President Joe Biden compared the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to Moses and Joseph in the Bible as he spoke at a worship service celebrating the life of the famous civil rights leader at Ebenezer Baptist Church, the historic Georgia church where King once served as lead pastor.
“He followed their path of Moses, a leader of inspiration, calling on people not to be afraid and always … keep the faith,” Biden told the congregation at the 11 a.m. service on Sunday, the day before the federal Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
“He followed the path of Joseph, a believer in dreams and the divinity they carry and the promise they hold,” he continued. “And like John the Baptist, he prepared us for a greater hope ahead, one who came to bear witness to the light.”
Martin Luther King Jr. was a “non-violent warrior for justice,” the president said, adding that he “followed the word and the way of His Lord and His Savior.”
We need to commit to his path, Biden declared.
The president also paid tribute to the wife of Martin Luther King Jr., Coretta Scott King. “My view [is] that this is her day as well,” he said.
“I’m God-fearing thanks to my parents and the nuns and priests who taught me at school, but I’m no preacher,” Biden added. “But I’ve tried to walk my faith as all of you have.”
He continued, “I stand here inspired by a preacher who was one of my only political heroes … Dr. King.”
His message was spiritual, it was moral — “to redeem the soul of America … that we are all created equal in the image of God,” he said.
Biden also said it’s a “critical juncture” for the United States and the world. "Just as after World War II, the world is changing and its direction will depend on the decisions the country makes."
Biden told the congregation it was humbling for him to be the first sitting president to speak at the historic church.
In his proclamation on the holiday, Biden said Friday, “From the pulpit to the podium to the streets, Dr. King devoted his life to the quest for this Beloved Community in our Nation. His activism and moral authority helped usher in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. He gave a voice to the restless spirit of millions yearning for change. He gave us a roadmap to unify, to heal, and to sustain the blessings of the Nation to all of its people.”
Ebenezer Baptist Church was founded in 1886 and is best known for being the pulpit of the Rev. King Jr., who served as the church’s co-pastor from 1960 until his assassination in 1968.
The Rev. Martin Luther King Sr. also served in the leadership of Ebenezer Baptist Church, having overseen various roles from 1927 until his retirement in 1975.
At the 9 a.m. service on Sunday, the message was delivered by the church’s pastor, Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock.
The church, which boasts approximately 6,000 members, garnered renewed national attention in 2021 when Warnock was elected to the U.S. Senate in a special runoff election.
“The other day, because this is America, the 82-year-old hands that used to pick somebody else's cotton went to the polls and picked her youngest son to be a United States senator,” said Warnock in his victory speech at the time. “The improbable journey that led me to this place in this historic moment in America could only happen here.”
As Biden campaigned for president ahead of the 2020 presidential election, a priest in South Carolina refused to serve him communion due to his abortion advocacy.
Supporters of withholding communion from pro-abortion Catholic politicians, both inside and outside the Church hierarchy, point to the Church’s Code of Canon Law as the justification for their position. The Code of Canon Law states that those who are “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.”
However, in November 2021, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops approved a document on communion that didn’t overtly call for a ban on pro-choice politicians receiving the sacrament.
At a general meeting at the time, bishops overwhelmingly approved a document from the USCCB’s Committee on Doctrine known as "The Mystery of the Eucharist in the Life of the Church." Eight bishops voted against the document, while 222 bishops voted in favor. Three abstained.
The document also stated that Catholic laity “who exercise some form of public authority have a special responsibility to form their consciences in accord with the Church’s faith and the moral law, and to serve the human family by upholding human life and dignity.”
It read, “As Christians, we bear the responsibility to promote the life and dignity of the human person, and to love and to protect the most vulnerable in our midst: the unborn, migrants and refugees, victims of racial injustice, the sick and the elderly.”