Martin Luther King's children in court battle over his Bible, worth $200k

Dr Martin Luther King Jr on an official visit to the WCC, June 1967.WCC/John Taylor

A bitter lawsuit is unravelling in court regarding the rights to Martin Luther King Jr's Bible and Nobel Peace Prize medal.

King's sons – Martin Luther King III and Dexter Scott King – run his estate, and want to sell the relics to a private buyer. It is thought the Bible could fetch between $200,000 and $1million, while the medal could go for more than $10million.

However, King's daughter, Bernice, controls their mother's estate and contests that King gave the medal to his wife as a gift and therefore belongs to her. She opposes the sale.

According to the Associated Press, Bernice gave an address in February at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, where her father and grandfather both preached, in which she argued that the Bible and medal were cherished possessions of her father and "speak to the very core of who he was".

She has also said that profiting from the sale of the medal would be "spiritually violent" and "outright morally reprehensible".

"These items should never be sold to any person, as I say it, or any institution, because they're sacred," Bernice told a news conference. "I take this strong position for my father because Daddy is not here to say himself my Bible and medals are never to be sold."

Dr Joseph Lowery, another key civil rights leader who marched with King, told African American news website theGrio last year that he supported Bernice's decision. "I don't even want to admit there's a discussion about putting those items on the market," he said.

"They are sacred items, not only are they sacred to the family but they're sacred to the community. They represent Martin's life work and commitment to justice and serving God."

Reverend Timothy McDonald, assistant pastor of Ebenezer between 1978 and 1984 told AP: "You don't sell Bibles and you don't get but one Nobel peace prize. There are some items that you just don't put a price on."

As the lawsuit continues – the latest in a string between the warring siblings –the items are being held in a safe deposit box by a judge until the dispute is settled. A hearing is scheduled on January 13, but the case will go to trial if a decision is not made then.

Fulton County superior court judge Robert McBurney said it is likely the estate will win the case.

King's children have in the past sold a collection of his papers and books for $32 million, and have been involved in a series of disputes regarding the use of their father's image and belongings.

A dedicated pastor and leader in the Civil Rights Movement, King was assassinated in 1968. His Bible was last used by Barack Obama during his swearing in for a second term.