Religious FreedomPrint

Dr. King and His Religious Freedom Dream

by Mark Scott, Family Policy Alliance Communications Director

It is especially meaningful that we celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. yesterday just a few days after we celebrated Religious Freedom Day. A remarkable leader who had a dramatic and necessary impact on human rights, history sometimes forgets everything he attempted to achieve was all done in the name of Jesus Christ.

Many often speculate: What would Dr. King’s passions be if he were alive today? Along with the dynamic leadership he would provide, he would most certainly be a champion for religious freedom. Here’s why we know that:

  1.  He Believed in Jesus. While leading his civil rights campaign in Birmingham, Dr. King required participants of his movement to commit to a number of things, including to “meditate daily on the teachings and life of Jesus.” Another included an expectation that all participants would “walk and talk in the manner of love, for God is love.” He also required them to “pray daily to be used by God in order that all men might be free.” Unfortunately today, too many face the inability to live out their faith in their workplaces – the same faith Dr. King exhibited throughout his journey toward equality.
  2. He Braved his Critics. In 2012, the ACLU – a liberal group with which we rarely agree – wrote this about Dr. King and religious freedom: “True freedom of religion is the guarantee that all are free to follow and practice their faith — or no faith at all — without governmental influence or interference. Dr. King might have said it best, that the church ‘is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool’.” Dr. King advocated for those who choose to follow the truth of the Bible instead of what was our culture considers “popular.”
  3. He Boldly Resisted the Mob. In his “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” where he was improperly imprisoned, Dr. King fought the idea that his views of equality and religious freedom were those of an “outsider,” and wrote what remains as one of his most quoted words: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Some of the injustices we face today are Christians being fined, fired, and persecuted by the government for their beliefs. It’s time to boldly resist the anti-Bible mob and the liberal press who only tell part of the story.

And our response to defending religious freedom should begin in our faith communities. Several years ago, Charles Colson reflected on Dr. King’s impact on religious freedom. He reminded us all that not only should individuals practice what Dr. King preached, but so should churches. He put it this way:

“It’s vital that every church defend freedom of religion, the bulwark of all of our freedoms … You can also help clear up some of the confusion over religious liberty in our public schools. Students can pray in school. They can read the Bible. That makes (Religious Freedom Day) a great time for Sunday school teachers to talk to their students about the freedoms they have to express their religious faith — even at school.

“Be sure your church celebrates Religious Freedom Day — there’s no better way to honor the legacy of Dr. King.”

Dr. King turned his concern into courage; his anger into action. He saw a country where injustice was becoming the norm and he did something about it. As Christians, let’s continue to fight for equality and religious freedom for people of all colors and faiths.