The owner of a Mississippi wedding venue recently refused service to an interracial couple on the basis of her “Christian beliefs.” While the owner has since apologized, the story has gained national attention and highlights the importance of studying the Bible carefully without assuming we know what it teaches.
“It really broke my heart to actually hear her say those things,” LaKambria Welch said, according to The New York Times. It was her brother and his fiancée who were refused service, and The Christian Post reports that the video of Welch’s conversation with the business owner has received over 2 million views.
Refusing Service to an Interracial Couple
In a story published September 1st, LaKambria Welch told Deep South Voice (DSV) that the wedding venue, Boone’s Camp Event Hall, had refused to allow her brother and his fiancée to use its facilities for their upcoming wedding. The engaged couple had been in communication with Boone’s Camp for about a week when they reportedly received a message that they would no longer be able to use the venue because of the owner’s beliefs. After hearing this news, Welch decided to go to the venue and ask why her brother, who is black, and his fiancee, who is white, would not be able to get married there.
Welch told DSV, “The owner took a look at my brother’s fiancée’s page and wrote her back to say they won’t be able to get married there because of her beliefs. 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.”
Welch posted a video of what she says is her conversation with a woman employed at Boone’s Camp Event Hall, thought to be owner Donna Russell.
Woman in Mississippi is denied wedding service because of anti gay and anti interracial Christian beliefs. Boone’s Camp Event Hall in Booneville, MS. Twitter do ya thang! @ACLU_MS pic.twitter.com/H75jPHXE1N
— Austin (@Awstzn) August 31, 2019
“First of all, we don’t do gay weddings or mixed race,” says the woman, stating that her reason has to do with her Christian convictions. Welch responds, “Ok, well we’re Christians as well, so…what in the Bible tells you that…”
The woman replies, “I don’t want to argue my faith…We just don’t participate. We just choose not to.” Welch responds, “Ok. So that’s your Christian belief, right?” to which the woman says, “Yes, ma’am.”
DSV reports that after the story was published, Boone’s Camp posted an apology to its Facebook page that was later taken down, although a Facebook user took screenshots of the apology before it was removed.
Donna Russell is believed to be the author of the apology. In it, she said that she was raised with unspoken beliefs that people ought to stay within their own “racial boundaries.” But after the incident with the interracial couple, Russell’s husband asked her to show him where the Bible prohibits interracial relationships, and this caused her to question where she had gotten the idea that mixing races was bad. Said Russell, “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.”
Russell said she spent the weekend studying the Bible and also talked to her pastor. She then concluded that the Bible did not ban people of different races from marrying each other. She wrote, “If marriage is between a husband and a wife whom are equally yoked, who am I to say it is wrong because God does not condemn that relationship. 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.”
WTVA 9 News reports that Russell has also privately apologized to the family and that the family has accepted her apology. The venue owner did invite the couple to consider Boone’s Camp again, and while the couple has gone with a different facility, they say they still forgive her.
While it is easy to condemn Russell for her words and actions, this incident is a good reminder for all of us to examine our own beliefs and be familiar with God’s word so that we do not hold convictions that are not actually commanded there.