Written by Jill Nossa Friday, 15 March 2013 00:00
The Rev. Roger Williams, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Glen Cove, said in a recent keynote speech at the Holocaust Museum and Tolerance Center of Nassau County, that “faith has been misused” and “has gone into the denial of constitutional rights.”
Williams’ speech at the museum in Glen Cove, coincided with a special Civil Rights exhibit commemorating the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington lead by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
“We are talking along the lines of how faith has been misused and how it has gone into the denial of constitutional rights,” Williams said. He discussed aspects of Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech.
“On that day, our nation was asked...will we be what we say we are, or will we be a farce?...it was a daunting problem for America,” Williams said. Williams, who is also a board director of HMTC and president of the Glen Cove chapter of the N.A.A.C.P, touched on both the religious and constitutional basis for slavery prior to the Civil War.
“Slavery was a sanctioned institution on the premises that it was Biblical,” he said, noting that there were thousands ministers across the South who believed it was ordained by God based on erroneous doctrine. “So we have a precedent of how this misuse of the Bible and how faith can be used in America today,” he said.
“Currently, I believe we are seeing the same sort of abuse afoot when it comes to rendering rights and equality and freedom for certain citizens of this country,” Williams said. “I do believe there is hope. I do see those texts still in the Bible; however, the moral imagination of the people changed. It does say something about our interpretation.
“I do believe we still have one more opportunity to say to America that our nation will be for all people, and it is embedded in our constitution in the current debates we are hearing about what the Bible says about our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.
He said that, “As people of faith, it is not our job to replace the constitutional rights of people in this country with what we believe are theological reflections...what gives religion embodiment is that its theological reflections are real and claimed by its adherers. When those theological reflections are made into law to govern citizens, whether they be religious or nonreligious, is a violation of the constitution of the United States of America.”
Before the talk, HMTC Chairman Steven Markowitz gave some background on the HMTC. “It can’t be just about the history, we have to make the lessons relevant to today. We have to teach the lessons of what hate leads to.”