MLK to Buchanan – Do You Know What Civil Disobedience Is For?

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On January 23, 1979, Pat Buchanan had this to say about Martin Luther King Jr.:

To Black Americans and many whites, Dr. King was the essence of everything good about America. To millions of others, not all of them racists, he was something else: the most divisive figure in the century’s most divisive decade. A partisan who made the tactics of civil disobedience and mass demonstration the first resort of dissidents… [and] an idealog [sic] of the socialist wing of the Democratic Party.1

Today he dares to invoke Dr. King’s name and legacy in the battle against LGBT rights.

When Martin Luther King Jr. called on the nation to “live up to the meaning of its creed,” he heard an echo from a thousand pulpits. Treating black folks decently was consistent with what Christians had been taught. Dr. King was pushing against an open door. Priests and pastors marched for civil rights. Others preached for civil rights. But if the gay rights agenda is imposed, we could have priests and pastors preaching not acceptance but principled rejection.

Buchanan, who has never been a fan of Dr. King, conveniently omits the many churches and religious institutions who fought social progress on racial equality tooth and nail, in the name of religion. Those who would fight against civil recognition of gay marriage have more in common with the segregationists than the civil rights advocates.

Dr. King’s call for America to “live up to the meaning of its creed” was not simply about “treating black folk decently,” it was about guaranteeing social equality for all. Civil disobedience to promote discrimination certainly does not align with Dr. King’s ethic.

So Mr. Buchanan, if you want to call on religious folk to discriminate against my LGBT brothers and sisters, go ahead and do so. Just leave Dr. King’s name out of it.


1. Patrick Buchanan, “Some Would Not Honor Dr. King,” Chicago Tribune, 23 January 1979, B3.

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