An Oklahoma woman was allegedly kicked out of a church in Oklahoma City after she brought cilantro to a church event and members mistook the herb for marijuana. Ashley, who posts on TikTok as @alimamii23, posted a two-minute video to the social media site documenting the unfortunate and uncomfortable altercation between members of Redemption United Methodist Church and Ashley herself. In the clip, which has nearly five million views, members accuse Ashley of “bringing drugs” into the congregation and refuse to listen as she explains that it’s cilantro for her menudo, a popular Mexican soup.
They didn’t even let me explain! They automatically just accused me!! Not looking for people to feel bad for us just wanted to share! #Fyp
- This was a situation that could have easily been solved. In the video, Ashley tried to explain herself to church members, saying: “That’s cilantro, that’s for the food. That’s for the menudo. I promise you. Smell it, I promise you. I’m not like that, that’s why I’m so mad.” She also reminded them that she regularly attends the church and would never have brought drugs into the building – she simply wanted some more flavor in her soup.
- The pastor didn’t seem to care about Ashley at all. Despite seeing that a member of his congregation was upset and being ganged up on, he simply told her to “chill” so he could finish his sermon. What a loving guy, eh? I’m sure Christ would have approved of that behavior.
- Commenters flooded Ashley’s video with support. One person wrote: “THE FACT THEY CAN’T RECOGNIZE SEASONINGS,” while another added: “This pastor and his ‘chill chill chill’ CAN GO ALL THE WAY TO HELL.” A separate commenter remarked that this seemed blatantly racist, saying: “The way they’re racially profiling yall is nuts they didn’t even try to smell the food like.”
- A second video showed the church members had no intention of backing down. In a second video, Ashley can be seen returning to the church to get her confiscated food but things didn’t go quite to plan. “Threatened to call the police just because I asked for the garnish back. I was so happy to go to church and then this happens to us! #Fyp #okc #church,” she captioned the second video.
- The church later issued a statement claiming their response was totally innocent and it was Ashley who should have known better than to bring food, despite the fact that it was previously allowed. “Redemption Mission provides faith-based services for inmates through an arrangement with the Oklahoma Department of Corrections (DOC) and has been hosting services since 1994. Family members, visitors and guests are welcome to attend the services and were previously allowed to bring food to be consumed on-site, but could not give food items to inmates to take back to correctional facilities. On November 12, 2021, the DOC requested a change in this practice so that no food items of any sort would be allowed to be brought into the church due to an influx of contraband that had been coming into the correctional facility—incidents of which have unfortunately occurred through people attending the service. The church provided a meal, and the policy change was announced during the service. Volunteers at Redemption, many of whom are former substance abusers, are badged volunteers trained by the DOC to look for particular ways in which contraband can be passed—including bringing in drugs with food, which has happened in the past. Maintaining a drug-free environment is vital for people who are in recovery, so these standards must be strictly enforced. Because Redemption is one of few ministries that allows for ministry with incarcerated persons outside the walls of correctional institutions, following policies is critical to being allowed to continue those ministries—ministries which not only help people to break the cycle of addiction, but allow families to spend time together. Redemption is a significantly diverse church that welcomes all and does not discriminate against any persons based on ethnicity or family of origin. Persons who are disruptive are asked to leave worship services. We want all persons to feel welcomed into our church, a part of which is maintaining safety standards for the inmates, the DOC-approved volunteers who transport the inmates, and the staff at Redemption Mission Penn Avenue. We are committed to fair and equal treatment of all and regret any misconceptions that may have occurred as a result of this incident,” they told Newsweek.