Ticha Chikuni and Stella Harville will be able to worship at Gulnare Free Will Baptist Church in Pike County, Kentucky. Harville has attended the church since she was a child and her father, Dean Harville, has served as church secretary and clerk. But after Stella Harville brought Chikuni to the church last June and played the piano while he sang, church members voted 9-6 last week not to condone interracial marriage.
The vote about interracial marriage had been called by former pastor Melvin Thompson. Stacy Stepp is now the pastor of Gulnare Free Will Baptist Church and opposed the policy of banning interracial marriage and turned to the Sandy Valley Conference of Free Will Baptists, which is comprised of more than a dozen member churches. After meeting on Saturday, the conference declared the policy “invalid.”
“No motion is in order that conflicts with the laws of the nation or state or with the assembly’s constitution of by-laws. And if such motion is adopted, even by a unanimous vote, it is null and void,” said Jim Patton, the pastor at Pikeville Freewill Baptist Church and a member of the Sandy Valley Conference.
“We believe that everyone is welcome in the house of God, and we are not a racist group of people,” said Bobby Mullins, pastor at Martin County Free Will Baptist Church, told WYMT correspondent Jerrika Insco.
“I don’t believe it’s right. People should be able to worship. I don’t care what color their skin is,” one Bowling Fork churchgoer told WYMT.
Stella Harville and her family are reported to have “no hard feelings.” Dean Harville said that his daughter is “doing good on this” and that she is now “moving forward.” The Harvilles say they are indeed “ready for their church to get back to normal, allowing all people of all races to attend.”
It’s certainly good to know that the Sandy Valley Conference of Free Will Baptists overturned the ban. The US Supreme Court declared anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional back in 1967 and, as of 2005, 7 percent of marriages in the US are interracial, according to Stanford University sociologist Michael Rosenfeld.
Wishing Ticha Chikuni and Stella Harville a good life together and thanks to the church conference for doing the right thing and overturning an outdated, unnecessary policy.
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