Bernice King has been bestowed the honor to be the eighth president
and first women to head the Southern Christian Leadership Conference
by her father, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the Rev. Bernice
King may be a legacy pick for SCLC, but unfortunately, she will
not be carrying on his legacy.
a matter-of-fact, given the homophobic vitriol Rev. Bernice King
has spewed out over the years, the LGBTQ community is bracing to
see what next she’ll say and do, given the bully pulpit she now
Rev. Bernice King has been rumored for years to be a lesbian, her
track record concerning LGBTQ civil rights has been less than humane
and antithetical to both legacies of her parents.
example, Rev. Bernice King’s most audacious sign of desecrating
her father’s legacy was the December 2004 march titled, “Stop the
Silence,” promoting an anti-gay agenda.
the protest march by lighting a torch at her father’s grave site
and then passing it on to her spiritual mentor and the march organizer,
Bishop Eddie Long of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, who proudly
carried the lit torch in a two-mile march through Atlanta with thousands
of followers, Rev. Bernice King adamantly stated that the march
was not against LGBTQ people. It’s a “need for God’s People to stop
being silent” and being “about God’s business of speaking up for
the Kingdom of God,” King told Associated Press.
contrary to her claims, the first goal of the march listed on the
church’s website promoted a constitutional amendment to protect
marriage “between one man and one woman.”
speculating about her father’s viewpoint on marriage equality, let
us not forgot one of Rev. Bernice King’s sanctimonious moments of
ranting and railing against it when she stated, “I know in my sanctified
soul that he (Dr. King) did not take a bullet for same-sex marriage.”
dishonored her mother’s civil rights legacy by holding the funeral
at Bishop Long’s church, which Julian Bond, the national NAACP chairman,
King was a strong supporter of gay and lesbian rights. Her husband
was a strong believer in helping the poor and preached a theology
of contempt for seekers of material goods - and lived his life that
pastor of the church where she was funeralized led an anti-gay march
through Atlanta - sadly, Mrs. King’s youngest daughter, an elder in his church,
accompanied him. We cannot know what Mrs. King’s wishes were for
a funeral - she probably had no choice about church or minister
- but I did have a choice - and while I have an abiding respect
for my former neighbor and friend, I chose not to be in that church”
Bond told AP.
has an outstanding legacy of championing the civil rights of African
Americans. But it has not expanded its reach beyond racial discrimination.
And attempts to do so have been admonished by SCLC’s national board.
example, Reverend Eric P. Lee, president of the Los Angeles chapter
of the SCLC and the author of the book, “Marriage Equality: Proposition
8, The California Divide” was called on the carpet by SCLC’s national
board last year for his advocacy in favor of LGBTQ marriage equality
during California’s heated Proposition 8 controversy.
mostly of conservative clergymen and some churchwomen, SCLC remains
in an intentional time warp. With its refusal to speak on present-day
issues not only plaguing the African American community but plaguing
all Americans, SCLC exists as a visiting museum tethered to the
1960’s civil rights era rather than exist as an organization faced
toward the challenges of today. For example, King’s oldest son,
Martin Luther King III, was president of SCLC from 1997-2004. He
failed to join the national fight against HIV/AIDS, ravaging African
American communities, because he “felt uncomfortable talking about
condoms,” L.A. times reported in 2001.
religious rhetoric against LGBTQ citizens chokes progress, hinders
equality, and allows religion-based bigotry to flourish.
SCLC cloaks its support for inequality in religious rhetoric. I
often hear the argument that religious African Americans are somehow
required to be homophobic and to oppose marriage equality because
of their deep commitment to Christian doctrine, practice, and belief.
But this ignores that the primary distinguishing characteristic
of African American Christianity is its rejection of oppressive
biblical interpretation in favor of embracing a liberating and loving
God,” Melissa Harris-Lacewell, professor at Princeton, wrote on
the blog, “The Notion.”
many in the LGBTQ community now gasp at the reality of Rev. Bernice
King being at the helm of SCLC, I gasp at SCLC’s audacity to still
call itself a civil rights organization.
Editorial Board member, the Rev. Irene Monroe, is a religion columnist,
theologian, and public speaker. A native of Brooklyn, Rev. Monroe
is a graduate from Wellesley College and Union Theological Seminary
at Columbia University, and served as a pastor at an African-American
church before coming to Harvard Divinity School for her doctorate
as a Ford Fellow. She was recently named to MSNBC’s list of 10 Black Women You Should Know. Reverend Monroe is
the author of Let Your Light Shine Like a Rainbow Always: Meditations on Bible
Prayers for Not-So-Everyday Moments . As an African American
feminist theologian, she speaks for a sector of society that is
frequently invisible. Her website is irenemonroe.com. Click here
to contact the Rev. Monroe.