MURDOCK, Minn. (KARE/NBC News) – When the church doors open, only white people will be allowed inside.
That’s the message the Asatru Folk Assembly in Murdock, Minnesota, is sending after being granted a conditional use permit to open a church there and practice its pre-Christian religion that originated in northern Europe, NBC News reports.
The vote came after Murdock’s city attorney advised town officials that rejecting the Asatru Folk Assembly’s request could violate its religious rights.
The AFA does not accept Black, Indigenous and People of Color into its congregation.
Council members, who were meeting online because of the coronavirus pandemic, kept video cameras turned off and refused to identify who voted for or against the permit.
Mayor Craig Kavanagh said the vote was 3-1 to approve the Conditional Use Permit as long as the group meets the conditions set on the permit.
“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,” Mayor Kavanaugh emphasized in a statement. “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.”
Opponents have collected about 50,000 signatures on an online petition to stop the all-white church from making its home in the farming town of 280 people.
“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,” said Peter Kennedy, a longtime Murdock resident. “Racism is not welcome here.”