A Mississippi wedding venue rejected an interracial couple, citing ‘Christian belief.’ Facing a backlash, the owner apologized.
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.
On social media, the woman in Welch’s video sparked intense criticism, even prompting a response from the City of Booneville.
“The City of Booneville, Mayor, and Board of Aldermen do not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, gender, age, national origin, disability, marital status, sexual orientation, or military status,” officials said in a statement posted to Facebook on Monday. “Furthermore, the City of Booneville, Mayor, and Board of Aldermen do not condone or approve these types of discriminatory policies.”
Several people linked the incident to Mississippi’s religious objection law, arguing that although there is no race provision, it lays the groundwork for people to assert that beliefs alone are enough to validate racial discrimination.
“It was only a matter of time before ‘religious protections’ would justify racial discrimination,” one person tweeted . “First, they came for the gays …”
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.”