A small town in Minnesota has sparked outrage after granting permission for this former church to be taken over by a whites-only pagan faith (Picture: AP)
A small town has refuted claims it is racist after granting a ‘whites only’ church permission to open. Craig Kavanagh, the mayor of Murdock in Minnesota, insisted his town was a good place for all races to live after the Asatru Folk Assembly (AFA) was granted a permit to open its house of worship in an existing church building.
The AFA practices a pre-Christian pagan religion that originated in northern Europe, and bars all people of color from participating in its congregations, saying its congregants must have ‘European bloodlines.’
It has been linked to white supremacy by anti-racism watchdog the Southern Poverty Law Center, and is now headquartered in Brownsville, California,
Murdock, a farming community which is home to just 280 people, approved the new church at a council meeting earlier this month, where three members voted in favor, and one against.
AFA board member Allen Turnage, pictured standing up a meeting about the new church, has denied claims his religion is racist (Picture: AP)
It is unclear how many members would regularly attend the AFA church, with board member Allen Turnage denying their beliefs were racist.
He said: ‘We’re not (racist). It’s just simply not true. Just because we respect our own culture, that doesn’t mean we are denigrating someone else’s.’
The vote was held online because of coronavirus, with councillors keeping their video cameras switched off, and refusing to say which way they had voted.
Councillors were told that banning the AFA church could violate the group’s religious freedom, and said they had no choice but to green-light the new church.
Speaking after news of the vote made national headlines, Mayor Kavanagh said: ‘There has been a lot of concern on this topic in the city of Murdock and rightfully so. We just want to be clear we are not discussing race with our decision. This is strictly a zoning issue
‘We as the leaders of the City of Murdock want it be known that the city of Murdock condemns racism in all of its forms: conscious, unconscious, any place, any time, now and in the future.
‘We are committed to building a community that promotes equal justice and opportunity to every single person regardless of their race.’
An online petition has so-far collected 50,000 signatures calling for the AFA church to be banned from opening up.
Local resident Peter Kennedy is among those who oppose the planned church.
He told NBC News: ‘I think they thought they could fly under the radar in a small town like this, but we’d like to keep the pressure on them.
Racism is not welcome here.’
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