MLK: “We are in Good Company When We Break Unjust Laws.”
Like today, many clergymen opposed to taking a public and resistant stand to unjust laws. They feared the consequences. They might lose church members. The government might close the doors of their churches. Their tax-exempt status might be revoked.
In addition to these practical issues, many pastors argued from a biblical perspective that any resistance to civil authority was contrary to the Christian faith. Dr. King answered some of these objections in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” that was written to his “Fellow Clergymen” April 19, 1963. (see below)
I’ve chosen Martin Luther King, Jr. because he is a respected figure among liberals, and homosexuals have appealed to the civil rights movement as identical to their own social, political, and legal struggle.
Dr. King did not consider same-sex sexuality comparable to race as a 1958 Ebony magazine advice column shows.
Question: My problem is different from the ones most people have. I am a boy, but I feel about boys the way I ought to feel about girls. I don’t want my parents to know about me. What can I do? Is there any place where I can go for help?
Answer: Your problem is not at all an uncommon one. However, it does require careful attention. The type of feeling that you have toward boys is probably not an innate tendency, but something that has been culturally acquired. Your reasons for adopting this habit have now been consciously suppressed or unconsciously repressed. Therefore, it is necessary to deal with this problem by getting back to some of the experiences and circumstances that led to the habit. In order to do this I would suggest that you see a good psychiatrist who can assist you in bringing to the forefront of conscience all of those experiences and circumstances that led to the habit. You are already on the right road toward a solution, since you honestly recognize the problem and have a desire to solve it.
The following are excerpts from his Birmingham Jail letter:
“While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling present activities ‘unwise and untimely.’ Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work. But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.
“[T]there is nothing new about this kind of civil disobedience. It was evidenced sublimely in the refusal of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to obey the laws of Nebuchadnezzar, on the ground that a higher moral law was at stake. It was practiced superbly by the early Christians, who were willing to face hungry lions and the excruciating pain of chopping blocks rather than submit to certain unjust laws of the Roman Empire. To a degree, academic freedom is a reality today because Socrates practiced civil disobedience. In our own nation, the Boston Tea Party represented a massive act of civil disobedience.
“We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was ‘legal’ and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was ‘illegal.’ It was ‘illegal’ to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany. Even so, I am sure that, had I lived in Germany at the time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers. 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 anti-religious laws.”
The following is a recording of Dr. King making the same argument in an interview: