About 30 local residents gathered in front of Smyrna Christian Church Sunday morning to protest Jesse Sisk, the church’s pastor, who posted on Facebook that “God is against mixing races.”
The group met at 10 a.m. during the church’s scheduled Sunday services, but no congregants were at the building at that time.
For an hour, the crowd stood in front of the church at 1623 N. Purdum St. with signs that read “One race, the human race,” “Biracial lives matter” and “Jesus loves the little children, red, yellow, black and white.”
Other signs said “Laundry is the only thing that should be separated by color” and “Why is that old racist white dudes with hurt egos are always speaking for Christ?”
Throughout the morning, protesters chanted, “God loves everyone,” and “No hate in our state,” and cheered when passing cars honked in solidarity.
Aryn Daulton, a 27-year-old mother of interracial children, organized the protest against Sisk after seeing his statements on Facebook and realizing the church was located in her neighborhood, just four block away from the Carver Community Center.
After his initial post on July 4, Sisk continued to defend the statement in Facebook comments, writing, “God created all the races exactly how He wanted them on the sixth day, and it was very good. He doesn’t like anything to be intermixed out of its natural creation.”
In another comment, Sisk posted that “I definitely don’t discriminate … God is the only judge. I just teach what The Bible says, and everyone can make their own choices. I don’t judge anyone.”
But Daulton said what really pushed her to action was when she heard a voicemail attributed to Sisk, in which he uses racial slurs and calls an interracial child a “nasty little half-breed” and “Satan spawn.”
The voicemail was left in 2016. A post on Facebook shows a cellphone playing the message, with Sisk’s name as the caller.
“I wanted to show him that, in this community, this isn’t something we’re just going to allow you to go out and preach,” Daulton said Sunday. “… I don’t want to let him hide behind the Bible or hide behind God and pretend like he’s making innocent statements, when that’s the way he really feels.”
Shelley Hinders, a local resident who has biracial children, said she decided to attend the protest after her daughter shared Sisk’s post and the voicemail on Facebook. Hinders said the statement made her sad, but also angry.
“I don’t normally get involved, but I’ve realized that this kind of thinking is just not ever going to end, and more people from all races need to stand together,” she said. “We are one.”
Troy Henry, a 51-year-old local resident, said he was disturbed by the post and the voicemail, and decided to attend the rally to send a message to the community that racist comments won’t be ignored.
“It’s not welcome, and it’s not going to be tolerated,” he said. “I can’t believe in 2020 we still have people who feel this way. It feels like we’re living in the ‘60s. It’s just disturbing … especially coming from a pastor of a church.”
Daulton said Sisk’s post was especially shocking, considering he decided to make it in the middle of unprecedented protests around the globe, demanding an end to police brutality and systemic racism.
“I was really surprised to think that this would be the time you would want to draw attention to this,” she said.
And now, protesters plan to continue to draw attention to Sisk and his church.
Daulton said a group plans to gather in front of the building every Sunday during normal services to bring awareness of what’s being taught inside – and hopefully put a stop to it.
“We won’t be quiet,” she said. “We’re never about to allow somebody to come here and tell us we don’t matter, and twist the Word to say their lives our more important than ours.”
Phone and Facebook messages left with Sisk on Sunday were not returned.