Another day, another story of racism and bigotry, whether it is from a packed Croydon train or a small church in America.

According the reports on  Gulnare Freewill Baptist Church, a small Pike County church in eastern Kentucky, has voted not to accept interracial couples as members or let them participate in some worship activities.

The vote which has caused strong disapproval from the eastern Kentucky community and led Randy Johnson, president of the Pike County Ministerial Association, state, “It’s not the spirit of the community in any way, shape or form” took place following Stella Harville, an MA student in otical engineering in Indiana and fiancé, Ticha Chikuni, who works at Georgetown College, attended a service at the church and sang together back in June.

While Stella Harville was at the time not a member, she had grown up in the church and was baptised there, and her father Dean Harville was a longtime member who serves as church secretary and clerk. In August, Dean Harville was told by Melvin Thompson, who had been pastor for many years, that his daughter and her fiancé of Zimbabwean descent couldn’t sing at the church again. Although Thompson stepped down as pastor in August, citing health issues, according to Harville, he refused Harville’s requests to drop the issue.

The new pastor, Stacy Stepp, said the couple could sing at the church if they wanted. However, in early November, Thompson proposed the church go on record saying that while all people were welcome to attend public worship services there, the church did not condone interracial marriage, according to a copy of the recommendation supplied by the Harvilles, which read “parties of such marriages will not be received as members, nor will they be used in worship services” or other church functions, with the exception of funerals.

The copy also stated that the recommendation “is not intended to judge the salvation of anyone, but is intended to promote greater unity among the church body and the community we serve.”

When put to vote last Sunday at the Gulnare Freewill Baptist Church, nine people voted for the proposal while six voted against it. According to Dean Harville, there were more people in attendance, but some did not want to take a stand.

Speaking of the decision which he believes is motivated by racism, Harville said, “It sure ain’t Christian. It ain’t nothing but the old devil working.” Harville said he plans to ask the conference of churches to which Gulnare Freewill Baptist belongs to overturn the vote.

Even if the vote was overturned, Stella Harville who feels hurt by the decision says she will not be able to go back to the church where she grew up.

Thompson, on the other hand, told the Herald-Leader on Tuesday that the proposal has been taken out of context, but declined further comment. Since the news was first reported by East Kentucky Broadcasting on Monday, hundreds of people have reacted with disbelief and disappointment. “Most of us thought that we’d moved well beyond that,” Randy Johnson said of the vote.

Well, wouldn’t we all like to think, in almost 2012 – 44 years after the end of all race-based restrictions of marriage in the US – in a country ruled by a president who is of African and American descent in the truest sense of the word (with a Kenyan father and a blonde, blue-eyed Caucasian mother) we’ve moved well beyond the bigotry shown in a small-town church against a couple who chose to pray together just because of the colour of their skins? If 2012 is not far advanced enough for interracial couples, when will the world be ready to embrace any union of those from different nationalities, creeds, races?





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