Church to Couple: We Can’t Let You Get Married Here Because You’re Black

Racism is still alive in Mississippi and a Baptist church is at the center of the controversy.

Charles and Te’Andrea Wilson planned to get married at the First Baptist Church of Crystal Springs, a church they attend regularly (but aren’t members of), but at the last second, the church members said they couldn’t hold the ceremony in their building.

Why not?

They’re black.

There’s no nuance to that. There’s no additional information we don’t know about. It’s just racism, pure and simple. It’s especially weird when you consider Te’Andrea’s uncle works at the church and her dad is a member.

“The church congregation had decided no black could be married at that church, and that if he went on to marry her, then they would vote him out the church,” said Charles Wilson.

“He had people in the sanctuary that were pitching a fit about us being a black couple,” said Te’Andrea Wilson. “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.”

The church’s pastor, who had no problem with a black couple marrying in the church, performed the ceremony for them at a different location:

“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,” said Weatherford.

“I was prepared to go ahead and do the wedding here just like it was planned, and just like we agreed to,” said Weatherford. “I was just looking for an opportunity to be able to address a need within our congregation and at the same time minister to them.”

What good is a pastor who can’t tell members of his own congregation that they’re out of their minds? Why would anyone want to be a pastor of people that awful? Has this issue never come up before? Has the pastor ever spoken out against racism before? If so, it clearly didn’t work.

I’m just waiting for a congregation member to throw out some Bible verse in justification of the racism…

Let’s hope the Wilsons leave that church (and, ideally, the faith) altogether. They deserve better than that.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Gunstargreen

    Wow… just wow… I mean I’ve made jokes that Mississippi is still fighting the Civil War but I never imagined they were this accurate.

    It’s not even an interracial couple. This church isn’t stuck in the 1960′s, they’re stuck in the 1860′s. Marrying black people in their church will set a “precedent?” Wow, I can’t stop saying wow.

    I don’t really blame the pastor here who didn’t want to lose his job since it seems like he doesn’t have much say in how the church is run and he can be fired by popular vote. Though I agree that if I were him, I wouldn’t even WANT the job.

    • Alex

      >I mean I’ve made jokes that Mississippi is still fighting the Civil War but I never imagined they were this accurate.

      It’s more accurate than you think. Applies to Georgia just as well.

      Oh, and, by the way, it’s not Civil War around here, it’s “War between the States!” LOL

      • 3lemenope

        Had a professor from Mobile, Alabama who used to refer to it (only half-jokingly) as “the late misunderstanding between the cessions”.

      • HughInAz

        I thought it was “The War of Northern Aggression” (even though it was started by a sneak Southern attack)

        • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

          That’s what my ex always called it, and he would deny up and down that it had anything to do with slavery.

          • johnee

             I hope that you were the one that dumped his sorry ass!

            • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

              It… well… there was abuse. And I wasted seven years going, “if I love him, he’ll change.” There was police involvement.  It was, in short, a very unhealthy relationship.

              Ultimately, yeah, I dumped him.

              • johnee

                Kudos! My sister went through the same thing with some idiot. But he knew that she had a brother and cousins that would beat the shit out of him if he touched her.

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  Yeah, I survived, but at what cost to my mental and physical health?

        • amycas

          I’ve heard people seriously call it that.

          • Isilzha

            Yep, grew up hearing that.

      • johnee

        Yup. Why do you think our wonderful governor Rick Perry scores points every time he proposes “succession from the union”? These people are insane. In their own minds the civil war isn’t truly over. When you see bumper stickers and t-shirts that say “the south shall rise again” it aint no joke!

        • amycas

           I refuse to shop in any store that offers clothing apparel with the confederate flag on it. My boyfriend and I were shopping in a beach-side store on our vacation in Corpus Christi last year, and we left after we go to one part of the store that had a giant confederate flag hanging on the wall.

          • johnee

             Good for you! These idiots have no empathy for their fellow human beings. I can hear it now “golly gee why would you find the confederate flag offensive? It symbolizes freedom and states rights.” Yeah,  freedom, uh huh… states rights, sure.  What… the “freedom” to own slaves? The right to tell the rest of the country to F-off because you want to have your own little pocket nation of loser racists?

            • Justin

              Just so you’re aware, johnee, you are, in fact, coming off as a bigot. I’m a southerner, and not a thing you’ve said about southerners here has applied to me, and I’m not an anomoly. Also, it’s “secession,” not “succession.”

              • Justin

                Dammit, I’m not an anomaly.

              • johnee

                Thanks for pointing out the misspell.  My spelling and grammar can go in the toilet when I am typing and trying to get my thoughts out. That aside, please re- read my posts. There is not one place where I stereotype southerners. The article and most of our responses are directed toward racists and religious right fundies, not southerners in general. 

                 I have lived in Texas for many years and there are a lot of good people here too.  So no, you are not an anomaly. But c’mon, you can’t deny that we have larger concentrations of these idiots than other parts of the United States. I encounter them all the time, as I’m sure you do. And our political candidates wouldn’t be able to get up and talk about stupid shit like teaching creationism in science class, and “secession” (thank you) unless they were playing to a significant portion of their base. 

              • Isilzha

                Awww…Bless your heart, Justin! (you know what THAT means in ‘southern’, don’t you??!!!??)

                Johnee, I was born, raised, and unfortunately lived in the South for too long as an adult, and no, you’re not being a ‘bigot’ against Southerners.  What you’re talking about it ALL too common.  I guess some people aren’t forced by their families to travel in THOSE circles.  Lucky ducks, lol!

            • http://profiles.google.com/kelvins273 Kevin Smith

               And of course the Confederates were often hypocrites about states’ rights. After all, the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 nullified any free state’s law that gave black people accused of being runaway slaves a right to contest the claim.

        • Ken

          I live in Georgia, too and it is truly pathetic sometimes.  Not always.  But there are times I totally sympathize with Sherman’s March.

    • Charlie

      Its hard to make a man understand something if his living depends on him not understanding it.

    • RLWemm

       The pastor is probably operating under the same kind of contingencies that the rest of us do.  Because of our commitment to the welfare of our family (which requires on-going income and social support) and because they are afraid of the consequences of unemployment and black banning (or white banning), they have to make decisions that involve failing to criticize the actions and beliefs of those who hold their well-being in their hands.  This pastor does not appear to have much power to censure members of his congregation or members of his community, all of whom could make his life a misery – and may now do so anyway, now that he has made at least a mild stand against racism.
      He also made a good point about wanting to spare the lovers from being the center of an ugly, and possibly violent, reaction on their wedding day or shortly thereafter. 
      Making a stand against social injustice is just not as clear cut as we would like it to be.  Others can get caught in the cross fire.

    • RLWemm

       What I do object to is the reluctance of other Christians, and Baptists in particular, whose welfare is not directly affected by the members of that congregation, to make it very clear to the Christians of that church that they do not condone their version of Christian practice.
      This type of reaction, however, has been socially constrained by a culture that argues that it is “disrespectful” to argue strongly against the expressed beliefs of others in your religious club.  OTOH, these same people see no  reason to make a public stance against the frequently vitriolic treatment by their religious leaders of the beliefs and practices of rival religions or sects. The pope is described as the Anti Christ, for example.

  • Efogoto

    “They deserve better than that.”

    Yes, they do. Everybody does.

    Fuck those racist assholes.

  • Rwlawoffice

    Pathetic.

  • snoozn

    If you’re looking for a silver lining — at least this should show churches that they really won’t be forced to marry gay people when we finally achieve marriage equality across the country.

    It also shows the illogical place churches hold in our society. A church is one of the few institutions that can discriminate legally and then we reward them by allowing them to not pay taxes. 

    Of course people are illogical. Why would black people belong to a church that discriminates against them? The whole thing makes my head hurt.

    • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

      Same reason gays belong to churches that discriminate against them?

    • Charlie

      Why would anyone belong to any religion?  They are all delusional.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1297990859 Thomas Johnson

    Why hasn’t that church’s tax free status been IMMEDIATELY pulled?

    • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

      They’re within their rights. Morally corrupt by the standards of modern society, but perfectly legal.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Margaret-Whitestone/100001682409207 Margaret Whitestone

       It’s a church.  They don’t have to marry anybody they don’t want to–such as gay people, people of different faiths, atheists, disabled people, non-whites, or whoever they decide is unworthy.  It’s disgusting but perfectly legal. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/shanine.m Shanine Buller

    Is this even legal?? Only in the land of the free

    • http://www.facebook.com/shanine.m Shanine Buller

      Well not only… it could happen in other anti human right countries too

    • VIllaBob

      Most churches refuse to marry at least some minorities.   This church just goes one minority group further.

  • Michael

    How many of us would have to join that church to be able to vote in favour of … I dunno … a festival giving thanks for porn?

  • http://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/ PsiCop

    Not only is the pastor a wimpy milquetoast, unable or unwilling (or both!) to confront the bigots in his own church, the town itself is reacting similarly. They profess to be upset by this bigotry, and they’re disavowing it, but the only action they’re undertaking is holding a “unity rally.”

    Sorry but “unity rallies” cannot, and will never, do the slightest thing about bigotry. Facing down the bigots, might. Meaningful actions would include reprimanding them, throwing them out of the congregation, and/or ostracizing them generally (e.g. refusing to patronize a business one of them might own).

    But so far as has been reported, none of that has happened. After the “unity rally,” life in this little southern town will, in all likelihood, go right back to what it always has been. The bigotry will have won, and those who profess not to like it, will have demonstrated their worthlessness.

  • http://www.facebook.com/baileydute Ray Bailey JW

    It’s sometimes hard to believe it is 2012.

  • johnee

    Most of mt friends and relatives that  live in other parts of the nation are gobsmacked when I tell them what it’s like in this area of the country.  In parts of Texas, where I live, and the rest of the southern states, it’s like a goddamn time warp!

    I’ve actually tried reasoning with these yokels on several occasions, to no avail of course.  They seem to be completely ignorant of the fact that they are on the wrong side of history on a whole host of issues. Since they live in an alternate dimension, these types don’t realize that most people in the rest of the civilized world are snickering and rolling their eyes when they read about people that treat others like dog shit because of  melanin content,  think evolution is a fantasy,  a bearded guy sitting on a cloud  with cosmic powers gives a shit about who we sleep with, a few microscopic cells constitute a person, (sigh) etc. etc. etc……… 

  • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

    Don’t you just love how Christianity brings out the best in people?

  • mikespeir

    Oh, come on!  Really?

  • kaydenpat

    “I’m just waiting for a congregation member to throw out some Bible verse in justification of the racism… ”

    This.

    So in 2012, some churches are still practicing good old fashioned racism.  Good to know. 

  • Lee Krubner

    I love it when “Christian conservatives” show their true colors.

    • newavocation

      Yup, you can count on the south to be honest about their bigotry. It’s the let live attitude that some liberals, agnostics, and Unitarians espouse that really bothers me.   

      • johnee

        Huh? I got the first sentence.  Care to explain what you mean in the second?

        • Patterrssonn

          Apparently there’s nothing worse than a let-liver.

          • Chef

            Goose liver is delicious, though.

        • newavocation

          There are no ‘innocent’  bystanders and some tend to be critical of atheists actually trying to speak up and make a difference. I wonder just how much apologists contribute to the problems we face.

          • johnee

            Well when you put it that way I agree with you. I consider them enablers rather than let livers. Kinda like some people who only slam  religious right whack jobs but don’t  shine the same critical light on on some fundies that treat their women like shit and murder gays…all because they don’t want to seem intolerant.

            • 3lemenope


              Kinda like some people who only slam  religious right whack jobs but don’t  shine the same critical light on on some fundies that treat their women like shit and murder gays…all because they don’t want to seem intolerant.

              Who, exactly, is “some people”? I’ve personally never met (never mind read) a person who would shy away from criticizing a misogynist or a gay-basher for fear of seeming intolerant, and would be astonished if there were many people who fit that description.

              • johnee

                 In particular, some on the left that won’t hesitate to bash Christian fundies and racists ( as they damn well should) but exhibit a knee jerk, apologetic attitude when it comes to certain Islamic societies that treat their women lower than whale crap. Oh, and let’s just say gays don’t dare come out of the closet in these  societies.

                I find it hard to believe that you haven’t met, heard, or read of these people. I don’t know how familiar you are with them, but both Bill Maher and Dan Savage (certainly not right wing guys) point out these  hypocrites all the time.

                • 3lemenope

                  Again, who exactly? Find me a person or two who is a full-throated left-wing critic of Christianity’s nastier social side but won’t touch Islam’s and my skepticism will evaporate.

                • johnee

                   OK…Tavis Smley! You asked for one but I have many more. Google the interview ( I think it’s on You Tube) between him and Bill Maher a few years ago about the treatment of women in the Muslim world . And I challenge you to say that Tavis  was being anything close to even handed or consistent on the issue. He gave a half hearted wrist slap to the treatment of women in some of these societies. Then the dude draws a false equivalency between the treatment of our women in the west and women in these intolerant shit holes!  He spouts some irrational gobbledy gook about not wanting to stereotype Muslim men and how we can’t criticize other cultures. WTF? It made absolutely no sense. Bill basically  chastises Tavis for not being a true liberal and calls him a nut.

                  Plus, you are using very tricky language when you ask me to find  someone on the left that “won’t touch Islam”. I am not talking about touching them… or a feeble attempt at criticism followed by a rationalization. I am talking about using the very SAME “full throated” criticism that is applied to dominionist nut jobs.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Deanna-Jackson/617808744 Deanna Jackson

    I bet their skin color didn’t matter when it was time to pass that collection plate around. Pricks.  And the pastor needs to grow some balls, too.

    • brianmacker

      Apparently you are right there are black members. Second class members. I’m sure they have to pay something so they don’t kick them out on their asses.

  • Glasofruix

    I don’t get the whole stuff of being married in church. It’s not even a legal requirement for a marriage, so why don’t people just go and get wasted in a hell of a party after they’ve signed the papers?

    • Stev84

      A lot of American Christians don’t actually know that you don’t have to get married in a church. It’s too deeply embedded into the culture

    • Ken

      The sad part is that a lot of Christians get married in a church, then go to a reception to get wasted and screw the bridesmaids.  It’s a tradition or sorts, and quite acceptable to many of the devout.

      • johnee

        Shit…..Ive been missing out.

      • Isilzha

         Ugh…at my cousin’s wedding there was tons of preaching at the actual service and NO alcohol at the reception (held at the church too). 

  • Michael Brice

    As a Canadian I am not intimately acquainted with the U.S.  regulations regarding accepting federal funds and then violating the law/constitution. It would appear to me that this couple has grounds for litigation, and hopefully a HUGE award for damages, at the very least the appropriate gubmint department(s) should be made aware.

    I note in the video the young lady said she was not raised to be a racist, but raised to love everyone – too bad the members of her church cannot say the same thing.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Margaret-Whitestone/100001682409207 Margaret Whitestone

       They have no case.  Despite all of the fearmongering about churches being “forced to marry gay couples” if marriage equality is ever realized, no church is required, or can be required, to marry anybody.   They can choose to or refuse to marry any couple for any reason they want.  They can also bar anyone they want from their congregation.  Anti-discrimination laws do not apply to churches. 

      • Stev84

        If they had been turned away from the start that would have been true, although morally it’s still indefensible.

        However, they were told that they could get married there. They planned everything with the expectation that they would be married there. Then the day before the wedding, they were refused. So in essence they had a contract that was then breached by the church.

    • Isilzha

       Sorry, no…churches don’t have to marry a couple if they don’t want to.

      Though I’d wonder if this couple has a civil suit considering how little notice they got to change their plans.

  • Scott K.

    At least they can go somewhere else and get married.  I would have to go to another state to be married, and still have to claim individual with no dependents on both my state and federal taxes.  So their religion shunned them, my state and country is shunning me…

    • Isilzha

       Way to make this about you!

  • brianmacker

    WTF, why would any black person attend such a church. Apparently there are quite a few black members. This Pastor should have held the wedding and excommunicated the minority of members who were the problem. Baptists excommunicate gays, so why not racists?

    • Isilzha

      I’d guess that the most vocal bigots were the heaviest “tithers” (and the oldest, wealthiest members) and most active in the church.

      • brianmacker

        Thanks, I’m totally ignorant in this area. So in your opinion his motivation was self interest, which in this case amounts to selfishness?

    • Russ M

      Actually, Baptists don’t “excommunicate” anyone.  (I used to be a Baptist.)  They have other ways of making your life miserable. 

      • brianmacker

        I realized my ignorance before I posted and did a search on “Baptist Excommunication”. The search turned up some gays that were supposedly throw out of Baptist churches. Of course it is a wiki article so it could be wrong.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:People_excommunicated_by_Baptist_churches

        • Russ M

          When I was a kid the choir director of my Baptist church got up one Sunday morning and announced that he was divorcing his wife because he was gay and tired of living a lie.  (This was in the mid-1970s.)   The church didn’t excommunicate him.  They turned to other forms of “Christian love and charity,” including firing him, placing harassing phone calls to his house and his other employer, slashing his tires, firing guns at his house, and basically running him out of town on a rail.  That’s how Baptists excommunicate people.  The last I heard he ended up as a piano player in cocktail lounge in Phoenix.

  • Isilzha

    OK, I’m ready for people to again tell me how open, welcoming and benign churches are.  How even a muslim could expect to walk into a church on Sunday and snag a bulletin.

    Though I’m honestly surprised that blacks were allowed to attend services and join the church.  I’ve actually seen black people turned away or kicked out because of their skin color at the churches my parents made me attend (usually by being told, “you’d be happier somewhere else!).  Of course, that was many years ago now and I’m not sure how common that really is.  Though I’d expect in some areas of the South it’s still a common practice.  Even if people aren’t told they’re not welcome outright, I’m sure they pick up on the signals quickly enough.

    • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

      Opening, welcoming and benign if you’re the right “kind*” of person…

      *White, heterosexual, and Christian. All others need not apply.

      • Isilzha

        Exactly! 

        Though I’m dragging an “old” arguement (couple of weeks ago) into the fray about whether presenting a church bulletin for a discount is discrimination.  I tried to aruge that no everyone could just walk into a church and grab a bulletin.  Many people HERE was trying to say that churches were great places and I was wrong to think otherwise.

        But you’re absolutely right…many churches are exactly as you describe (thought I’d include ‘MALE’ in that too…for many churches, females just do NOT count!!).

        [aksjdkjf  fkdjfdlsjd ----OMG...where did my red squiggly lines GO!!????!!!  They. Are. Not. There!!!!  I can't fraking spell.  I NEED those red squiggly lines.]  :(

  • Russ M

    This doesn’t shock me.  I was raised as a fundamentalist Baptist in the southern U.S. (until I saw the light and got the hell out.)   I vividly recall an incident in my church as a kid when a black family showed up one Sunday morning for church services.  After the service ended the minister walked up to the family and suggested that they would be more “comfortable” in an all-black church.  He then provided them with a complete list of nearby churches that had predominately all-black congregations.  

    Whose comfort was the minister really worried about?  His own or the families?  His approach was tinged with soft racism, but it was still racism nonetheless.

  • Al2wilk

    This is a story about racism.  It’s not a story about religion or the South.  It happened to take place in a church in the South, but racism occurs in every aspect of society in every state of this country.  I live in the South and am a lifelong atheist and I always hate when the comments on here turn into bashing the South.   Most of my friends are Christians and are good, moral people.  I don’t judge them for their misguided beliefs about god  and they don’t judge me for mine. And the people I choose to have in my life, religious and nonreligious, confront racism and bigotry wherever and whenever we encounter it, because it is wrong.  The Southerners I know are just as appalled by this story as all of you are.

    • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

      You are wrong. This is about religion, and it is about the South. It is about religion because we see in this example a total failure of Christianity to provide an acceptable moral foundation for this group of people… despite the fact that religious apologists claim that as a fundamental value of religion. And it is about the South because that region is the heart and soul of racism and fundamentalism in the U.S. That doesn’t mean every Southerner is an ignorant racist, and it doesn’t mean you don’t find plenty of those in other places. But the South is the source of the cancer, and its disproportionate political influence (through our misguided Senatorial system) is a major factor in keeping the entire country from moving forward.

      • Ken

        I have to agree, it is about the South and religion.  This is the Bible Belt, but it apparently has no real use for the parts of the Bible it disagrees with.  Yet they will intimidate and ostracize  anyone who doesn’t proclaim love for Jesus and the Bible.  Hypocrisy, like illiteracy and bigotry, is comfortably at home here in Georgia.

      • johnee

         Wow. What YOU said!

  • houndies

    Its’s Mississippi. Is anyone surprised? I have several relatives that live in Crystal Springs and I spent alot of time there when I was little. Aunts, uncles, and cousins, all seemingly normal, happy, funloving folks and all completely racist (and homophobics). I remember my uncle, ( a substantial community member and landholder in Crystal Springs) looking at his t.v. and (then) VCR and saying “Isnt it amazing what the white man has done?” For real.  Let’s overlook the fact that both units came from Asia so all that the white man has done is learn how to outsource cheap labor and ship goods into this country.  I have a cousin further south in Natchez who still uses the N word frequently. She and her ex-husband were both racists, rightwingers and then were shocked when their 20 something daughter put a bullet in her head. Even at her funeral they had a side of the church for one denomination and the other side for the other denomination. I told my mom “see, its this religious bullshit that makes people put a gun to their head in the first place.” and of course all she had to say was “religion is nothing. its all about jesus.” *facepalm*. anyway, my relatives will say “oh, we arent racists, we’ve always had black nannies, maids, yard people.” another *facepalm* If the south is the buckle of the bible belt then Mississippi is the zipper.

  • C. Mason Taylor

    FYI, the quote, taken from the video interview originally, “”…and that if he went on to marry her…”  should’ve been, “marry us,” not “marry her.”  Charles Wilson, the speaker in that sentence, was one of the people getting married.  “he” in that sentence, was the pastor.  

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=532665943 Leoal Nelson

    Personally? All in favour of this. For a few reasons.
    1. You can’t tell churches that legalizing same-sex marriages will not result in churches being forced to perform them, if you want to force them to marry other people. Freedom of religion applies equally here. 
    2. It makes this church (and by association) other churches look like dicks. When churches look like dicks, people leave. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/rcreative1 Henry Ruddle

    Surely it’s all about money. The church members pitching a fit had to be large donors since the minister took the threat to have him fired seriously. 

  • OnyxE

    Absolutely disgusting and the entire country should be ashamed.  Thank God I live in Canada!!!    I thought America got rid of these rednecks when they made incest illegal.

  • Mythra

    I’m in an Interracial Marriage living in the beautiful state of Arkansas. I can tell you without a doubt that racism is still stagnant in the waters. My wonderful wife and I can hardly enjoy time out with one another without getting stared at in public. If that wasn’t bad enough we are both Atheists. We are quite the anomaly in these parts. Although we don’t wear our scarlet A’s of course. The southerners are always gloating about southern hospitality… Yeah, if you’re white!
    This is no different then denying LGBT members marriage. Maybe this will shed some light on the definition of marriage from a humanist perspective.  I wish there was something we could do to help this couple. What better way to show those Christians how humanism works.

  • Guest

    Oh America. Thank you for keeping me entertained with your craziness.

  • Andrew

    the headline is a bit misleading. IT wasn’t the church that said no. it was a few members of the church.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X