Mississippi Wedding Venue Refuses Service To Interracial Couple, Citing Religious Beliefs

A wedding venue in Mississippi is citing religious beliefs in support of its decision not to allow an interracial couple to utilize their facilities.

A Mississippi wedding venue finds itself under intense scrutiny and criticism after denying service to an interracial couple seeking to hold a reception based on what the owner claimed were her religious beliefs:

When LaKambria S. Welch drove to Boone’s Camp Event Hall on Saturday, she was in search of an explanation.

Welch told The Washington Post in an email that her brother and his fiancee had recently been coordinating with the wedding venue in Booneville, Miss., about hosting their upcoming nuptials until they were informed that they were no longer welcome.

Why? Welch said it’s because her brother is black and his bride-to-be is white.

In a now-viral video shared to social media by Welch over the weekend, a woman identified as the event hall’s owner can be seen telling the 24-year-old, “First of all, we don’t do gay weddings or mixed race … because of our Christian race, I mean, our Christian belief.”

By early Tuesday, the clip had amassed more than 2 million views across Twitter and YouTube, with critics slamming the business’s owners as “hateful racists” and calling for the venue to be shuttered. Following the backlash, Boone’s Camp Event Hall took down its Facebook page and its owner penned a lengthy apology, which, in part, chronicled her realization that “biracial relationships were NEVER mentioned in The Bible!” The video was first reported on by the website Deep South Voice.

“To all of those offended, hurt or felt condemn by my statement I truly apologize to you for my ignorance in not knowing the truth about this,” the now-deleted apology read. “My intent was never of racism, but to stand firm on what I ‘assumed’ was right concerning marriage.”

Boone’s Camp Event Hall could not be reached for comment late Monday.

Welch told The Post that her brother and his fiancee had already arranged a date to look at the venue in northeast Mississippi when the couple received a message from one of the owners: They weren’t going to be accommodated anymore, the owner allegedly wrote, citing her Christian beliefs as justification.

Hoping to “gain clarity” on the owner’s beliefs, Welch said she and her mother went to the event hall. Shortly after arriving, Welch started questioning the owner, all while recording the brief interaction.

“When she explained that she doesn’t do the two specific type of weddings, I felt myself starting to shake,” said Welch, referencing the woman’s views on gay and interracial marriages. Welch added, “… just hearing it gave me chills.”

In the video, Welch explains to a soft-spoken woman in a gray T-shirt that her family is Christian. “So what in the Bible tells you that …” Welch begins to ask, before the woman interrupts, saying, “Well, I don’t want to argue my faith.”

The woman continues: “We just don’t participate. We just choose not to.”

“Okay, so that’s your Christian belief right?” Welch presses.

“Yes, ma’am,” the woman responds.

In 2016, Mississippi passed the first law of its kind that protects “sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions” about same-sex marriages, extramarital sex and people who identify as transgender. The law, however, does not mention race.

Interracial marriage has been legal in the United States since 1967 when the Supreme Court reached its landmark decision in Loving v. Virginia. In 2015, 17 percent of newlyweds in the United States were part of a mixed-race couple, a significant increase from 3 percent in 1967, according to the Pew Research Center. But a recent study found that while people said they accepted interracial relationships, the part of their brain that registers disgust was highly active when they were shown photos of the couples.

(…)

In her apology, the event hall’s owner attempted to explain why she believed the Bible supported her views on interracial marriages, describing how she only recently discovered that wasn’t the case. She began by writing that as “a child growing up in Mississippi” it was an unspoken understanding that people stayed “with your own race.” But then on Saturday, when her husband asked her to point to relevant sections of the Bible, she couldn’t. After spending hours scouring the text and sitting down with her pastor, the owner wrote that she finally concluded that the reasoning behind her decision to turn away Welch’s brother and his fiancee was “incorrect.”

“As my bible reads, there are 2 requirements for marriage and race has nothing to do with either!” the Facebook post read. “All of my years I had ‘assumed’ in my mind that I was correct, but have never taken the opportunity to research and find whether this was correct or incorrect until now.”

She later added: “If I have learned anything from this it would be to know what you’re talking about before you open your mouth! Again … my sincerest apologies to all!”

At least one person said the woman’s “heartfelt apology” warranted forgiveness, but others, including Welch, remained unswayed.

“I am 24 and have been brought up my entire life in a Christian Family; my grandad being a reverend,” Welch wrote in the email to The Post. “If I know that the Bible doesn’t say anything about biracial marriages, she knows too.”

Here’s the video:

As noted, the woman in the video, who is apparently one of the owners or managers of the venue, posted an apology on Facebook which has since been taken down along with the Facebook page for the entire business. Notwithstanding that apology, though, and this woman’s alleged surprise to find out that the Bible doesn’t say a word about interracial marriages and, in fact, doesn’t really say a thing about same-sex marriage or the idea that it would be sinful to provide services for a wedding ceremony that one deemed to be sinful, the apology strikes me as being largely irrelevant compared to the fact that this woman apparently believed this to be the case to begin with.

Obviously, refusing a provide access to an interracial couple would have been a violation of both Federal and state public accommodation laws that clearly make it illegal to refuse service based on criteria such as race, ethnicity, and other criteria. Some states, of course, have also expanded their public accommodation laws to also bar discrimination based on sexual orientation. Several of these cases have made their way through Federal and state courts in recent years, with business owners making the argument that their religious beliefs bar them from providing services to such weddings. So far, though, there has not been a definitive ruling on the issue by the nation’s highest court.

In Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, the Court issued a narrow ruling in favor of the baker in June 2018 in which it found that the court in the proceeding below had not given due consideration to his assertions regarding his religious beliefs. As a result, the Justices held that he was entitled to a new trial. That case could very well end up back at the Supreme Court in the future. This past June, the Court declined to hear two cases raising the same issue, one involving an Oregon baker and another involving a Washington florist and instead ordered both cases remanded for consideration in light of the Court’s ruling in the Colorado case. Eventually, though, the Court will likely be forced to provide some kind of definitive ruling in one of these cases and decide once and for all whether religious belief gives one an excuse to violate anti-discrimination laws that apply to every other business owner.

This case, meanwhile, demonstrates the dangers in the so-called “religious freedom” laws that have been passed in many states, mostly those controlled by Republicans, that purport to allow people to refuse to do business with fellow citizens when it supposedly violated their religious beliefs. The same argument that the bakers in Colorado and Oregon and the Washington florist used to discriminate against same-sex couples can be used to discriminate based on race or any other basis. If that exception is permitted to stand, it’s going to drive a fairly big hole right through laws that have been an important part of civil rights laws ever since the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

FILED UNDER: First Amendment, Fourteenth Amendment, Law and the Courts, U.S. Constitution
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Kathy says:

    While it’s the “Christians” in the GOP, mostly, who are behind these types of “religious beliefs” laws, they don’t apply only to Christian beliefs (even if that may be the intent).

    Anyone can start a religion, and even call it “Christian,” holding any kind of discrimination against any minority, or several, as a “sincerely held” tenet of aid faith.

    BTW, this woman in question pretty much admitted to using her religion to justify her prejudice.

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  2. An Interested Party says:

    Hmm…I can definitely see Alito and Thomas ruling in favor of bigotry cloaked in fake religious ideals, but I wonder if the other three conservatives will follow them or if the Court will just try to avoid the issue again like it’s done in the recent past…

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  3. Kylopod says:

    Whenever I hear people defend the right to discriminate against same-sex couples on religious grounds, I ask them if they’d say the same about interracial couples. Whenever this question is posed, I never, ever see a straight answer. The two most common responses are (a) How dare you compare me to a racist (b) There’s no theological basis for opposing interracial marriages. Neither of these responses answers the question.

    The fact is that it wasn’t long ago that people in the mainstream of society were making Bible-based arguments against interracial marriage. I read an essay by the original Bob Jones where he explained that the Tower of Babel story is really a story about how God separated the races and that they’re ordained to remain separate until the Second Coming. (After SCOTUS in 1983 upheld the denial of tax-exempt status to Bob Jones U. for its racist policies, Jerry Falwell called the decision a “blow against religious liberty.”) Never mind whether you think that interpretation is a stretch. The point is that it’s a real religious belief, and the law has no basis in judging the validity of any particular belief or whether it’s a sound interpretation of Scripture; that’s a total misunderstanding of what freedom of religion means. As far as the law is concerned, all religious beliefs are equal, and the limitations on religious freedom (which anti-gay advocates routinely ignore whenever it suits their purposes) apply across the board too.

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  4. CSK says:

    @An Interested Party: In that case, Thomas would be questioning the validity of his own mixed marriage.

  5. Joe says:

    It’s almost too bad that the venue owner clearly has no intention of defending her benighted opinions of her religious beliefs. It would be instructive to have this case traveling side-by-side through the court system.

  6. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @CSK: Are you sure he isn’t already? (for other reasons)

    @Kathy: Just wait until they see who I can discriminate against based on my religious beliefs.

  7. An Interested Party says:

    @CSK: I was referring more to the upcoming cases coming before the court involving rights for gay and transgender people, but I guess anything is possible for the justice who totally epitomizes the angry old man yelling at kids to get off his lawn…

  8. Kathy says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    I wonder if the Satanic Temple(*) can come up with a way to sincerely hold discrimination against Christians.

    Probably not. it would be against their principles.

    (*) Relax. it’s just a name. It’s not really a Temple.

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  9. de stijl says:

    I dig how she backed off immediately after pushback.

    It really wasn’t a deeply held belief, apparently. It was a tribal signifier. Confronted with this loss of her livelihood, she caved immediately.

    I also love her initial reaction where she cited “our Christian race” as a reason to deny hosting a mixed race marriage. Talk about revealing your hand!

    Even after her total cave she needs to find a new source of income. She revealed herself too clearly.

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  10. JKB says:

    America is irredeemably stained by slavery. Before Republicans made slavery unconstitutional, at a free woman who married an African slave was herself, as well as all her children and descendants, enslaved to her husband’s master. Interracial marriage was a really big thing. As with much of slavery, Antebellum Democrats tried to develop argument based on religion to continue their “peculiar institution”. We still see the impact of these arguments centuries later as remnant of institutions persist. Similarly, those who work with their hands are considered lesser by many, an attitude that can be traced by to ancient Rome where only slaves did manual labor.

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  11. mattBernius says:

    Color me surprised at who was clearly triggered by the 1619 project. That’s some mighty fine D’Souzing mixed with epic self pity.

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  12. Teve says:

    @mattBernius: a few hours ago D’Souza posted on Twitter that if Frederick Douglass was still alive he would without a doubt be a Republican and a Trump supporter. There have been over 1 trillion tweets in the last 10 years, and historians are discussing whether this is actually the stupidest tweet that has ever occurred, or not.

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  13. Barry says:

    @Kathy: “Anyone can start a religion, and even call it “Christian,” holding any kind of discrimination against any minority, or several, as a “sincerely held” tenet of aid faith. ”

    They can try. These laws are not being pushed by people who support religious *freedom*, but religious *liberty*. Note how that word is used.

  14. Barry says:

    @CSK: “In that case, Thomas would be questioning the validity of his own mixed marriage.”

    If the world of the hard-core right-wing was in effect, Thomas and his wife would have been in very, very serious trouble.

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  15. Lynn says:

    @JKB: “America is irredeemably stained by slavery. Before Republicans made slavery unconstitutional . . . ”

    I think you mean stained by racism, which was and is much bigger than slavery. And it seems that the GOP view hasn’t changed much since Lincoln’s day.

    Lincoln, in the Lincoln-Douglas debates:

    “I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races …”

    https://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/document/the-lincoln-douglas-debates-4th-debate-part-i/

  16. An Interested Party says:

    a few hours ago D’Souza posted on Twitter that if Frederick Douglass was still alive he would without a doubt be a Republican and a Trump supporter.

    That’s sounds like delusional Republicans who claim that Martin Luther King Jr. would be a Republican if he were alive today…I guess they don’t remember the Poor People’s Campaign…today’s Republicans would call him a communist/socialist (just like conservatives did back then) if he were alive today…I wonder how today’s Republicans/conservatives would react if Malcolm X were alive today and urged his followers to be sure to exercise their Second Amendment rights…

  17. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Kathy:

    I wonder if the Satanic Temple(*) can come up with a way to sincerely hold discrimination against Christians.

    Probably not. it would be against their principles.

    My religious principles say I can discriminate against anybody for any reason at all. Our website even says, “We hate you.”

  18. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Lynn: Oh c’mon, there you go again, citing what he actually said…

    In truth tho, at the time Lincoln was still playing to both sides of the fence. I like to think I know which side he was playing on but truth be told, both sides were pretty damned racist.

  19. Kylopod says:

    @An Interested Party:

    That’s sounds like delusional Republicans who claim that Martin Luther King Jr. would be a Republican if he were alive today…

    Would be? They’ve been claiming for years that he was a Republican. His niece Alveda King, a Fox News personality, made that claim (though eventually retracted it), and it’s been a persistent urban legend across the Internet and beyond. (What contributes to the confusion a bit is the fact that his father, MLK Sr., was in fact a Republican, albeit one who publicly endorsed Kennedy in 1960.) I would not be shocked if a poll found a majority of Fox viewers believing this claim to this day.

  20. SenyorDave says:

    @An Interested Party: That’s sounds like delusional Republicans who claim that Martin Luther King Jr. would be a Republican if he were alive today

    There are many far right Republicans today who fully embrace MLK and act like they would have supported him back in the day. A 1966 Gallup poll showed MLK with a 2/3 unfavorable rating among Americans. Basically the only people who liked him were blacks and liberal whites (Hispanics only made up a few percent of the country in 1966). The idea that conservatives of any political affiliation supported MLK in the 1960’s is absurd. He was a liberal SJW. He was reviled by conservatives, most of whom opposed integration, much less the Civil Rights Act.

  21. Kylopod says:

    @SenyorDave:

    He was a liberal SJW.

    He was also, like Bernie Sanders today, a self-identifying democratic socialist. He was frequently accused of being a communist–a smear that persisted among mainstream Republicans until at least the 1980s (even Reagan insinuated it).

  22. de stijl says:

    That Freudian slip where she said “our Christian race” before quickly correcting herself just continues to crack me up. So telling.

  23. Teve says:

    @de stijl: like Jesus and Santa, Adam and Eve were white.

  24. charon says:

    @Kathy:

    these types of “religious beliefs” laws, they don’t apply only to Christian beliefs (even if that may be the intent).

    That is how these laws are written, but in practice they will never be enforced to support anyone other than Christians.

    The Southern Baptists split from the Baptists in 1845 over the slavery issue, and they remain to this day a mostly racist denomination. “Bible Inerrancy” was an SBC doctrine created at that time for the specific purpose of supporting slavery as something the Bible implies is OK by being in the Bible. Bible Inerrancy is still a major concern of Fundamentalist denominations. (Jerry Falwell Jr., for example, requires teaching staff at Liberty University to affirm belief in Bible Inerrancy as a condition of employment).

  25. Kylopod says:

    One more thing about D’Souza. He has laughably described Richard Spencer, the white nationalist, as a “progressive.” If you’ve ever had the misfortune of hearing Spencer (or D’Souza for that matter), I can tell you this: their arguments are remarkably, eerily similar. They both talk about the superiority of Western culture and how the nations under European colonialism owe a debt of gratitude to the Europeans for giving civilization to them.

    The only significant difference between D’Souza and Spencer is that Spencer is more explicit that race is what he has in mind. D’Souza always couches his arguments in terms of “culture.” Spencer also talks about culture, but explicitly links it with race. D’Souza does not make that linkage explicit.

    This basically sums up the bait-and-switch played by the right today, where they go right to the brink of endorsing white nationalism, but retain just a fig leaf of plausible deniability so they can claim they’re still being “colorblind” while the left are the true racists.

  26. EddieInCA says:

    Not surprisingly, Rod Dreher is silent on the story. I’d love his comment on it. I have no doubt he’d rationalize it, but I’d love to see how.

  27. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    @Kylopod:

    One more thing about D’Souza.

    The one thing about D’Souza is that James Meredith gave an interview to a Brazilian newspaper in 2005, and he mentioned him:

    https://www1.folha.uol.com.br/fsp/brasil/fc2111200516.htm

    “And do you know who gave these strategies to the Republicans? The Portuguese. It surprised me most when I went to Washington with Jesse Helms. The only thing he did was go to all the think tanks that formulate all public policy. What I found is that all the people who made public policies for Republicans were Lusophone! Portuguese-Brazilians, Portuguese or Afro-Portuguese. There was Danish(sic) D’Souza [Indian, author of the book “The End of Racism”] and three or four others. I didn’t understand what it meant. Why were these people formulating policies for black people in America? When I studied, I discovered that they were the most efficient and capable white supremacists in the world. They were the right people to teach America about how to deal with blacks.”

    He was basically called as a White Supremacist by a civil rights hero, but he keeps trying to be the arbiter of racism.

  28. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Kathy: Up where I live, the Satanic Temple is a group that mostly does performance art requesting that school districts where the teams pray before the start of athletic competition request the opportunity to offer those prayers. Resulting in the same sort of consternation that happens when someone on the team asks if his or her rabbi or imam can do the prayer.

    As a Christian who has long believed in a “naked public square,” I find the embarrassment of all concerned quite refreshing, but I’ve long known that I’m not as nice a person as I should be.

  29. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    “a few hours ago D’Souza posted on Twitter that if Frederick Douglass was still alive he would without a doubt be a Republican and a Trump supporter.”

    It just never stops. I wonder if it hurts to be that stupid. Yikes!

  30. Mister Bluster says:

    If Jesus was alive today he’d be a Jew like he was before.

  31. Kylopod says:

    @Andre Kenji de Sousa:

    He was basically called as a White Supremacist by a civil rights hero

    A civil rights hero who supported David Duke’s gubernatorial bid. Meredith is an odd fish.

  32. Steve V says:

    Scalia was right in his Smith ruling. I wonder how the last 25 years would have gone if Smith were the law and RFRA never happened.

  33. Kathy says:

    @charon:

    That is how these laws are written, but in practice they will never be enforced to support anyone other than Christians.

    I’m sure locally that would be the case. But as appeals escalate through the courts, I don’t think we’ll see full Christian supremacy develop.

  34. KM says:

    @Steve V :
    RFRA would have happened eventually because it’s been one of the end-goals for Dominionists for some time. Fundies refuse to believe that their religion or “religious beliefs” do not give them the right to treat others poorly. If the employer, they want to make everyone conform to their beliefs, regardless of what a worker’s personal beliefs are. If the worker, they feel oppressed by being asked to do the job they were hired for and paid to do because their personal beliefs conflict. It’s always been about *them* inflicting their beliefs on others and acting out, not living what their faith and keeping to themselves.

    RFRA is about control. It was in the cards no matter what since the more we become a tolerant, enlightened society, the darker the few corners left are. They need to assert control now before it’s too late – they’ll never get it back once it’s gone.

  35. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    @Kylopod: I thought the same thing when I knew that he had visited Brazil(He went to quilombo close to where I live, but I did not see him). But, fifteen years later, reading that interview he makes more sense to me. He was far more open when talking with reporters and Black people overseas(The fact that racism is former Portuguese colonies is something far more… discrete was part of the discussion, for sure).

    That interview can be easily translated via Google Translate, and it’s interesting. Anyway, I find interesting that Dinesh, that was compared to a White Supremacist by a Civil Rights hero that worked for Jesse Helms, thinks of himself as the arbiter of racism.

  36. al Ameda says:

    Losing the Civil War (aka Reconstruction) has had lasting consequences.

  37. Kylopod says:

    @Andre Kenji de Sousa: I don’t know what D’Souza “thinks of” himself, since he’s a classic right-wing con artist and grifter. When he talks about the left being the true racists, he’s not making a good-faith but misguided argument; he’s being an intentionally dishonest troll whose arguments are aimed squarely at his right-wing audience, to reassure them they aren’t racist and to make them feel he’s “owning the libs.” That’s all it is. He’s proven it again and again.

  38. Raoul says:

    It is clear she was lying when she said the Bible supported her views on miscegenation. She knew she did not know that which prompt her to do her own research. So on the record she appears to be a liar and a racist, so whether one wants to accept her apology, one should consider the totality of her character. Personally, she should do more than just mince words if she really is contrite.

  39. DrDaveT says:

    But a recent study found that while people said they accepted interracial relationships, the part of their brain that registers disgust was highly active when they were shown photos of the couples.

    This is not as damning as perhaps it sounds here. I am proudest of those positions that I take and defend in spite of my own visceral reactions. I hope someday to habitually defend them enough that my gut believes them as much as my head does, but in the meantime they show that at least sometimes my brain can overrule my bowels when it’s important.

    We’re all born bigots, and raised bigots. It’s how we respond to that, and compensate for it, that matters.

  40. DrDaveT says:

    @CSK:

    In that case, Thomas would be questioning the validity of his own mixed marriage.

    You are confusing ‘questioning’ with ‘justifying’. It is entirely consistent with Thomas’s history and the rest of current Republican practice to eschew consistency, applying the principle of IGMFU.