How MLK Inspires Interfaith Leaders to Continue the March for Voting Rights

Clergymen in Forefront of the Selma to Montgomery Rights March, 1965. Courtsey of the Presbyterian Historical Society, Pearl Digital Collections.

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. “would be saying to me and the clergy to carry the dream. You need to keep walking because we have not arrived yet. Keep walking, because I think some of us have sat down and thought that the walk was over. He says to us ‘continue to walk until you make sure that everyone in this community and this society has their rights fulfilled and access to democracy.’ King had a dream, and that dream came with a struggle. You cannot have the dream interpreted and manifested until you continue on this struggle.” 

Imam Mohamed Magid offered these closing remarks at “Why Voting is Sacred: An Interfaith Response to Protecting Our Democracy,” an event that launched “Vote is Sacred,” an emerging IFYC initiative and call to action focusing on civic engagement to end voter suppression. Magid was one of several interfaith leaders that served as panelists for this enriching conversation. The other featured panelists were the Rev. Adam Russell Taylor, President of Sojourners; Rabbi Sandra Lawson, Director of Racial Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Reconstructing Judaism; Simran Jeet Singh, Executive Director of the Aspen Institute’s Inclusive America Project; and Vanessa Gomez Brake, Humanist Chaplain and Associate Dean of Religious Life at the University of Southern California.  

The group of distinguished thought leaders delved into the significance of voting to their worldview or faith tradition. “We must vote, and we must fight for the rights of minorities and vulnerable people in this country who have been deprived from their rights to vote. You know, voting is about sharing the power... and the power should be in the hands of people,” Magid said.  

As we reflect on the wisdom and sacrifice of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the panelist’s words echo several of King’s statements on voting: 

“There must be a change. There will be a change. For to deny a person the right to exercise his political freedom at the polls is no less a dastardly act as to deny a Christian the right to petition God in prayer.” 

“Voting is the foundation stone for political action.” 

"So long as I do not firmly and irrevocably possess the right to vote I do not possess myself. I cannot make up my mind — it is made up for me. I cannot live as a democratic citizen, observing the laws I have helped to enact — I can only submit to the edict of others." 

“I think the tragedy is that we have a Congress with a Senate that has a minority of misguided senators who will use the filibuster to keep the majority of people from even voting. They won’t let the majority senators vote. And certainly, they wouldn’t want the majority of people to vote, because they know they do not represent the majority of the American people. In fact, they represent, in their own states, a very small majority.”  

There are not enough words to encompass the impact of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy. The life of King influences IFYC’s goals for “Vote is Sacred,” with a team of interfaith leaders inspired by countless moments of his life such as the partnership with Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Selma Voting Rights Campaign. Dr. King had an unwavering commitment to voter rights for all; this cultural moment and its efforts towards progress are the result of sacrifice by those who came before us.  

Today, the fight continues, “If we’re really talking about celebrating the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., voting rights was a cornerstone of his legacy … we cannot simply in good faith celebrate him or celebrate that legacy with this current attack on access to the ballot box,” King’s daughter-in-law, Arndrea Waters King, said recently. To actualize this, members of the Rev. King’s family will gather alongside others for the “Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Action.” As we reflect upon the words from leaders both past and present, it is abundantly clear that voter rights must be protected at all costs. The future of our democracy and progress is contingent upon it.  


#Interfaith is a self-paced, online learning opportunity designed to equip a new generation of leaders with the awareness and skills to promote interfaith cooperation online. The curriculum is free to Interfaith America readers; please use the scholarship code #Interfaith100. #Interfaith is presented by IFYC in collaboration with


more from IFYC

Join IFYC on February 7 at 10 AM CT for an important conversation with Black thought-leaders, activists, and organizers engaged in on-the-ground efforts to destigmatize HIV and eradicate the virus.
The metaverse has dramatic implications that should make all of us sit up, lean in, and claim our role in shaping the worlds within the world that is being created.  
A chance encounter with an army chaplain put Colonel Khallid Shabazz's military career on a different path.
Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, who survived a hostage-taking at his synagogue last Saturday, gave the closing remarks at an online White House briefing Friday, with an impassioned plea for civility.
Rather than focusing on canonical doctrines, a workshop trains educators to teach “lived religion” -- all the creative things that people do with their traditions.
The Vietnamese Buddhist monk, described as 'the second most famous Buddhist in the world, after the Dalai Lama,' by one expert, founded a worldwide network of monastic centers. He once said: "My life is my teaching. My life is my message.”
Many content creators use their platforms to build community beyond their brick-and-mortar congregations, to dispel myths, break stereotypes and invite people from diverse faiths to get a glimpse into their lives.
IFYC's innovative online learning experience, #Interfaith: Engaging Religious Diversity Online, offers lessons on how to approach others online in a way that leads to building bridges.
Lessons from Thich Nhat Hanh, the person who nominated Martin Luther King Jr. for the Nobel Peace Prize and encouraged King to speak out against the war in Vietnam.
What Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk and activist Thich Nhat Hanh taught me about the power of mindful breathing through art.
A scholar of democratic virtues explains why Dominican monk Thomas Aquinas’ thoughts on hope are relevant today.
From covering spirituality in Silicon Valley to writing an online newsletter about her own journey to Judaism, reporter Nellie Bowles keeps finding innovative ways to reflect on religion and technology.
Six ways religious and spiritual leaders can help the internet serve their communities right now.
At the request of his editors at Religion News Service, Omar Suleiman writes about waiting with hostages’ families.
Regardless of what happens on Capitol Hill, the PNBC leaders said they plan to lobby Congress in March and register voters weekly in their congregations and communities.
King’s exasperation at self-satisfied white Christians holds up a mirror that is still painfully accurate today.
A day before the U.S. Senate was expected to take up significant legislation on voting rights that is looking likely to fail, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s eldest son condemned federal lawmakers over their inaction.
The congregation’s rabbi, Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, is particularly well connected to the larger interfaith community and on good terms with many Muslim leaders.
For Martin Luther King Day, an interfaith panel reflects on the sacredness of the vote and the legacy of Reverend King.
In his new book, Princeton historian Julian E. Zelizer reexamines the life of Abraham Joshua Heschel and finds lessons for interfaith political activism today.
King drew criticism from Billy Graham, who told journalists that he thought King was wrong to link anti-war efforts with the civil rights movement.

The opinions contained in this piece are solely the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Interfaith Youth Core. Interfaith America encourages a wide range of views and strives to maintain a respectful tone with a goal of greater understanding and cooperation between people of different faiths, worldviews, and traditions.