An Appeal for Law and Order and Common Sense
"An Appeal for Law and Order and Common Sense" was an open letter to all people of goodwill in Alabama written by a group of white clergymen in anticipation of court-ordered desegregation of schools. It was printed in several newspapers around the state on January 16, 1963, four days after Governor George C. Wallace promised "segregation today . . . segregation tomorrow . . . segregation forever," in his inaugural address.
While acknowledging that "the issues are not simple," the signatories want to provide leadership on the basis of knowing "the ultimate spirit in which all problems of human relations must be solved."
The body of the letter consists of seven points which the clergymen affirm and commend:
- That hatred and violence have no sanction in our religious and political traditions.
- That there may be disagreement concerning laws and social change without advocating defiance, anarchy and subversion.
- That laws may be tested in courts or changed by legislatures, but not ignored by whims of individuals.
- That constitutions may be amended or judges impeached by proper action, but our American way of life depends upon obedience to the decisions of courts of competent jurisdiction in the meantime.
- That no person's freedom is safe unless every person's freedom is equally protected.
- That the freedom of speech must at all costs be preserved and exercised without fear of recrimination or harassment.
- That every human being is created in the image of God and is entitled to respect as a fellow human being with all basic rights, privileges, and responsibilities which belong to humanity.
- Nolan Harmon, Bishop of the North Alabama Conference of the Methodist Church
- Paul Hardin, Bishop of the Alabama-West Florida Conference of the Methodist Church
- C. C. J. Carpenter, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama
- Joseph A. Durick, Auxiliary Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Mobile-Birmingham
- Earl Stallings, Pastor of First Baptist Church Birmingham
- George M. Murray, Bishop Coadjutor of the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama
- Milton Grafman, Rabbi of Temple Emanu-El, Birmingham
- Edward V. Ramage, Moderator of the Synod of the Alabama Presbyterian Church in the United States
- Soterios D. Gouvellis, Priest of Holy Trinity-Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church
- Eugene Blackschleger, Rabbi of Temple Beth-Or, Montgomery
- J. T. Beale, Secretary-Director of the Christian Churches of Alabama
Eight of the eleven signatories followed up with another letter, "A Call for Unity" on Good Friday as Martin Luther King, Jr was preparing to march through downtown to the Birmingham City Hall with Ralph Abernathy and Fred Shuttlesworth in open defiance of the Birmingham City Commission. King's incarceration for "parading without a permit" resulted in the eloquent "Letter from Birmingham Jail" which was widely published that summer.
- Bass, S. Jonathan (2001) Blessed Are The Peacemakers: Martin Luther King, Jr., Eight White Religious Leaders, and the "Letter from Birmingham Jail". Baton Rouge: LSU Press. ISBN 0807126551