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Context of 'July 19-20, 2012: Mississippi Church Refuses to Marry Couple because of Their Race'

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Charles Hockenbarger, a member of the virulently anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church (WBC—see November 27, 1955 and After) of Topeka, Kansas, is convicted of battery and criminal restraint after assaulting a Lutheran minister at a WBC protest outside the First Lutheran Church of Topeka in September 1993 (see June 1991 and After). The minister, Reverend W. Gerald Weeks, was counter-protesting against the WBC, and held a sign reading, “God’s Love Speaks Loudest.” [Associated Press, 2/21/1998; Southern Poverty Law Center, 4/2001; Global Oneness, 2011] Hockenbarger is sentenced to five days in jail. He will appeal the conviction, claiming to be the victim of selective prosecution and a failure to receive a timely trial, but the Kansas State Court of Appeals will deny his appeal. [Associated Press, 2/21/1998]

Entity Tags: W. Gerald Weeks, Charles Hockenbarger, Kansas State Court of Appeals, Westboro Baptist Church

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

1997: Anti-Gay Church Launches Hate Web Site

The virulently anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church (WBC—see November 27, 1955 and After) puts up its first Web site. It is mostly devoted to defaming and besmirching homosexuals. The site will become the well-known “God Hates Fags” site. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 4/2001]

Entity Tags: Westboro Baptist Church

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Charles and Te’Andrea Wilson in front of the First Baptist Church in Crystal Springs, Mississippi.Charles and Te’Andrea Wilson in front of the First Baptist Church in Crystal Springs, Mississippi. [Source: AP / Jackson Clarion-Ledger]A Mississippi church minister refuses to marry an African-American couple at his church because of their race. Charles and Te’Andrea Wilson had scheduled their wedding at the First Baptist Church in Crystal Springs well in advance, and had printed programs. However, the day before the July 20 wedding, Pastor Stan Weatherford, who is white, informs the couple that he is unwilling to marry them at the church. Weatherford says that some church members objected so strenuously to the marriage in their church that they threatened to have him removed as pastor. Rather than defy those members of his congregation, Weatherford offers to marry the couple at a nearby majority-black church. The First Baptist Church in Crystal Springs, which has both blacks and whites as congregants, has never hosted an African-American wedding since its inception in 1883. Weatherford later explains: “This had never been done before here, so it was setting a new precedent, and there are those who reacted to that because of that. I didn’t want to have a controversy within the church, and I didn’t want a controversy to affect the wedding of Charles and Te’ Andrea. I wanted to make sure their wedding day was a special day.” Weatherford says he offered the alternate venue as a compromise to ensure that the Wilsons could be married while “addressing a need within our congregation.” The Wilsons reluctantly accept the change, and Weatherford marries them at the African-American church. Charles Wilson later tells a local reporter: “My nine-year-old was going to the church with us. How would you say to your nine-year-old daughter, ‘We cannot get married here because, guess what sweetie, we’re black’?” Wilson says he does not understand the ban, and says, “I blame those members who knew and call themselves Christians and didn’t stand up.” Te’Andrea Wilson says Weatherford “had people in the sanctuary that were pitching a fit about us being a black couple. I didn’t like it at all, because I wasn’t brought up to be racist. I was brought up to love and care for everybody.” The news of the forced relocation stirs up outrage among many in Crystal Springs, a suburb of Jackson. Theresa Norwood, an African-American resident who has lived in the town all of her life, says most of the residents, black and white alike, are “blown away” by the decision. She says Weatherford should have married the Wilsons regardless of the threats to his job. “That church was their home,” she says. “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.” The Wilsons are not members of the church, but had often attended services there. The bride’s uncle is an employee of the church and her father is a member. Before the wedding rejection, Charles Wilson says, the couple had intended to join the church. Norwood, who is dating a white man, says if they decide to get married, it will likely not be at First Baptist Church. [WLBT-TV, 7/26/2012; NBC News, 7/27/2012; ABC News, 7/28/2012] The church later issues an apology on its Web site, saying that it is seeking “forgiveness and reconciliation” from the Wilsons, the families and friends of the couple, and God. The Wilsons say that they heard nothing about an apology until a reporter called them for their reaction. The church’s statement reads in part: “This wrong decision resulted in hurt and sadness for everyone. Both the pastor and those involved in the wedding location being changed have expressed their regrets and sorrow for their actions.” Charles Wilson says no one from the church has contacted either him or his wife, stating, “I can’t believe they think they’ve apologized.” One or two people from the church have spoken to him since the wedding, he says, but as individuals and not as representatives of the church. “You put a thing in the media and say you’ve apologized?” he adds. “That is an insult.” [Associated Press, 8/6/2012]

Entity Tags: Charles Wilson, Stan Weatherford, Te’Andrea Wilson, Theresa Norwood, First Baptist Church (Crystal Springs, MS)

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda

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