Kentucky church bans interracial couples from becoming members. What year is this again?

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In order to "promote greater unity," a Kentucky church has voted to officially ban interracial marriages and prevent mixed-race couples from becoming members after the daughter of a member brought her fiance, who is black, to sing during services.

Stella "Suzie" Harville, a 24-year-old college student in Indiana, told WYMT-TV that she often attends the Gulnare Free Will Baptist Church in Pike County when she's visiting her parents at home. She grew up in that church and was baptized there but is not a member herself, her father Dean Harville told the Kentucky Herald-Leader. In June, she played the piano while her finance, 29-year-old Ticha Chikuni, a native of Zimbabwe who works at Georgetown College, sang the hymn "I Surrender All."

If she thought her hometown congregation would welcome her fiance with open arms, she was in for a shock: The chuch's pastor, Melvin Thompson, told them that they couldn't sing at the church again. And last weekend the congregation passed a proposal penned by Thompson, voting to refuse membership to interracial couples and prevent them from taking part in services and church functions.

"It's just a travesty, especially of Christianity, that this church feels this way," Harville told WYMT-TV. "They've crossed the line in revoking my fiance and mine's right to worship in a public place. It hurts even more that I have attended this church ever since I was a baby."

"It sure ain't Christian," she told the Herald-Leader. "It ain't nothing but the old devil working."

Thompson stepped down as pastor in August, citing health concerns, and the church's new pastor, Stacey Stepp, told the couple that Chikuni was welcome to sing there again. That prompted Thompson to submit the following proposed resolution to his former congregation:

"That the Gulnare Freewill Baptist Church does not condone interracial marriage. Parties of such marriages will not be received as members, nor will they be used in worship services and other church functions, with the exception being funerals. All are welcome to our public worship services. This recommendation is not intended to judge the salvation of anyone, but is intended to promote greater unity among the church body and the community we serve."

Last Sunday the resolution passed, 9 to 6. Harville's father, Dean, who is the church's secretary, told the Herald-Leader that about 35 to 40 people attended the service that day, but many left or refused to vote.

On Wednesday, Thompson described the vote as an "internal affair" and told the Louisville Courier-Journal that he is "not prejudiced against any race of people."

"I have never in my lifetime spoke evil about a race," he said. "That’s what this is being portrayed as, but it is not."

Harville's father disagrees with his former pastor. “If he’s not racist, what is this?” he asked.

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