We’re all used to the Elaine Donnelly and David Blankenhorn types whose only “expertise” seems to be hating gays. But what about those like Alveda King, Ken Hutcherson and Harry Jackson who go a step farther and command respect or imply authority by using an unearned title?
Titles have a lot of power. Deference is automatically given to those using titles like “Reverend” and “Doctor” because the titles imply that their owner possesses an academic degree and a proven ability to think and reason rigorously that has been validated by a revered institution.
I started thinking about this when I saw the video that Courage Campaign’s Prop 8 Trial Tracker posted of their interview with Alveda King during NOM’s whistle stop in Georgia. (Prop 8 Trial Tracker is doing an amazing job chronicling NOM’s failing anti-equality tour and the Prop 8 case. Definitely check them out.) Alveda, a niece of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. describes herself as “Dr. Alveda King”. The thing is, her Honorary Doctor of Laws is, well, only honorary. Further, it was presented to her in 2001 by Saint Anselm College, an undergraduate institution. Any undergraduate college bestowing honorary graduate degrees can only be doing so to honor the recipient, not to imply that the recipient has attained a level of scholarship beyond the institution’s ability to validate. King must know that people don’t know that her “Dr.” is only honorary, but she uses it anyway. She is using an unearned, honorary title that erroneously commands for her respect and an aura of scholarship. Her uncle Martin Luther King, Jr. earned his doctorate from Boston University.
Like Alveda King, the anti-gay preacher Ken Hutcherson refers to himself as “Dr.”. And like Alveda King, Hutcherson’s doctorate was honorary. He reports that it was presented to him by “Theological Seminary, Portland, OR”. Google finds several seminaries in Portland, but none with that name. Hmmm…
Harry Jackson calls himself “Bishop”, a term usually implying the attainment of the highest levels of institutional authority in a Christian denomination. Jackson, an anti-equality loud mouth specializing in what he thinks is right for neighboring Washington, D.C., is in reality merely senior pastor at Hope Christian Church in College Park, MD. Although his online biographical material makes no mention of any formal study of theology, Jackson was reportedly ordained by gay-basher Wellington Boone’s The Fellowship of International Churches. This is not a theological seminary, but “an organization of churches founded by Bishop Wellington Boone”. According to Boone’s description, it looks as though all you have to do the be called a Bishop is be a minister who has allied their church with Boone’s organization. I wonder how credentialed reverends feel about Jackson’s trading allegiance to Boone’s personal fiefdom in exchange for a title they had to earn.