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Gary Younge
$10 to listen to the sermon - as long as you're white

"Our churches are too segregated and the Lord never intended for that to happen. It's time to do something radical," said Bishop Fred Caldwell, of the Greenwood Acres Full Gospel church in Shreveport.

Religion is more racially segregated than anything else in America, including housing and socialising, and nowhere more so than in the south, where 11 o'clock on a Sunday morning is said to be the most segregated hour of the week.

Under Mr Caldwell's scheme white visitors will have to register when they arrive at the service after which he will pay them from his own pocket, calling on the congregation for help if he needs it.

He says he has had so many positive responses from white parishioners in the town that he is already planning to put out extra chairs this Sunday. One man called to thank him for the invitation even though he didn't want the money.

Chris Williams, one of the few white members of the congregation, supports the initiative.

"I don't see it as any different than a lot of the churches that have different social functions to attract visitors. Bishop just kind of cut to the chase and went to the money," she said. "I don't know where people get the impression that he doesn't love white people. I know he loves me."

The chairman of the religion department of the local college, Professor Peter Huff, says Mr Caldwell has identified a serious problem.

"He's hit on the problem. All of the best motives have not been able to overcome the racial divide," he says. "Just showing people that racism conflicts with the gospel seems not to be enough."

But Mr Caldwell hopes the lesson will stick long after the cash runs out. "I just want the kingdom of God to look like it's supposed to. There ain't going to be ghettos in heaven."

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