But there is one reason nobody, anywhere, ever should have to change their wedding venue at the last minute… and it happened to Charles and Te’Andrea Wilson.
When the couple decided to marry, they chose the First Baptist Church in Crystal Springs,Miss for their wedding. While they weren’t members, they had strong ties to that church. Te’Andrea’s uncle is employed there, her father is a member of the congregation, and the couple had been attending services there. In fact, they intended to officially join the church after their July 20 wedding. The pastor agreed to marry them. The invitations went out. Everything was set.
But one day before the wedding was set to be performed, Pastor Stan Weatherford called Charles and Te’Andrea to tell them that he was moving the wedding to another church down the road. Why? Because some vocal members of his congregation didn’t want Charles and Te’Andrea married at First Baptist. And why was that? Because this is what Charles and Te’Andrea look like:
That’s right. They’re black.
For some members of the congregation the most important thing about their church was the fact that no black couple has been married there since it was built in 1883. They informed Pastor Weatherford that they would have him removed as Pastor if he married the couple at First Baptist. And Weatherford apparently felt the threat wasn’t hollow.
On one day’s notice, the wedding was moved down the road to ‘a black church’ so as not to ruffle the feathers of people who seem to think Jim Crow is still a Jim Dandy idea.
Legally, the church has done nothing wrong. No church in the US is obligated to marry anyone at all. Any church can decide to turn a couple down based on any criteria they choose. They can turn down people who aren’t full members, or couples who don’t attend regularly. They can decide that the fact that both parties are the same gender or that one has divorced a spouse who is still living would make their marriage unholy. They can refuse couples based on their inability to pay, or on a gut feeling that this is not a marriage that will work. They can decide they don’t like your tattoos or green hair or decision to wear a Judas Priest tee shirt to the meeting with the religious leader.
And yes, they can decide not to marry people based on race.
But you know what? I agree with First Baptist congregant Theresa Norwood:
“That church was their home,” she said. “What would Jesus have done? He would have married them, without a doubt, because it’s the right thing to do. We’re all God’s children.”
Norwood, a full member of the church who happens to be black, is currently dating a gentleman. If they choose to marry, she assumes they will have to look for another place to hold the ceremony than the church she belongs to.
And I think that’s just plain wrong.