- The Washington Times - Monday, January 20, 2003

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Martin Luther King's image has been used to protest a war on Iraq, denounce a homosexual-rights law and sell wireless phone service.
The trouble, of course, is that the civil rights leader "is not here to speak for himself," said the Rev. Richard Bennett, executive director of the African American Council of Christian Clergy in Miami.
Some scholars and civil rights leaders say that though it's not much of a stretch to say King would have opposed war with Iraq he was an advocate of nonviolence and critical of American intervention in Vietnam commercial use of his image and words is going too far.
"The overall danger that we run, and that we've run ever since the holiday was adopted, is that King is used so widely that in most instances it drains the real political substance and challenge from his message," said David J. Garrow. He won the Pulitzer Prize for his book, "Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference."
King, who was assassinated in 1968, would have turned 74 Wednesday. Martin Luther King Jr. Day is observed today.
Last week, activists in San Francisco handed out fliers with King's picture urging people to attend anti-war demonstrations. They made thousands of signs with his picture and the words "Stand Against War & Racism."
"The legacy of King is very much a part of the anti-war movement," said Bill Hackwell of International ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War & End Racism) in San Francisco.
The King legacy was widely employed in the anti-war protests Saturday in Washington. One protester carried a sign with a King quote, "Wars are poor chisels for carving out peaceful tomorrows," and several speakers invoked the civil rights leader's name.
King "fought for world peace, he fought for the fair distribution of wealth, he fought for blood to have more importance than oil," activist Al Sharpton told a rally outside the Capitol.
The National Council of Churches plans to follow a Martin Luther King Jr. Day prayer service with a march on the White House to protest plans for a war with Iraq.
It's not hard to imagine King taking positions on such issues that may not fit under the strictest definition of civil rights. At a Cambridge, Mass., church community, members were planning to read excerpts from an anti-war speech King delivered in 1967.
Coretta Scott King, in an interview with the Associated Press, recalled how her husband spoke out against the Vietnam War and was told, "You ought to stick to civil rights."
"He said, 'I've fought too long and too hard against segregation to now segregate my moral concerns,'" she said.
Groups in Miami-Dade County, Fla., invoked King's name last year on another issue, opposing homosexual rights.
They distributed fliers with King's picture in an effort to repeal an ordinance prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation. "Martin Luther King Jr. would be outraged" if he knew homosexuals "were abusing the civil rights movement to get special rights based on their sexual behavior," the fliers said. The repeal effort failed.
Mr. Bennett, of the Miami clergy group, said he initially had misgivings about the use of King's picture on the fliers, but "as a Christian organization, we should make a statement that we believe King would have gone against the ordinance."
Craig Washington disagrees. The executive director of the Atlanta Gay and Lesbian Center cited King's words "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere" and noted parallels between oppression based on race and on sexual orientation.
"There is no evidence that King supported oppressing gays," Mr. Washington said.
King never spoke publicly on the subject.


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