"Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Mr. James Farmer, and others... are known to have left-wing associations. It is very obvious that the Communists, as they do in all parts of the world, are taking advantage of a tense situation in our land, and are exploiting every incident to bring about violence and bloodshed."
--Scheduled Justice Sunday III speaker Rev. Jerry Falwell
"I want to boldly affirm Uncle Tom. The black community must stop criticizing Uncle Tom. He is a role model."
--Scheduled Justice Sunday III speaker Rev. Wellington Boone
Christian right leaders love to invoke the legacy of the civil rights movement in their struggle to undo it. During Justice Sunday II, born-again Watergate felon Chuck Colson declared that the Christian right was doing nothing but "giving voice" to Martin Luther King Jr.'s philosophy. Later in the evening, the Catholic League's Bill Donohue told the nearly all-white, Southern Baptist audience, "Now we're in the back of the bus."
For Family Research Council President and Justice Sunday organizer Tony Perkins, who is today perhaps the Christian right's most influential operative, linking his agenda to the civil rights movement serves a purpose almost as important as indulging the persecution fantasies of his followers. The image of Perkins and his allies as the logical heirs to Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy helps obscure his past involvement with racist groups and figures as he advances an anti-civil rights agenda.
In 1996, while working as campaign manager for the failed US Senate candidacy of his mentor, Woody Jenkins, Perkins signed a check for nearly $90,000 to David Duke for the purchase of his phone bank list. Then, even after a steady stream of bad press doomed his own Senate campaign, Perkins spoke at a 2001 fundraiser for the Louisiana chapter of the Council of Conservative Citizens, a white nationalist group which has called blacks "a retrograde species of humanity" on its website. And this Sunday, Perkins will be joined by the Rev. Jerry Falwell, who incited opposition to the civil rights movement from the pulpit in 1950's and 1960's Virginia.
Seeking to continue his image makeover while advancing the case for the confirmation of Samuel Alito, who would by all accounts roll back civil rights, Tony Perkins has staged Justice Sunday III at a black church in inner-city Philadelphia. And he has assembled three black speakers to sermonize by his side, including Martin Luther King's Jr.'s niece, Alveda King. Judging from their past statements and activities, it looks like these figures been providing cover for racial reactionaries for the entire span of their careers. This Sunday will be no exception.
Here are brief profiles of each of them:
Boone makes no secret of his theocratic intentions. He's a member of the Dominionist umbrella group, Coalition on Revival, which advocates the replacement of Constitutional democracy with Biblical law. He's also a former leader of the right-wing Christian men's group, the Promise Keepers, which, with its overt promotion of women's submission (along with a theocratic patriarchy), makes Arnold Schwarzenegger look like Andrea Dworkin.
Boone makes no secret of his bizarre racial views either. Consider this statement he made in his book, "Breaking Through:" "I want to boldly affirm Uncle Tom. The black community must stop criticizing Uncle Tom. He is a role model." Or this confession, in the same book: "I believe that slavery, and the understanding of it when you see it God's way, was redemptive." Or this, on Pat Robertson's 700 Club, in the immediate wake of Hurricane Katrina: "We need to consider the culture of those people still stranded in New Orleans. The looting of property, the trashing of property, et cetera, speaks to the basic character of the people. These people who have gone through slavery, segregation and the Voting Rights Act are doing this to themselves." Now that's putting the compassion in "compassionate conservatism."
The host of Justice Sunday III and former NFL benchwarmer known as "the praying tailback" used to be a Democrat. Then, thanks to the aggressive lobbying of Sen. Rick Santorum, George W. Bush's Office of Faith Based Initiatives began bankrolling Lusk's operations, starting with an grant of over $900,000 in 2002. Like magic, Lusk became a rock-ribbed Republican.
Lusk's hosting of Justice Sunday III is not the first time he's provided political assistance to his paymasters. In 2000, in possible violation of IRS laws, Lusk delivered the invocation at the Republican National Convention. Four years later, he hosted the President at his church for a speech praising abstinence as the best -- and perhaps, only -- way to prevent AIDS. Lusk also provides much-need cover for Santorum, allowing him to highlight their work together whenever his support for tax cuts for the rich, Walmart, and opposition to the Family Leave Act and affirmative action are criticized. As Santorum's possibly doomed re-election campaign kicks into high gear, he is joining Lusk at Justice Sunday III.
A few years after Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination, his niece, Alveda, had what she now calls "an involuntary abortion." A few years later, after Roe v. Wade was decided, she had another abortion. Her response to what she has characterized as a personal crisis was to join up with the offspring of the anti-integration movement -- the Christian right -- in the struggle to ban abortion.
"My grandfather, Dr. Martin Luther King Sr., once said, 'No one is going to kill a child of mine,'" Alveda King wrote on her website. "Tragically, two of his grandchildren had already been aborted when he saved the life of his next great-grandson with this statement." Move over George Wallace. Planned Parenthood has tossed the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny and said, 'abortion now,' 'abortion tomorrow,' 'abortion forever.'
In the 1990's, King became an ardent supporter of school vouchers for inner city children. Yet her advocacy was performed through a well-compensated fellowship at the right-wing Alexis De Tocqueville Institution. The ADT Institution (and by extension, King, during her fellowship) is essentially a front for big business interests and conservative foundations like Scaife, Olin and Bradley. During the period the Bradley Foundation subsidized King's fellowship at ADT, it was funding Charles Murray's infamous "Bell Curve" study that asserted that blacks and Latinos are genetically inferior to whites and Asians.
The Family Research Council is promoting Alveda King on its website as "the daughter of slain civil rights activist A.D. King." The only problem is, as Esther Kaplan at Talk2Action points out, A.D. King drowned in a swimming pool.
On Sunday, King, Lusk and Boone will share the stage with the Rev. Jerry Falwell. Perhaps they're too young to remember the sermon Falwell delivered from his segregated Thomas Road Baptist Church in 1958, "Segregation and Integration: Which?" in which he declared that integration would lead to the destruction of the white race.
Maybe they have forgotten Falwell's 1963 attack from the pulpit on LBJ's civil rights legislation: "It should be considered civil wrongs rather than civil rights." And they might be unable to recall that, according to William Martin's "With God On Our Side: The Rise of the Religious Right in America," Falwell distributed anti-MLK literature provided to him by J. Edgar Hoover. Or that he founded a "Christian academy" in 1966 described by the Lynchburg News as "a private school for white students."
I find it hard to believe, however, that Boone, Lusk and King are each unaware of Falwell's famous 1965 sermon, "Ministers and Marches," in which he assailed MLK and his allies more stridently than ever before. In this sermon, Falwell questioned "the sincerity and intentions of some civil rights leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Mr. James Farmer, and others, who are known to have left-wing associations. It is very obvious that the Communists, as they do in all parts of the world, are taking advantage of a tense situation in our land, and are exploiting every incident to bring about violence and bloodshed." He added, "Preachers are not called to be politicians, but to be soul winners." (If only Falwell had followed his own advice.)
Martin Luther King once said, "Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism, or in the darkness of destructive selfishness." In joining racial reactionaries this Sunday to support Samuel Alito's appointment to the Supreme Court, Boone, Lusk and Alveda King have clearly chosen the latter.