The Civil Rights Movement

The Civil Rights Movement is a symbol of the new degree of shared participation in the experience of 1965 in Selma, Alabama. There, during two crowded, tumultuous and frightening weeks, 6000 Catholic priests, nuns, Protestant ministers, and Jewish Rabbis joined in protests against injustices being inflicted on the Negro citizens of Alabama. In marches picketing, demonstrations, and a variety of other forms of public protest, the American religious community found itself united as almost never before. The interesting thing at Selma was that the lines of unity in the civic front did not necessarily coincide with the lines of unity on the theological front. When a Roman Catholic bishop in Alabama told the nuns to go back home "to do God's work", representatives of all faiths were aghast. To see an African Methodist Episcopal Zion minister holding hands with a nun and a rabbi as all of them sang "We shall overcome" in a Baptist church was to feel closer to the Kingdom of God than is usually the case at an ecumenical conference. They were theologically cold or hot but it seems only right-wing conservatives were opposed. Much of the church seemed to be against the Great March, but God was in control.

Several clergy and laymen of the Episcopal Church were turned away from a regular worship service at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Selma. St. Paul's Church had an all white congregation. The group that was turned away was racially mixed. Thus the Episcopal Society for Cultural and Racial Unity decided to protest the violation of the canon and to pray for the Great March from Selma to Montgomery.

McCarthy - Civil Rights are not the same as human rights. Human rights do not arise from law; rather, they arise from the nature of man, or rest in that nature.. There is a need to determine which rights are properly subject to civil control.. and to determine also how these rights can be secured and exercised.

Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote in his Trumpet of Conscience in 1967 that "nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our time: the need for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to oppression and violence. Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love." King wrote elsewhere that "history will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people."

In the United States many fundamental human rights are also civil rights, since they are guaranteed and protected by the Constitution and by law. Many Republican presidents have served in office during the past 100 years without initiating one single major piece of Civil Rights legislation; nor has a Republican President been responsible for a single new administrative regulation which sought to secure equal opportunities for every US citizen.
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