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First Baptist Church of Crystal Springs in Mississippi has come under fire for its refusal to marry a black couple.
Charles and Te'Andrea Wilson had planned to marry in the church where they are both members of the congregation. Te'Andrea has been part of the church community for over a year. But the couple's planned nuptials ruffled some feathers in the predominantly white church.
When church members told Rev. Stan Weatherford that they didn't want a black couple married in the church, he gave in to their demands to keep the peace.
That plan backfired and the church is now being criticized for its actions.
Rev. Weatherford still performed the marriage for the Wilson's earlier this month, but the ceremony was held at a different church.
The couple was deeply hurt by the racist attitudes of their fellow church members. "I feel like it was blatant racial discrimination," Charles Wilson told USA Today.
Unfortunately for the Wilson's, there isn't a lot of legal recourse in situations like this. Race discrimination is an ugly thing but it isn't necessarily illegal.
The law does provide protection from discrimination based on race in a number of circumstances. The Civil Rights Act prohibits racial discrimination in employment and the Fair Housing Act guarantees equality in the sale, financing, and rental of housing.
Civil rights law prohibits racial discrimination in a number of circumstances but religious practice is absent from what list.
It is not unheard of for churches to discriminate against others. The Mormon Church was infamous for restricting blacks from becoming priests until 1978.
While public opinion may go against the actions of members of First Baptist Church of Crystal Springs, there is no law against their decision.
It's not just the media that is criticizing First Baptist's decision. The Mississippi Baptist Convention and the Southern Baptist Convention have both said that the church was in the wrong, reports USA Today.
The Baptist faith rejects racism according to both the state and national groups.
First Baptist Church of Crystal Springs may end up eating its words about marrying black couples. Based on what happened to the Wilsons, the church is holding internal meetings to decide how to move forward.