News

Kentucky Baptist Church reverses barmy ban on mixed-race couples

ALL hell broke loose after members of a Baptist Church in good ol’ Kentucky voted to bar mixed-race couples.

Nine daft bigots, members of the Gulnare Free Will Baptist Church in Pike County, voted for the ban after the daughter of church secretary Dean Harville attended the church during the summer with her boyfriend, who is from Africa, and the two sang for the congregation.

Stella Harville and her boyfriend, Ticha Chikuni

Harville said he was approached in August by Melvin Thompson, the church member who crafted the resolution to bar mixed-race couples, and was told that his daughter and her boyfriend were no longer allowed to sing at the church.

But yesterday Stacy Stepp, pastor at the church said that the vote had been  declared null and void after it was determined that new church byelaws can’t run contrary to local, state or national laws.

He said the proposal was discriminatory, therefore it couldn’t be adopted.

Stepp said about 30 people who attended church services voted on a new resolution that:

Welcomes believers into our fellowship regardless of race, creed or color.

Thompson has said he is not racist and called the matter an “internal affair.”

39 responses to “Kentucky Baptist Church reverses barmy ban on mixed-race couples”

  1. alb says:

    The vote was declared null and void because the church would get into trouble with the law, no mention of morals or respect for fellow human beings but what did we expect?

  2. Angela_K says:

    “Welcomes believers into our fellowship regardless of race, creed or color [sic]”. But obviously no Gays!

  3. AgentCormac says:

    I agree with Alb. Seems to me there’s not much free will to be had at the Gulnare Free Will Baptist Church if you don’t happen to fit with their bigoted view of the world.

  4. The Woggler says:

    I had to look at the date to make sure I hadn’t slipped back to 1955.

  5. Barry Duke says:

    This report reminded me of a joke that did the rounds in apartheid South Africa in the early 70s.

    A Dutch Reformed minister walks into his Whites-only church early one morning, and sees a black man kneeling at the altar.

    “What the fuck are you doing in my church,kaffir?” he bellows.

    “Cleaning”, replies the African.

    Somewhat mollified, the pastor says “Ok kaffir, carry on … but if I catch you praying I’ll beat the shit out of you!”

  6. JohnMWhite says:

    “Thompson has said he is not racist”

    Erm, yes you are. Why deny it? I do not understand the mentality of people who demand the ability to discriminate against people based on their race and then say “but I’m not racist”. It’s as if they understand that it is a bad thing to be, but they make no effort to avoid being it other than asserting they are not. If you have such a problem with other races that you think you must exclude couples in mixed marriages from your congregation, why the hell be so scared about being called racist?

  7. Chin says:

    Seriously? Sometimes I don’t want to believe in religion when I hear news just like this.

  8. David Anderson says:

    And yet, I bet that Stella Harville and Ticha Chikuni will continue to go to and support this gobshite church and the people that they know full well hate them, or at least, Chikuni.

  9. Trevor blake says:

    The church had the bible on their side, as Numbers 12:1 justifies discrimination against mixed race marriages. It’s just that most churches pretend verses like this, or the numerous verses condoning slavery, don’t exist. But that is not the significant part of this story.

    This church is a private organization and they should be free to decde who is a member and what their roles are. Not free from criticism, but legally free. If they have been forced by law to allow this couple to sing as this article suggests, this is a blending of church and state – just the opposite of the secular state I encourage. Theocratic decisions you like are the wedge that allow less palatable theocratic decisions take root.

    Let this couple be barred from singing. Let gays be cast out, let women be barred from clergy roles. Let these churches be as ugly as they can (barring violence and neglect of children). Freedom can be an ugly thing. If we support the founder of the Freethnker in his long-ago barbs against religion, we should support religion as it tears into itself.

  10. barriejohn says:

    Trevor Blake took the words right out of my mouth. Of course these people are racist, homophobic and misogynistic – they believe what the Bible says!

    And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren. (Genesis 9:25)

    I have evangelical “friends” who maintain that the above verse teaches that the black races were destined to always be “hewers of wood and drawers of water” for the (superior) white peoples, and nothing is going to change their minds on that matter – certainly not some piece of human rights legislation enacted by “puny man”. Let them continus to preach this publicly, along with their belief that homosexuality is “an abomination”, and that women should “learn in silence” and be “keepers at home” and “subject to their own husbands”. After all, that is what they will always believe and always be teaching in private anyway, so let people see them for the reactionary, ignorant, unreconstructed bigots that they really are.

  11. Stonyground says:

    @Chin
    Your comment implies that most of the time you do want to believe in religion. Might I ask why?

  12. Don says:

    These bigots have probably only just grasped that in the 21st century news travels. What happens in Pike County no longer stays in Pike County.

  13. Stonyground says:

    I am generally with those who speak out against censorship. If someone says something that is unpopular, experience shows that they are not always wrong. therefore by silencing them we may be depriving ourselves of useful knowledge. On the other hand, those who have obviously false and harmful beliefs need to be free to express those beliefs so that we can identify them.

  14. barriejohn says:

    Stonyground: The sad fact remains that, whatever legislation is passed, these people will be passing on their views to their children and grandchildren. This is just one reason why I would do away with all private education and “home schooling” – despite the howls of protest – and ensure that all children received a state education. I do realize, however, that removing children from their families and giving them a “state upbringing” is not a viable idea!

  15. JohnMWhite says:

    It’s not just the religious nuts that homeschool, though. If I lived in Texas there’s no way in hell I’d let my child go to a state school.

  16. jay says:

    Trevor I agree with you. Freedom includes a reasonable level of freedom of association, let them be condemned but the law has no business there. (There is a comparable attitude in Orthodox Jewish synagogues but it doesn’t seem to get the national attention.

    One thing that did not change here is the internal attitude of the congregation. They still have the same beliefs, they just don’t publicly state them. I find that more troublesome. I’d much rather know an organization had a hostility to me before I started trying to fit in.

  17. jay says:

    Barreljohn: “This is just one reason why I would do away with all private education and “home schooling” –”

    I hope that was tongue in cheek. Through history, state education was just one more form of propaganda to raise a complacent generation of obedient little droids. Sometimes the state may align with our beliefs, plenty of times it does not. Not too many decades ago it was the position of the state that homosexuality was not just immoral but a crime (as some consensual activities still are). The state teaches us that our assorted military adventures are for the good of the world, that other nations are happy when we invade them and set up puppet governments, that it’s the duty of citizens not to challenge their leaders, that religious observance is a good thing for ‘one nation under God’, and that the state, through law, is qualified to determine good and bad.

    The state is not your friend, the state is a threat to freethought.

  18. JohnMWhite says:

    @Jay – “the law has no business there”

    That’s not strictly true. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 made it illegal for private organisations to discriminate against persons based on their race in what were termed ‘public accommodations’. You can’t get much more of a public accommodation than a tax-exempt church. In general, it does seem fairer that private organisations be allowed to segregate themselves out of business rather than be forced to accept certain people, but the fact is if that laissez-faire attitude were to be allowed, we never would be in the position we are now where a church barring a mixed-race couple is actually remarkable. It’s a difficult balance, but legally it is already determined and morally I think there is a strong argument that organisations that wish to be open to the public and survive because of the public have to acknowledge that the public that may enter them may be members of the public they don’t like.

    I do agree that it may be better for all concerned if these groups displayed their hate nakedly rather than feeling forced to bury it while it still sits there. Unfortunately, as I said, if this had always been the case then they would probably not be in the position where they feel the need to hide it at all.

  19. Trevor Blake says:

    JohnMWhite: “The Civil Rights Act of 1964 made it illegal for private organisations to discriminate against persons based on their race in what were termed ‘public accommodations’. You can’t get much more of a public accommodation than a tax-exempt church.”

    I could be misunderstanding the law, but I believe you are mistaken. Subchapter VI of Chapter 21 of title 42 of the United States Code, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e states that there are four exemptions to the Civil Rights Act. They include “Religious groups performing work connected to the group’s activities, including associated education institutions” and “Bona fide nonprofit private membership organizations.” [source] Religion is once again a pass for enfranchising bigotry. Labor laws and minimum wage laws are also not applicable to religious owned businesses.

  20. jay says:

    “You can’t get much more of a public accommodation than a tax-exempt church. ”

    Certain facilities that are necessary in limited time frames: food, hotels, gas, medical care should not require a person to have to search around. However, there is never an emergency need to join a church.

    “but the fact is if that laissez-faire attitude were to be allowed, we never would be in the position we are now where a church barring a mixed-race couple is actually remarkable. ”

    I’m not so sure. Remember that segregation was THE LAW in the south, not just something people did. Alabama actually had state troopers go and shut down school systems that were too integrated. When I was young (in the 50s) my parents belonged to a fundie sect that was opposed to segregation (yes there are plenty of fundies who feel that way). We attended a big religious meeting in Florida and they were required by law to have separate food lines for black and white. They skirted the law by running the lines directly next to each other with only a string separating them.

    The point is this: Segregation laws were created precisely BECAUSE plenty of people would not have segregated otherwise and the bigots found a useful tool in an interventionist government to make sure that no radical people, businesses or churches would break down their walls. People forget that before the Negro Leagues, baseball had started to integrate on its own, which is WHY government got involved and separate leagues were created.

  21. Robert Stovold says:

    I think that’s a good point re. tax-exempt status of churches, John.

    “Welcomes believers into our fellowship regardless of race, creed or color”
    Yeah, through gritted teeth!

  22. barriejohn says:

    Jay: “Barreljohn” – that’s a good one!

    No, I am not speaking “tongue in cheek”, and I don’t recognize the scenario that you paint at all. I taught in a state comprehensive school, and the kids had a fine education, with no “propagandizing” or regimentation. The goal was to turn out self-confident, rounded citizens who had a mind of their own and could think for themselves. I doubt that that is the objective of most “home schoolers” or religious institutions! I take it that you are American – hence the paranoia about the “evil, big-brother state”. In Europe, state educational provision has been the norm for many years, and has worked well. Unfortunately, it has worked so well that the religiots can see the day fast approaching when only the very elderly or mentally deficient will still adhere to their bizarre beliefs and superstitions. And that’s to say nothing of the perpetuation of gross inequalities in society by the ability of the rich to purchase the “best” education for their offspring, so that success in life is very often determined not by hard work and determination but by a pure accident of birth.

  23. jay says:

    “And that’s to say nothing of the perpetuation of gross inequalities in society by the ability of the rich to purchase the “best” education for their offspring, so that success in life is very often determined not by hard work and determination but by a pure accident of birth.”

    Interesting. So implicitly acknowledging that private schools can indeed be superior, you seem to suggest eliminating them to ‘level the playing field’, bringing others down. Throughout history, successful parents have tried to do more for their children. From an evolutionary point of view, the cost of acquiring resources is paid through reproductive success.

    People often don’t realize the degree to which they’ve been propagandized by their education til they step back and look at it later in life. And this includes teachers.

  24. JohnMWhite says:

    Fair points, Trevor Blake and jay, though I wasn’t so much arguing for whether or not the law does specifically grant somebody a case against this particular church as that it has had or at least can have a legitimate role to play in ending segregation and discrimination since often people will not do so on their own.

    Also, I have to agree with jay on the homeschooling issue. Again I say it’s not as if the religious are the only ones who would want their children to be shielded from what the state wants to teach. To say the state is not your friend is not a particularly controversial idea. Do we really want our children raised in a school system that does things like teach creationism, refer to the US Civil War as the War of Northern Aggression, ban homosexuals from bringing dates to their dances, allow teachers to silence, bully and punish students for daring to disagree with them and sanctions bullying between students so long as there is a religious reason for doing so (thanks, Michigan!)

    And that’s ignoring the fact that in some states, including the UK, religious education and state education are the same thing. Do you remember Section 28 and how damn hard some people hung on to the government’s decree that children be taught nothing but negativity and hostility toward homosexuals? That was state education for you.

  25. barriejohn says:

    Jay: Rubbish! I don’t believe that private schools do necessarily provide a better education, which is why I put the word in inverted commas. I attended two snobby grammar schools (one now independent) and received a very narrow education myself, though I did do well academically. Comprehensive-educated kids had a far more rounded education than I did, and tended to be much more socially aware. The schools which I attended had hardly a decent teacher between them. When one of the schools was eventually forced to go comprehensive, our former Divinity teacher – a totally inept South African teacher of English who considered that her new duties consisted of lecturing us on the necessity of wearing a school cap and never being seen eating in the street – confided to my friend that “We are teaching children now that we didn’t even know existed”! This old argument about “levelling down” has been used so often that it must be quite worn out by now. Obviously, as with health care, people desire only the best for themselves and their families, but surely they also have a social conscience? Force everyone to send their kids to the local comprehensive, and just watch the standards rise!

  26. barriejohn says:

    JMW (and Jay): You are going to get all that and more if kids are educated in religious institutions or at home, because the same narrow-minded and bigoted people who are responsible for pressurising politicians are going to be directly responsible for the children’s education, with no constraints. I don’t see where the advantage comes in! As a freethinker, I would like to think that I would have taught my own children well enough to question any sort of indoctrination which they might receive at school. I wouldn’t want to withdraw my own children from the state system – I would have confidence in their ability to think for themsleves.

  27. JohnMWhite says:

    You’re totally ignoring the issue we’re actually raising, barriejohn. I guess there’s no point in further debate. State education ftw!

  28. barriejohn says:

    JMW: This is what you said.

    If I lived in Texas there’s no way in hell I’d let my child go to a state school.

    Do we really want our children raised in a school system that does things like teach creationism, refer to the US Civil War as the War of Northern Aggression, ban homosexuals from bringing dates to their dances, allow teachers to silence, bully and punish students for daring to disagree with them, etc.

    You could close all the state schools in Texas and those attitudes and practices would continue – maybe on an even worse scale!

  29. JohnMWhite says:

    You’re still completely missing the point, and since you pruned my statement right before it cited a specific example of state-endorsed bullying (a reason one might want to avoid state schools), it’s clear you are not interested in an honest discussion. For whatever reason, homeschooling is a button-pushing topic for you. Oh well.

  30. barriejohn says:

    JMW: I really cannot see how I am “completely missing the point” here. MY original point was that you can legislate against racism and homophobia, etc, but you cannot stop such ideas being passed on to children by their parents and grandparents unless you take them out of their home environment – a course of action which I would only advocate in extreme cases (as most people would agree). However, if you encourage the growth of “faith schools” and “home schooling” many children are likely to be exposed to a much higher level of such pernicious indoctrination. Nothing that has been said so far causes me to doubt this. Accusing me of not wanting an honest debate because I didn’t quote you in full is below the belt, but you’re right about my fears over the motivation that many people have for withdrawing their children from state education.

  31. barriejohn says:

    Regarding the homophobic bullying, etc, to which you refer: how is that not going to happen in many Christian homes and schools?

  32. JohnMWhite says:

    The point is you are presupposing that all home-schooling will be done by Christians with an agenda and that state education won’t be. That’s just not correct. I demonstrated exactly where this kind of issue could occur by citing the state of Michigan, where the STATE has sanctioned religiously-motivated bullying. I certainly wouldn’t send my child to a public school where the state has decided they can be mercilessly bullied if they seem a bit gay or eat the wrong meat on the wrong day. You cut that part off when quoting me and it is only by removing it that you had anything to argue against. It totally changed what I was saying. What other conclusion can I come to except you are being intellectually dishonest? Perhaps you misread what I was saying, but I have said it several times. I know you’re not stupid, I know you can read. For whatever reason this issue has just got your blinders on and you are determined to rail against any form of home-schooling or private education whether it is done by the religious or not.

  33. barriejohn says:

    JMW: My partial quote didn’t “totally change” what you were saying at all, and I am not being “intellectually dishonest”. You are now resorting to personal insults to defend your views. The issue in Michigan was specific to that state, and the bill was dropped anyway as a result of the outcry against it, so I don’t really see its relevance except as a hypothetical scenario. You then mentioned Section 28, which WAS law in this country. However, that piece of legislation was extremely popular at the time, mainly as a result of a media campaign against so-called gay propagnda in schools, so what makes you think that if the majority of parents had been schooling their children at home they would have been giving positive advice on homosexual issues? I am not assuming that ALL home education will be carried out by the religious, but the fact of the matter is that they are generally the ones who want their children withdrawn from the state system, both here and in the USA. I also only know of one “free school” so far which specifically has a freethinking aim, and as for “faith schools” no more need be said! I am extremely worried about the direction in which education is being taken in this country, and I know that others on this site are as well. YOU seem to be making the quite unwarranted assumption that most people, if schooling their children at home, would be passing on liberal, progressive views, but surely you know more about the British public than to draw that conclusion!

  34. JohnMWhite says:

    Sigh.

    You’re still totally misrepresenting what I am saying. I never said that the majority of parents would raise their children with progressive secular values if educating them at home. I said, for the fifth time now, that your blanket opposition to home schooling and blanket support for state education is misplaced precisely because state education CAN and often IS hijacked by political or religious agendas and home or private education CAN be an alternative.

    Calling you intellectually dishonest for modifying a quote that dodges the actual impact of what I was saying isn’t a personal insult, it is simply a complain against your tactics. Taking it personally shows you are pretty defensive and, like I said, this seems to be a real bugbear with you for some reason. The provision was removed, eventually, but the point is that a state could very well institute that kind of legislation and thus make school a very damaging place for certain students, as if it isn’t already with rampant staff apathy to bullying. They also removed specific protections for certain groups, including gay students.

    And of course Section 28 was law and was popular – that’s my entire point! It’s not as if it is hard to find examples of state education being used to ram certain ideas down student’s throats or dodge the discussion of certain things altogether.

    You’re smarter than this. Why are you so determined to parade your anti-homeschooling credentials and make yourself look like a fool? I already said a couple of times I understand your apprehension about it and that I agree that it is often used to promote ignorance and maintain an insular culture, but that doesn’t make it a bad or invalid choice all on its own since state education can be used for exactly the same thing. What is so difficult to accept about that?

  35. barriejohn says:

    JMW: So now I’m a fool, but you’re not being personal? For many reasons I consider the home environment unsuitable for schooling – just ask anyone who has tried working from home! Interpersonal skills are also likely to suffer if children are educated within their own family group, and it is highly unlikely that any parent could provide the intellectual stimulation in multiple spheres that children meet in their schools (yes – don’t laugh!). Obviously the state might possibly do many things to make the school environment unsafe for a child, in which case he or she would be better off being withdrawn from it, but that is surely the least bad option, not the ideal? I will still champion state education as the best option, and, as we go to great lengths via tax breaks and child allowance to try to give children equal opportunity to succeed in life whatever their background, I would ensure that they all received a similar education if possible. I know that libertarians might say “What about the right of parents to provide their children with whatever kind of education that they choose?”, but I would say “What about the rights of children to receive a decent education whatever their background and parentage?”. Is that naive of me?

  36. JohnMWhite says:

    Oh god, it’s like arguing with a child. And yes, that is personal, but I was not being personal when you initially accused me of such. Might as well now. You are not an idiot, why do you insist on acting like one over this silly disagreement?

    “I will still champion state education as the best option, and, as we go to great lengths via tax breaks and child allowance to try to give children equal opportunity to succeed in life whatever their background, I would ensure that they all received a similar education if possible”

    Good for you. I’m not arguing with that.

    ““What about the rights of children to receive a decent education whatever their background and parentage?””

    Or with that. You’re still not listening.

    I was arguing with this:

    “I would do away with all private education and “home schooling” – despite the howls of protest – and ensure that all children received a state education”

    For some reason you’re trying to have a completely different conversation. You want to demonstrate your anti-homeschool bona fides and refused until now to acknowledge that there may be circumstances where state education is a hindrance, not a help. All I was trying to say was what jay was trying to say – blanket statements are not helpful and state schools can be used to foist political or religious agendas on students just as readily as home schooling or private education can. And they have.

    “Obviously the state might possibly do many things to make the school environment unsafe for a child, in which case he or she would be better off being withdrawn from it, but that is surely the least bad option, not the ideal?”

    I never said it was the ideal. I did not come close to saying that. Neither did jay. But if you acknowledge this as reality why are you still arguing?

  37. barriejohn says:

    Because you said this: “If I lived in Texas there’s no way in hell I’d let my child go to a state school.” Over the issue of Creationism? (You weren’t specific.) If so, surely the child of a freethinker can withstand that onslaught on his sensibilities?

    And Jay said: “The state is not your friend, the state is a threat to freethought.”

    And you accuse me of making “blanket statements”! I am only acknowledging that there might be some instances in which a child should be removed from school for its own safety and wellbeing, though from experience the education then received tends to be wanting to say the least. Having private schools or “home schools” as a permanent arrangement paints a completely different picture, and actually makes a true state system impossible. In the case of a totalitarian government deliberately setting out to brainwash its chidren I doubt that the opportunity to home school would exist, but as I have said above I would be reasonably happy that a child of mine could see through state propaganda dressed up as something entirely different, and if they were too immature or unsophisticated so to do I would consider it my duty to provide guidance!

  38. JohnMWhite says:

    I wouldn’t be so sure that you could provide much guidance to your children if you consistently misread a debate and quickly rush into petulance.

    “Because you said this: “If I lived in Texas there’s no way in hell I’d let my child go to a state school.” Over the issue of Creationism?”

    Er, no.

    “(You weren’t specific.)” Yes, I know. You were. You were specific about wishing that all home or private education be banned.

    “If so, surely the child of a freethinker can withstand that onslaught on his sensibilities?”

    Possibly, but that’s another generalisation and the entire point that we were making was if they have to resist what the state is teaching them, why bother letting the state teach them?

    “And you accuse me of making “blanket statements”!”

    Yes. You made a pretty large one. I have quoted it twice. What’s wrong with you? You’re also using the same tactic as earlier, removing jay’s quote from its full context and making it appear to say something it is not really saying. As a standalone sentence of course it’s a blanket statement, but he clearly used it to underline a train of thought about how hypothetically and in real situations states have used education as propaganda factories.

    What are you doing? Are you trying to win a game of fundie-argument bingo?

    “In the case of a totalitarian government deliberately setting out to brainwash its chidren I doubt that the opportunity to home school would exist”

    Yes, by all means jump to extremes and ignore the many subtle shades of grey in between.

    “but as I have said above I would be reasonably happy that a child of mine could see through state propaganda dressed up as something entirely different”

    That’s fine. I probably wouldn’t feel that way, and I wouldn’t feel happy leaving a child of mine to fend off the pressure to conform and recite the state’s sanctioned facts. I don’t think it should be the job of the child to weed out the bullshit from the education system, and if it’s my job to help them, I might as well teach them myself.

    But the thing is, that’s my choice, it’s not what I expect you to do. All jay and I were saying was that there might be reasons beyond being a religious nutcase that one might want their child to not be educated in a state school.

  39. barriejohn says:

    Well, you have a right to your own point of view, but I disagree with it. And I think if you read what Jay was saying he was going much further than you: he appears to see the state as “the enemy”!