Lawsuit: 2 King Children Accused of Unfairly Using Center

Errin Haines, AP, August 20, 2008

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The lawsuit continues an escalating feud between Dexter, Bernice and Martin Luther King III that has played out in the media.

Bernice King and Martin Luther King III sued Dexter King in July to force him to open the books of their father’s estate, which sold a collection of more than 10,000 of his personal papers and books in 2006 for $32 million.

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The lawsuit alleges that since 2004, Martin and Bernice King have hindered The King Center’s goals and misused the center’s name and facilities. Among the incidents mentioned:

* In December 2004, Bernice King, who is a minister at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, used The King Center and the eternal flame at King’s tomb as part of a march organized by New Birth advocating a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. The King Center denied her permission to begin the march at King’s tomb and accuses her of doing so in order to “provide support for her own personal cause as well as to enhance her personal standing in New Birth.”

* In January 2008, Martin Luther King III used The King Center to meet with then-Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, whom he later endorsed.

* On another occasion, Dexter King says his elder brother “commandeered a reception being hosted on behalf of The King Center and turned it into his own wedding reception.”

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According to the lawsuit, Martin Luther King III unsuccessfully attempted to oust his brother as chairman of the board. In September 2005, the board fired Martin Luther King III as president and chief executive officer, citing malfeasance. Bernice was also fired as secretary.

In December, Martin Luther King III founded Realizing the Dream, Inc., an Atlanta-based nonprofit aimed at continuing “the humanitarian and liberating work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Mrs. Coretta Scott King.” According to the lawsuit, the foundation conflicts with Martin Luther King III’s duties at The King Center.

Similarly, Bernice King founded the Coretta Scott King Foundation in December 2007, which the lawsuit says also competes with The King Center.

The lawsuit accuses both siblings of “demonstrating bad faith, being stubbornly litigious, and causing The King Center unnecessary trouble and expense” and seeks an undisclosed amount of money.

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