In an effort to learn more about mayoral candidate Kenneth Whalum, Yas Meen and Monique Stevens visited the reverend's New Olivet Baptist Church Sunday morning. But they claim the experience resulted verbal attacks and expulsion from the church.
"I had been having political debates with my partner about who to vote for for mayor. I said Whalum was the man to vote for, and she was going for Herenton," Meen says. "We decided to go to [Whalum's] church to see what he was all about."
Meen says many in the congregation were giving them dirty looks as soon as they sat down. But she says the real trouble started when the women — who are both agnostic — opted out of a "sanctified dance" that supposedly involved congregants dancing in the aisles, laying on the floor to pray, and blowing kisses to God.
"People were telling us we needed to blow kisses, and I said, I don't communicate with my higher power like that," says Meen, who admitted to feeling uncomfortable with New Olivet's unique style of worship. She said Whalum directly called them out for not participating.
Later, when Stevens placed her arm around Meen, the women claim a security guard asked the two to leave the church. He said he'd already called the police. The women allege that a group of about 25 young men pushed them out of the church while others taunted them with calls of "demon" and "devil worshipper." Stevens' glasses were broken and she suffered scratches and bruises.
"I was there to support him as mayor, but he won't be getting my vote now," Meen says. "If he's going to act like that in church, how will he act in front of [the citizens of Memphis]?"
Whalum was not immediately available for comment, but if he does return Flyer phone calls, we'll be certain to update the story at that time.
According to the New Olivet's website, the church offers "compassion and refuge, reaching out to a lost and hurting world that needs salvation and purpose."
For more details, check out Jonathan Cole's blog post on Grand Divisions.