I wrote last week about Gary Glenn, the leader of the American Family Association of Michigan, claiming that Martin Luther King Jr. would have supported governors ignoring any Supreme Court ruling that supports same-sex marriage. Glenn responded on his Facebook page and threw a little more manure around. So let’s get right to it. He quotes this from MLK’s famous letter from a Birmingham jail:
One may well ask: ‘How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?’ The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust.
I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws…
Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust?
A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code out of harmony with the moral law.
…I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust…is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.
…It was practiced superbly by the early Christians, who were willing to face hungry lions rather than submit to unjust laws.
If today I lived in a Communist country where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I would openly advocate disobeying that country’s antireligious laws.”
Well yes, MLK did support, as I do, the use of civil disobedience against unjust laws. But in order for this to be at all relevant, he has to provide some compelling argument for why MLK would have considered a law allowing same-sex marriage to be unjust. And that is where he fails miserably. I’m sure you’ll all be shocked to hear that he cites Alveda King, MLK’s niece who has made quite a name for herself in wingnuttia by claiming that her uncle was a social conservative who was opposed to gay rights and reproductive rights.
Notably, during the 2004 ballot campaign for Michigan’s Marriage Protection Amendment, Gary hosted and traveled across the state with Dr. King’s niece — former Georgia Democratic state Rep. Dr. Alveda King — to campaign in favor of our state marriage amendment.
Dr. King’s daughter Bernice, now president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference founded by her father, led the march on Georgia’s state capitol in support of that state’s Marriage Protection Amendment…
Both Alveda and Bernice, who knew him, assert there is no doubt that as a Biblically conservative southern Baptist pastor, Dr. King would have preached in defense of Christ’s definition of marriage as found in the book of Mark: “For this reason shall a man leave his father and mother and cleave unto his wife.”
Which means Dr. King did not, as Mr. Brayton does, define “freedom and equality” to mean legalizing so-called homosexual “marriage” and then punishing churches and individual Christians who refuse to endorse it.
Well no, actually, it doesn’t mean that. It means that two people related to him make such a claim, but they don’t have any actual evidence to support it. And in fact, they have been entirely wrong before in making such assertions. Alveda King has repeatedly claimed that MLK was opposed to abortion, but that simply isn’t true. In fact, he was a proponent of reproductive rights who was given the Margaret Sanger Award by Planned Parenthood. And his acceptance speech, read by his wife Coretta Scott King on his behalf, offered strong praise for Margaret Sanger, saying that there was “a striking kinship between our movement and Margaret Sanger’s early efforts.”
Like we, she was a direct actionist — a nonviolent resister. She was willing to accept scorn and abuse until the truth she saw was revealed to the millions. At the turn of the century she went into the slums and set up a birth control clinic, and for this deed she went to jail because she was violating an unjust law. Yet the years have justified her actions. She launched a movement which is obeying a higher law to preserve human life under humane conditions. Margaret Sanger had to commit what was then called a crime in order to enrich humanity, and today we honor her courage and vision; for without them there would have been no beginning. Our sure beginning in the struggle for equality by nonviolent direct action may not have been so resolute without the tradition established by Margaret Sanger and people like her. Negroes have no mere academic nor ordinary interest in family planning. They have a special and urgent concern.
So when it comes to abortion and family planning, MLK clearly considered the laws banning those things, which Sanger fought against, to be unjust and necessary to defy. So if Alveda King could do blatantly lie about her uncle’s position on reproductive rights, why should we believe her when she makes an identical claim about his position on gay rights? Besides, we have the testimony of Coretta Scott King that counters Alveda’s claims:
For too long, our nation has tolerated the insidious form of discrimination against this group of Americans, who have worked as hard as any other group, paid their taxes like everyone else, and yet have been denied equal protection under the law…I believe that freedom and justice cannot be parceled out in pieces to suit political convenience. My husband, Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” On another occasion he said, “I have worked too long and hard against segregated public accommodations to end up segregating my moral concern. Justice is indivisible.” Like Martin, I don’t believe you can stand for freedom for one group of people and deny it to others…
Gays and lesbians stood up for civil rights in Montgomery, Selma, in Albany, Ga. and St. Augustine, Fla., and many other campaigns of the Civil Rights Movement. Many of these courageous men and women were fighting for my freedom at a time when they could find few voices for their own, and I salute their contributions.
And Glenn’s claim that MLK was a “conservative southern Baptist pastor” is also false. He was not a theological conservative, he was an advocate of a liberal theology that focused almost entirely on matters of social justice, something Glenn sure as hell doesn’t do. He was, in fact, quite radical — a democratic socialist, a pacifist and a staunch critic of American imperialism.
These attempts to turn MLK into a member in good standing of the Christian right are laughable and incredibly dishonest.