — how creepy is that? See – this is the sort of irresponsible, highly negative, and superstitious magickal crap that some fundamentalists are now engaged in. It’s so totally fear-based. I do worry about people who have taken their fears and religious beliefs that far (and don’t seem to have any sense of the irony of it, re: “witchcraft=bad, but what we do isn’t witchcraft, but “good” magick). It makes you wonder what else they would do. It’s on a par with allowing your kid to die of diabetes or cancer or pnemonia because getting medical treatment would acknowledge that god isn’t all-powerful. Yuck. I’m with Aadila on that — follow science when it is available.

    Anna — I personally don’t think that churches should be tax-exempt, but I disagree that they should be shut down because their members act like idiots. If people want to belong to churches run by bigots, that’s their right (and it’s the right of the rest of us to tell them that we don’t agree with them). Freedom of speech and religion are worth upholding. I don’t want people censoring me–but I am also aware that if I open my mouth in public (meaning more public than this forum, under a pseudonym), that some people will probably criticize me for being a Wiccan. They can do so — it’s unfortunate and ignorant, but they can. However, if they attempt to burn my house down, or burn ME at the stake, then we’ve got a reason to prosecute them — for their actions.

  • Anna

    I am so sick of all of this back and forth banter when what really needs to be done to that “church” is – SHUT IT DOWN. This is not a private club, membership-schmembership – they get tax exemptions, government privileges for practicing racism. Case closed. No more banter. Shut it down. Stop with the Jesus this and the Christian that. That’s neither here nor there. SHUT IT DOWN. It’s the law.

  • aadila

    Very interesting views, CoralSea.

    As a buddhist I see things in a monistic way and not dualistic good-evil, black-white, me-you sort of way. Typically I wouldn’t even use the terms good and evil, although the thought crosses my mind, but instead “skillful” or “unskillful” in so far as what we project from our consciousness stays with us, be it helpful or harmful. Some people call that the law of karma.

    But in any case while there are demons in a mythological or metaphorical sense in buddhism these are considered manifestations of the mind. So there are certainly no “demons” that we believe in, at least of the same kind of external entity that Christians imagine. Even our hell is a very long but finite lifetime whose purpose is not to punish but to permit spiritual growth.

    While we are open to other religions (in fact most buddhists really don’t care if you embrace buddhism at all, much less try to judge you or out-god you or change your mind on religion) I find it hard to understand how so many people can put responsibility for what happens on exogenous beings, and so quickly depart from science, common sense and reason.

    As the Dalai Lama said, if there is a conflict between what we believe and science, go with science. As far as I know there is no scientific evidence that demons influence human behavior. But I definitely agree with your comment that the hard-core, dogmatic sects of Christianity who preach the existence of such forces, could very well bring that which they fear upon themselves.

    Again though, I see this as a manifestation of the mind, and easily revealed as delusional if we simply use our mundane human experience and reason as guides. And let’s not forget that virtually every major religion now accepts spiritual counseling and psychological counseling serve separate functions, and are not to be considered substitutes for one another.

    If anyone actually is struggling with this I think the first stop should be to see a psychologist, and after that, a spiritual advisor of any tradition.

  • Reynardine

    You know, Coral Sea, last March I found a brick chip in my drine and the handles of my wheelbarrow smeared wiith Wesson oil. I threw the brick across the road, washed down the wheelbarrow, and repainted it with oil-based paint, which you do with wheelbarrows anyway, just to keep them from rusting through. Maybe three weeks later, a former friend I had broken off contact with several years ago after she went over Niagara Falls religiously called and asked most solicitously how I was doing. Fine, I said, but gave little information. A while later, I found this syntheshit where my drive entered the road. It proved to be a mixture of bran and water, and I flushed it across the road with a hose. Has anything changed for me in Middle Earth? No: a tribute to the as usual, as Hemingway put it. But it seems they think this sorcerer’s apprentice stuff will make The Lard afflict you until you seek Salvation. They believe Wesson Oil with prayer has this property. No syntheshit.

  • CoralSea

    Michael — As a Wiccan who is knowledgeable regarding “magick,” I am frequently appalled by how some crazy Christians (and I very definitely DO NOT believe that, as a rule, Christians are crazy; many embrace the religion in a positive way that uplifts them and betters both their lives and the lives of those with whom they come in contact), tend toward very negative superstition and negative and potentially dangerous “magickal” practices (that for some reason, they don’t perceive as magick when they are doing it).

    I am referring to actively “cursing” people, often gussied up with prayers to “change their hearts” in ways that no knowledgeable Wiccan would ever do (we tend to believe that whatever we do can come back on us with three-fold strength, so any “cursing” or efforts to change the wills of others is undertaken, if at all, very, very sparingly).

    I sometimes think that the dualist God versus Satan mentality that some Fundamentalists embrace actually serves to create and/or summon negative thought forms (bad spirits, if you will). I know that my parents’ church as well as my sister’s (she lives in Alaska), are always being exorcised because parishioners feel “negative” presences there. Their take on it is that, because they are battling Satan, demons are after them. My take on it is that some of them are either given to hysteria (helped along by all of the Hell-Fire preaching), or that parishoners who actually have some magickal ability (hence their religiousity — this is the case with my mother, I believe), have managed to inadvertantly attract what they fear the most.

    Wiccans don’t believe in the devil. Yes — there can be negative forces, which are to be avoided, but as a nature-based religion, we really aren’t concentrated on the whole heaven or hell thing. Death is a transformative element in the wheel of life, creation and destruction follow each other; we don’t ascribe good or evil to them (unless, of course, someone is murdered — we still believe that murderers should be prosecuted and we mourn the dead because we miss them. We don’t worry that maybe the dead person will go to hell because he or she got frisky with the same sex or other such irrelevencies).

    I am very much a fan of ghost stories (an interest my sister and mother always felt was EVIL and that scared them very much). What I find interesting is that a lot of Wiccans/Pagans are “sensitives” (open to the spiritual world), and yet we aren’t beset with ghosts, demons, or negative hauntings, but a lot of Christians are. Does the negativity of their fear regarding the unGodly draw the attention of things-that-go-bump-in-the-night? Or are they simply, as posited previously, prone to a hysteria that, because of their religion, sends their thoughts in the direction of “oh my God, it’s a demon!” if they hear their house creak as the foundation settles.

    Finally, the only “Satanists” I’ve ever run across (and these tended to be disaffected teenaged, young adult types) were people from Christian households, and the “Satanism” (or occasionally, they would endeavor to embrace Wicca, because they were confused and ignorant and thought it was Satanism) was a form of rebellion that most readily came to mind. Some of these people did some bad things and scared the heck out of themselves. Some of them may even managed to “conjure” something negative (who knows?), but it was an expression of rebellion against Christianity.

    I don’t want to pass judgment regarding magickal powers or ghosts, but I do think that at worst, some unbalanced Christians, because of their doctrinal orientation, may set negative things in motion, or at best, that again, because of their beliefs and fear of anything “not-God,” can be subject to hysterical suggestion and believe that they are being attacked by “forces of evil.”

    Me – I am mainly concerned with fending off mosquitoes while I embrace the wonder of nature and all of her bounty.

  • Michael Parker

    Christians must understand- the devil is in churches too. So if the devil don’t want you there, good for you, don’t go there. Find a true Christian church to go to.

  • Identity-H

    Honestly, Annie; at first I thought you were misinterpreting people’s comments, but after your ‘Jooz and Leftists’ post I think you might just be a Stormfront lurker. It is definitely the type of bunk that crowd is known for.

    That said, for anyone reading who might be taken in by Annie’s more earlier, more subtle comment: freedom of speech and association does not equal freedom from criticism. The only people attempting to stifle these two liberties are the racists and their allies who insist we cannot criticize them for their actions.

  • CM

    “Baptist” is a fairly generic term that covers a range of beliefs from liberal to ultraconservative. (Yes, there really are liberal Baptists.) However, the biggest Baptist denomination is the Southern Baptist Convention, which leans heavily toward the conservative side, as exemplified by its “Faith and Message,” a statement of dogmas that all Southern Baptists are required to subscribe to.

    It includes such things as “all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy,” “While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture,” “Marriage is the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime,” “A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ.”

    More pertinently for the present discussion: “In the spirit of Christ, Christians should oppose racism, every form of greed, selfishness, and vice, and all forms of sexual immorality, including adultery, homosexuality, and pornography.”

    So if the First Baptist Church of Crystal Springs is SBC, it violated the denomination’s Faith and Message by treating this couple in a racist way. Regrettably, this clause of the F&M seems to be honored more in the breach than the observance by more congregations than just this one.

  • aadila

    My point being that if religious conviction is no barrier to marriage in Buddhism, why should imutable characteristics such as race?

    In Buddhism there is no religious necessity for marriage at all, although attributes such as fidelity and loyalty are encouraged as ingredients of happy unions, as are being generous, loving, and humble in all relationships including marriage.

    So I don’t think religion per se is the problem here.

    See this article for an example:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/.....59264.html

    “It’s difficult enough to maintain a relationship … how could you be so stingy as to begrudge a couple for wanting to get married, regardless of their sexual orientation?”

    Could we not substitute “race” for “sexual orientation” in this phrase and neatly sum up the problem?

  • aadila

    Just want to chime in…

    Because Buddhists are accepting of other religions, even within the same household, there are no religious laws that require that both individuals in a marriage should be Buddhist or that conversion to either’s religious conviction is warranted or expected.

  • Gregory

    Professor, that is why they are called Talibaptists.

  • Supersonic250

    Professor: WRONNNNNNNNNNNNG!!!! WRONG WRONG WRONG!!!

    The Westboro Baptist Church is NOT Baptist, but is Hyper-Calvinist… and even Hyper-Calvinists refuse to be associated with them. They’re essentially a cult. Most Baptists are tolerant, reasonable people, and painting them with the same brush is rather ignorant.

  • Professor

    Am I alone in observing that what appears to be an overwhelming majority of the hate speech, bigotry, misogyny, anti-gay rhetoric and intellectually challenged “Creationism” nonsense seems to originate in the Baptist church? What’s up with that? I’d like to see someone trace that trail of hateful little breadcrumbs back to it’s source to see from whence that vitriol emerges, but more importantly, who’s funding it. What kind of religion dresses small children in T-Shirts emblazoned with “I Hate Fags.com”. This is not a religion, this is a factory of hate. And it needs to be exposed for what it is.

  • CoralSea

    Let’s try this again — premature submittal. It happens.

    Annie — I think that everyone here is well aware that many religious bodies, whether Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Wiccan (and I would expect others, as well, although I don’t know enough about all other world religions or specific denominations of major religions to say) can refuse to marry people within their church/mosque/synagog, etc. if the couple doesn’t meet certain standards under that religion/denomination.

    It’s really up to individual religious bodies to decide who they wish to marry UNDER THE AUSPICES OF THEIR RELIGION. But the elements that make this story of interest is 1. that the couple in question had been attending this particular church, 2. the church’s minister apparently didn’t have a problem with performing the marriage (so there wasn’t a religious reason why, under this denomination, that would have kept them from marrying), 3. it was (some of) the church members who had a problem with the marriage ceremony being held in “their” church, apparently because the couple was African American — and these members were able to get their way. Personally, I would like to know just how they could possibly justify this — or if they indeed admit that they are unapologetic racists.

    This story was about the apparent racism on the part of the objecting church members. Most Christian churches have taken steps to condemn and eliminate overt racism and have gone to great lengths to be inclusive of others who otherwise agree with the church’s teachings. In this case, however, there were enough people who are sufficiently racist that they were willing to speak up — even though the couple in question had been attending the church.

    Frankly, what I find most interesting about this story is that African Americans were apparently tolerated at Sunday services, but somehow, partaking of other religious “services” was out of bounds for them. Were any African Americans actually allowed to join this particular church? If not, then you have to wonder why anyone (including non-racist whites) would want to attend church there.

    Either way, the story is newsworthy because of the anochronistic racism in a Christian church, when most Christian churches (although, obviously, not all) have gone to such lengths to get past racism and recognize the toxic effects it has not only on their congregations, but on society as a whole.

  • CoralSea

    Annie –

    I think that everyone here is well aware that many religious bodies, whether Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Wiccan, probably others — I don’t know personally — can refuse to marry people WITHIN THEIR CHURCH/MOSQUE/SYNAGOG

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    Once again Annie, you are terribly confused. First, this story has nothing to do with Israel, so it’s a moot point. The SPLC reports on domestic matters, and Israel’s racist policies are not related. You sound like one of these Islamophobic types who screams “THEY WOULDN’T LET PEOPLE BUILD A CHURCH IN SAUDI ARABIA!!!” We’re talking about America, not Saudi Arabia.

    Second, why do you say “Jews and leftists”, as though Jews are a hive mind collective? There are Jewish leftists, conservatives, reactionaries, Communists, and even Jewish fascists. There are plenty of Jews, including strictly religious Jews, who oppose not only Israel’s policies but in fact the very existence of Israel as a state.

    Now you wonder why this story is news. Well some folks like to pretend that we “fixed” racism in America at some undefined time in the past. This shows that we still have some of the same problems as we always did. People need to be reminded of that.

  • Annie

    Palestinian Arabs in Israel cannot get married in Jewish synagogues. I’m not aware of a non-Jewish couple being allowed to get married in ANY Jewish synagogue in this country or any other country.

    Jews and leftists take note: Expend your energy first on ending Apartheid in Israel before you accuse the white Gentile with your lies.

    I’m sure if an Arab couple went to a Jewish synagogue in the USA the Rabbi would refuse to marry them. But anyway it doesn’t matter. The Black couple in question was married in another church so the story is over. So now you all go away and start worrying about something else.

  • LadyPilot

    All of these southern churches depend on tithing for their support. The best place to affect them is in the pocket book. If those in the congregation who support integration simply stop tithing, the message will be heard loud and clear.

  • Reynardine

    Sam: If you live in the South, so will food.

  • Sam Molloy

    Majii, I hope I’m allowed to visit the Colored section of Heaven. The music will be better.

  • Supersonic250

    Reynardine, thanks for choosing ME to do that. I know I usually end up chiming in when the weirdos show up and start spouting UTTER nonsense (as compared to utter BS, like most of your “hammerheads.”). I’ll see what I can do, although I may not be able to do it and be as clever as you and the others… or do it quite as reliably. ^_^

  • Reynardine

    Steve, black people are never surprised by racism. Now, exactly what are you surprised about?