A black couple in Crystal Springs, Mississippi says that a predominantly white Baptist church refused to let them get married because of their race.
Charles and Te’Andrea Wilson told WLBT that the day before they were to be married, the pastor of First Baptist Church of Crystal Springs informed them the ceremony would have to be moved due to the reaction of some white church members — even though the couple had attended the church regularly.
“The church congregation had decided no black could be married at that church, and that if [the pastor] went on to marry her, then they would vote him out the church,” Charles Wilson explained.
“He had people in the sanctuary that were pitching a fit about us being a black couple,” Te’Andrea Wilson added. “I didn’t like it at all, because I wasn’t brought up to be racist. I was brought up to love and care for everybody.”
Dr. Stan Weatherford, the church’s pastor, was forced to perform the marriage at another church after he was taken by surprise by his congregation’s outrage.
“This had never been done before here, so it was setting a new precedent, and there are those who reacted to that because of that,” Weatherford said. “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. I wanted to make sure their wedding day was a special day.”
Church officials said they would hold meetings to decide what to do if another non-white couple wanted to use their facility in the future. They insisted that all races were welcome at the church.
“I blame the First Baptist Church of Crystal Springs, I blame those members who knew and call themselves Christians and didn’t stand up,” Charles Wilson said.
Last year, a small church in Pike County, Kentucky voted to ban interracial couples from most church activities “to promote greater unity among the church body.”
A resolution passed by members of the congregation stated that “Gulnare Freewill Baptist Church does not condone interracial marriage.”
“Parties of such marriages will not be received as members, nor will they be used in worship services and other church functions, with the exception being funerals,” the resolution said.
After a firestorm of criticism and public pressure, the church eventually dropped the interracial ban.
Watch this video from WLBT, broadcast July 27, 2012.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that First Baptist Church of Crystal Springs was in Missouri.