Op-Ed Spotlight: MLK's Son Carefully Marks Off King's Legacy From Glenn Beck

He defends the Fox News host's right to rally, but not his views

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"My dad, [Martin Luther King], would back Glenn Beck's right to rally," reads the Newser summary of Martin Luther King III's op-ed in The Washington Post. Well, that's sort of what he said. King III actually suggests that his father's ideals may not be the same ideals promoted by Glenn Beck at his event this weekend. Beck's "Restoring Honor" rally has attracted controversy for taking place on the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream Speech," and at the same site.

King is very careful with his father's legacy: just as he doesn't seem to want it co-opted by Glenn Beck and his supporters, neither does he give Beck's critics the soundbite they might want.


This weekend Glenn Beck is to host a "Restoring Honor" rally at the Lincoln Memorial. While it is commendable that this rally will honor the brave men and women of our armed forces, who serve our country with phenomenal dedication, it is clear from the timing and location that the rally's organizers present this event as also honoring the ideals and contributions of Martin Luther King Jr.

I would like to be clear about what those ideals are.


My father championed free speech. He would be the first to say that those participating in Beck's rally have the right to express their views. But his dream rejected hateful rhetoric and all forms of bigotry or discrimination, whether directed at race, faith, nationality, sexual orientation or political beliefs. ...

Although he was a profoundly religious man, my father did not claim to have an exclusionary "plan" that laid out God's word for only one group or ideology. He marched side by side with members of every religious faith. Like Abraham Lincoln, my father did not claim that God was on his side; he prayed humbly that he was on God's side.


He did, however, wholeheartedly embrace the "social gospel." His spiritual and intellectual mentors included the great theologians of the social gospel Walter Rauschenbush and Howard Thurman. He said that any religion that is not concerned about the poor and disadvantaged, "the slums that damn them, the economic conditions that strangle them and the social conditions that cripple them[,] is a spiritually moribund religion awaiting burial."


I pray that all Americans will embrace the challenge of social justice and the unifying spirit that my father shared with his compatriots. With this commitment, we can begin to find new ways to reach out to one another, to heal our divisions, and build bridges of hope and opportunity benefiting all people. In so doing, we will not merely be seeking the dream; we will at long last be living it.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.