RNS) — Speaking at an online panel at Washington National Cathedral Friday (April 9), the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s eldest son joined the pushback against controversial voting laws recently passed in King’s home state of Georgia, saying the measures “tragically” threaten voters’ rights.
“There are certainly 43 states that are involved in trying to create draconian legislation to keep people from voting,” said Martin Luther King III. “It’s almost like a badge of honor now to be a racist and be proud.”
The forum, which marked the 53rd anniversary of the civil rights leader’s funeral, also featured newly elected Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock, who leads Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, where the senior King once was a co-pastor.
“Now they’re trying to put new rules in place, not because the system was broken, but because the system worked,” said King. “People came out and voted in every mechanism, and they want to stop people from voting. That’s unconscionable.”
He added: “It’s the greatest hypocrisy that I’ve ever seen. And we’ve got to address that.”
Clergy in Georgia and Texas have threatened to boycott companies headquartered in their states after legislators have passed or considered bills the clergy say reflect a return to voting infringements of the Jim Crow era.
Warnock, who appeared briefly between Senate votes, spoke about the influence of King on his life. “I was born in 1969, a year after Dr. King’s death, but early in my life he captured my imagination,” he said. “He’s the reason why I went to Morehouse College. I just wanted to go to the college where Dr. King went.”
Warnock added that he never imagined he’d go on to pastor and preach from the same pulpit King did or to represent Georgians in the Senate.
“God always dreams a bigger dream for us than we can dream for ourselves,” Warnock said.
The event, which included ministers, a rabbi and an imam, was moderated by the Rev. Leonard L. Hamlin Sr., the cathedral’s minister for equity and inclusion.
King noted that he has refocused his father’s commitment to eradicate the “triple evils” of poverty, racism and militarism to working to end poverty, racism and violence.
“Are we going to go down the path of hatred, or are we going to embrace the path of love?” he asked. “If we create a culture of nonviolence, what kind of society and world will we have, not just for us but for generations yet unborn?”