Mississippi is known for its religious freedom laws which allow people to be denied services based on a merchant’s religious beliefs.
Although it is a widely known law, a video of a woman denying an interracial couple access to their event venue due to her religious beliefs has gone viral.
The event hall in Booneville, Mississippi, refused to host the interracial wedding. After a week of communicating with the couple, a communique was sent to them indicating that the venue would not be a good match for their wedding because they were an interracial couple and it goes against their beliefs to have such a ceremony there.
The news did not sit well with the groom-to-be’s family. Lakambria Welch, the groom’s sister, took it upon herself, after her mother’s failed attempt to get further clarification via Facebook messenger. “The owner took a look at my brother’s fiance’s page and wrote her back to say they won’t be able to get married there because of her beliefs.”
In an interview with Deep South Voice, Welch said, “He told my mom and she contacted the owner through messenger to only get a ‘seen’ with no reply. That’s when I took it upon myself to go get clarification on her beliefs.”
Ms. Welch drove to the venue, Boone’s Camp Event Hall, and met a worker. It was at the venue that Walker recorded her altercation with the woman. She then posted the video on Facebook adding the caption, “FYI, if you’re a mixed-race couple, please do NOT inquire Boone’s Camp for a wedding venue. They will not accommodate you if you’re ‘gay’ or ‘mixed race’ due to their ‘Christian beliefs,” The Root reports.
In the video, the woman is heard saying the venue will not host the wedding because it goes against the hall’s Christian beliefs. “First of all, we don’t do gay weddings or mixed race, because of our Christian race—I mean our Christian belief,” the woman voices.
Ms. Welch is heard probing further into the woman’s statement, “Okay we’re Christians as well, so… What in the Bible tells you that?” The woman then tells her she is not ready to “argue” her faith and emphatically concludes: “We just don’t participate. We just choose not to,” the Deep South Voice reports.
Lakambria was really taken aback by the incident. She said: “It really broke my heart to actually hear her say those things.” Since the incident, Boone’s Camp has reached out to apologize privately to the Welchs.
The event hall has taken down its Facebook page. Before it was taken down, a Facebook user took screenshots of an apology that was put up. The statement was published on DSV, the Mississippi site that first broke the story,
“As a child growing up, our racial boundaries that were unstated were of staying in your own race. This was never spoken, but it was an understood subject.”
Donna Russell, the woman in the viral video, states she confided in her husband, David Russell, and was asked to back her claims with Biblical scriptures.
“I stood for a minute and began to think about the history of my learning this and where it came from. I was unable to recall instances where the Bible was used given a verse that would support my decision.,” she wrote in the Facebook post.
Donna claims that after self-reflection and consultations with her pastor, she realized her claims had no basis in the Bible. “I have, for many years, stood firm on my Christian faith not knowing that biracial relationships were NEVER mentioned in the Bible! I know there are verses whom we claim support this, but to my finding it is not supported at all!”
“To all of those offended, hurt, or (who) felt condemn(ed) by my statement, I truly apologize to you for my ignorance in not knowing about this. My intent was never about racism, but to stand firm in what I ‘assumed’ was right concerning marriage. When the Bible tells us to ‘study to show ourselves,’ I have failed to do that on this subject,” she concluded.
Donna also reprimanded all who share in her previous beliefs to let them go as she has.
The City of Bonneville Facebook page put out a statement condemning the incident, adding that the City of Bonneville, Mayor, and Board of Aldermen do not condone or approve these types of discriminatory policies,” CBS News reports.
A lot of people have since reached out to the couple to show their love and support. Different wedding venues, photographers and other vendors have also offered to take Welch’s brother’s wedding as a sign of solidarity for their ordeal.