April 16 in freethought history…

martinlutherkingjrApril 16, 1963 – The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. releases his “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” a defense of nonviolent civil disobedience in opposition to racism, written in response to “A Call for Unity” from eight white Alabama pastors, who took issue with “outsiders” using extremist tactics rather than the courts. King’s letter, smuggled out of jail, sharply criticized white Christian and Jewish “moderates” for being part of the problem, hiding behind law-and-order and scripture: I felt that the white ministers, priests and rabbis of the South would be among our strongest allies. Instead, some have been outright opponents, refusing to understand the freedom movement and misrepresenting its leaders; all too many others have been more cautious than courageous and have remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of stained-glass windows… I have heard numerous religious leaders of the South admonish their worshipers to comply with a desegregation decision because it is the law, but I have longed to hear white ministers declare: “Follow this decree because integration is morally right and because the Negro is your brother.” In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churchmen stand on the sideline and mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities. In the midst of a mighty struggle to rid our nation of racial and economic injustice, I have heard many ministers say: “Those are social issues, with which the gospel has no real concern.” And I have watched many churches commit themselves to a completely other worldly religion which makes a strange distinction between body and soul, between the sacred and the secular.

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