Glenn Beck got a lot of flak for his August 28 spiritual rally at the Lincoln Memorial from some who alleged he was usurping the memory of Martin Luther King’s iconic 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech there.
But equally as noteworthy was a religious pro-abortion coalition, including several Mainline denominations, which lashed out at another speaker at the Beck Rally, King’s niece Alveda King, for her pro-life advocacy.
The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC) held a press conference in Washington on August 26 with several African-American clergy seeking to discredit Alveda King as part of a conservative effort to “hijack the civil rights movement for its own political agenda,” according to Reverend Dr. Walter Fauntroy, chief Washington, D.C. organizer of the 1963 March on Washington.
While RCRC is comprised exclusively of nearly all-white Mainline denominations and liberal activist groups, among them Catholics for a Free Choice, the group has an extensive outreach to African Americans through its National Black Church Initiative. Among its programs has been the National Black Religious Summit on Sexuality, held annually at Washington’s Howard University, and which has tried subtly to promote pro-abortion themes in church curricula and to liberalize church teaching about sexual ethics.
King directs the African-American outreach for Priests for Life and has spearheaded a campaign to raise awareness about abortion’s impact on the black population. “The ‘Religious Right’ billboard campaign asserting that African American children are an ‘endangered species’ and Alveda King’s comparison of anti-abortion activists to ‘Freedom Riders’ have sparked outrage in the African American community,” charged RCRC President Carlton Veazey.
RCRC was founded in 1973 by primarily white Mainline Protestants to defend Roe v. Wade against Roman Catholic and other pro-life religious voices. Unwilling to grant the desirability of any restriction on abortion, RCRC over the years has even defended the legality of partial-birth abortions and of transporting minors across state lines for abortions. Agencies of the United Methodist Church, Presbyterian Church (USA), United Church of Christ, and the Episcopal Church are RCRC’s leading members.
Responding to RCRC, King was unapologetic in defending her pro-life views and participation in the Beck rally. “It is absolutely ludicrous that abortion supporters would accuse a blood relative of Dr. King of hijacking the King legacy. Uncle Martin and my father, Rev. A. D. King were blood brothers,” King said in a statement. “How can I hijack something that belongs to me? I am an heir to the King Family legacy.” Not unreasonably, she insisted: “I have a right to stand at the Lincoln Memorial on the 47th Anniversary of my Uncle’s ‘I Have A Dream’ speech.”
Dr. Timothy McDonald, Pastor of First Iconium Baptist Church in Atlanta and a past member of the RCRC Board, insisted that King was attempting to “rewrite history” and that the elder King and his wife Coretta Scott King “supported family planning services.”
But the younger King insisted: “The Dream has yet to be realized.” And she asserted: “That Dream is in my genes and I carry forward in the fight for equality and justice for all blacks, including those in the womb.” King said that her father and uncle gave their lives to ensure that the day would come when blacks would be judged not by the color of their skin, but the content of their character: “If they were here, I know they would stand with me in this fight for the lives of those most vulnerable among us.”
Priests for Life reports that 78 percent of Planned Parenthood clinics are in minority communities. While blacks make up 12 percent of the population they account for 35 percent of all abortions in the United States. King and pro-life black clergy have alleged that the disproportionate impact of abortion upon the black community has been a targeted effort. Noting that 50 percent of pregnancies within the black community end in abortion, these leaders charge it is the result of campaigns originally instigated by racially motivated eugenicists early in the 20th century. Foremost among their examples is Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood, who wrote of eliminating “undesirable populations.”
RCRC sought to refute the charge in a statement available on its website from Jill Morrison, senior counsel in reproductive health and rights at the National Women’s Law Center. She characterized claims that abortion in the African-American community amounts to genocide as an “attempt to infantilize, dehumanize and objectify black women under the guise of protecting the race.” Loretta Ross, national coordinator of SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Health Collective called claims of genocide “racist, sexist and anti-Semitic” and an affront to the millions who died in the Nazi Holocaust.
Several black pro-life leaders backed King in their disagreement with RCRC. “More and more of Black Americans understand the eugenics agenda of Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers to control the black birth rate through abortion. And because we understand, we are standing with Alveda King in solidarity, continuing the fight for black life from its earliest beginnings,” Catherine Davis of Georgia Right to Life told LifeNews, a pro-life news service.
Although RCRC has several African-American officers, including Veazey and RCRC Chairman Alton B. Pollard III, Dean of Howard University School of Divinity, none of the historically black denominations is affiliated with RCRC. Typically socially and theologically conservative, especially compared to white Mainline churches, most black churches are probably closer to Alveda King than RCRC on abortion. Maybe this explains why RCRC is trying to target black churches, and why Alveda King’s pro-life advocacy, especially at the high profile Beck rally, so enraged groups like RCRC.