MLK’s legacy, faith to honored

| January 18, 2013 | 0 Comments

Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Donald Eubank
U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii



Monday, Jan. 21, is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and most federal and state offices and public schools recognize the day, as they should.

But, will they teach students about King’s religious faith, which motivated and guided his campaign for civil rights, or will what young people learn about this great American be a sanitized, politically correct and incomplete story about the values and beliefs that motivated King?

During his Birmingham civil rights campaign, King required every participant to do 10 things. The first was to “meditate daily on the teachings and life of Jesus.” Others included the expectation that all participants would “walk and talk in the manner of love, for God is love,” and “pray daily to be used by God in order that all men might be free.”

To truly understand MLK, students must learn about his Christian faith. It was at the heart of what he did.

This month, something else worth celebrating happens just five days before MLK Day, and it’s a perfect fit. Every year since 1993, the president proclaims Jan. 16 to be “Religious Freedom Day.” He asks the nation to celebrate religious liberty.

Jan. 16 is the anniversary of the passage in 1786 of the “Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom,” drafted by Thomas Jefferson. The men who drafted the U.S. Constitution leaned heavily on Jefferson’s statute in establishing the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious freedom. Today, that protection is as important as ever.

Since MLK Day and Religious Freedom Day occur within days of each other, it is a perfect time for us to connect the dots between King’s fight for civil rights and the freedom of religious expression in the United States. King’s call for justice was guided by his religious convictions and the liberty to act on those convictions.

It should be no surprise to any of us that religious freedom is coming under increasing assault in this country. Long before our nation’s independence, weary settlers sought refuge on our shores to escape religious persecution on other continents. Recognizing their strife and toil, it was the genius of America’s forefathers to protect our freedom of religion, including the freedom to practice none at all.

Many faiths are now practiced in our nation’s houses of worship, and that diversity is built upon a rich tradition of religious tolerance. Therefore, as we honor the legacy of King, President Barrack Obama encourages us to also celebrate our religious freedom and the early realization of our nation’s founding ideals in Virginia’s 1786 statute.

The Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom was more than a law; it was a statement of principle, declaring freedom of religion as the natural right of all humanity, not a privilege for any government to give or take away.

In his declaration of Religious Freedom Day, Obama said, “Faith can bring us closer to one another, and our freedom to practice our faith and follow our conscience is central to our ability to live in harmony. On Religious Freedom Day, let us pledge our constant support to all who struggle against religious oppression and rededicate ourselves to fostering peace with those whose beliefs differ from our own.

“In doing so,” Obama continued, “we reaffirm our common humanity and respect for all people with whom we share a brief moment on this Earth.”

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Category: Footsteps in Faith, News, Observances, Standing Columns

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