I thought it was a typo when I read that a Pike County (Kentucky) church had “taken a stand” against interracial couples. What?! They mean the church is taking a stand for interracial couples, right?
Prompted by the attendance of the couple above, Gulnare Freewill Baptist Church in Pike County, Kentucky has voted to deny church membership to interracial couples, forbidding them from taking part in certain “worship activities.”
It sounds to me like they’re doing those couples a favor.
In case you’re wondering, this rule is perfectly legal. In general, if there’s no state action, then there’s no right to equal treatment. (That’s a pretty big over-simplification of the issue, though. Businesses that serve the general population — like hotels — cannot violate the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by, say, discriminating against African Americans.) That said, the government can’t mandate that churches refrain from discriminating against interracial couples.
Is this what we mean by separation of church and state? Should it be?
When I read this story, my first thought (as mentioned above) was that the church was doing this couple a favor: they can now get the heck out of there and do some serious questioning of their beliefs and their community. But let’s say, hypothetically, that this was the only church in town, in a town that’s dominated by religious life, such that excluding the couple from the church amounted to excluding them from a large swath of social and political life.
Legal issues aside, I’ve always found this type of behavior to be incredibly bizarre. The church is doing this, presumably, because the Hebrew Bible has a problem with the Israelites getting it on with foreigners. But unless the church also recommends stoning your daughter if she has sex before marriage and avoiding shellfish, I don’t see why the passage in question here should be taken seriously by anyone.