MLK Jr. on Prayer in Schools

MLK Jr. on Prayer in Schools February 4, 2012

There has been a furious effort by the Christian right in recent years to turn Martin Luther King, Jr. into one of them, in the same manner that they have tried so hard to make the Founding Fathers into mirror images of themselves. But as Rob Boston points out, King did not join them in condemning the Supreme Court’s ruling on mandatory prayer in schools:

King supported the Supreme Court’s decisions striking down government-sponsored prayer in public schools. In a January 1965 interview with Playboy magazine, King was asked about one of those rulings. He not only backed what the court did, he noted that his frequent nemesis, Gov. George Wallace of Alabama, stood on the other side.

“I endorse it. I think it was correct,” King said. “Contrary to what many have said, it sought to outlaw neither prayer nor belief in God. In a pluralistic society such as ours, who is to determine what prayer shall be spoken, and by whom? Legally, constitutionally or otherwise, the state certainly has no such right. I am strongly opposed to the efforts that have been made to nullify the decision. They have been motivated, I think, by little more than the wish to embarrass the Supreme Court. When I saw Brother Wallace going up to Washington to testify against the decision at the congressional hearings, it only strengthened my conviction that the decision was right.”

Boston also notes that King was in favor of greater access to birth control (remember, he lived at a time when some states still made it illegal to buy, sell or use birth control) and was a strong progressive when it came to economics, health care, and poverty and was, of course, a fierce opponent of the Vietnam War.

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