Friday, October 14, 2011

Martin Luther King on Religion and the Constitution

Today, we welcome guest blogger Rev. Gil Caldwell, PFLAG National Board Member:

A search of the internet seeking information on Martin Luther King and the Constitution produced the following: On April 13, 1944, Martin Luther King, then a junior at Atlanta's Booker T. Washington High School, won an Elks-sponsored oratorical contest on the subject, "The Negro and the Constitution." King contrasted those who used their biblical faith and interpretation to support racial segregation, with the words of equality found throughout the Constitution of the USA. The article contains these words; "...contradictions between the nation's biblical faith and constitutional values." This is what troubled a young Martin Luther King, and is a source of concern for many of us who cannot comprehend why some in religion become anti-Constitution in response to its call for equality and justice for all.

We have observed, in the run up to the presidential campaign of 2012, examples of how religion too often becomes the source of put-downs, character assassinations, and efforts to invalidate the religious choices of others. This is nothing new! We live in a nation that boasts of Constitutional values that promote equality, freedom and justice, while some in religion use their Scriptures to do just the opposite.

Is it any surprise then that Martin Luther King declared that religious communities, “…[stand] as a tail-light behind other community agencies rather than a headlight leading men to higher levels of justice.”

There are times when I, as a straight ally, wish that those in religion who use their faith to thwart and stand in the way of justice for LGBTQ persons would shut up and allow the values of the Constitution to become actualized.

I believe this was at the heart of Dr. King's efforts to promote racial equality. He knew that there were many who professed religious faith who sustained and supported racial segregation. He and The Civil Rights Movement as a whole challenged these persons with the words of equality and freedom writ large in the U.S. Constitution; those same words apply to the LGBTQ community as well.

This week-end the weather-delayed dedication of the Martin Luther King Memorial in Washington, DC will take place. I will not be able to be in attendance, but, my memories of Mississippi Freedom Summer, the March on Washington, the Selma to Montgomery March and a Martin King-led march in Boston will be alive and well as the Memorial is dedicated.

I cannot tarnish those memories by being silent.

Rev. Gilbert H. Caldwell
Board Member, PFLAG National

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