Carrie Cline, WSAZ, November 30, 2011
A church’s decision to ban a couple from its congregation, simply because their skin color is different, has cut through the heart of a Pike County community.
Suzie Harville, who is engaged to a black man originally from Zimbabwe, is no longer welcome at the church. Neither is her fiancée, Tichna Chikuni.
Some members of Gulnare Freewill Baptist Church voted Sunday to prohibit interracial couples from joining their church. They’re welcomed to attend, just not so welcomed to stick around for too long.
“It’s racism. That’s what you call it,” said Dean Harville, who is Suzie’s father. He has attended Gulnare Freewill Baptist Church for more than 30 years–a place he has seen his family grow.
“I treat him like I’d treat my own son,” Dean Harville said of his future son-in-law. “You couldn’t find a nicer man.”
The couple, who met in college, recently attended services at Gulnare Freewill Baptist Church–a small country church about 15 miles north of Pikeville, Ky. During their visit, Suzie sang a song, and Tichna played the piano.
“The pastor said they can’t sing in the church anymore,” Dean Harville said. “Then he said, ‘Furthermore, take your fella back to wherever she got him from.’ ”
Then, came a policy voted on and approved by a local majority banning interracial couples from joining the church.
About 40 people attend services on a typical Sunday at Gulnare Freewill Baptist. This measure passed by a vote of nine to six. Dean Harville said more people were present, but they wouldn’t take a stand.
Member Melvin Thompson crafted the resolution but said Wednesday that he is “not racist.” Thompson says the matter is an internal affair of the church.