Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience

The Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience is a manifesto issued by Orthodox, Catholic, and Evangelical Christian leaders[1][2][3] to affirm support of "the sanctity of life, traditional marriage, and religious liberty".[4] It was drafted on October 20, 2009, and released November 20, 2009, having been signed by more than 150 American religious leaders.[5] On the issue of marriage, the declaration objects not only to same-sex marriage but also to the general erosion of the "marriage culture" with the specter of divorce, greater acceptance of infidelity and the uncoupling of marriage from childbearing.[6]

The Declaration's website encourages supporters to sign the declaration, and it counts 545,781 signatures as of August 11, 2014.[7]


The Declaration summarizes itself as follows:

Because the sanctity of human life, the dignity of marriage as a union of husband and wife and the freedom of conscience and religion are foundational principles of justice and the common good, we are compelled by our Christian faith to speak and act in their defense. In this declaration we affirm: 1) the profound, inherent, and equal dignity of every human being as a creature fashioned in the very image of God, possessing inherent rights of equal dignity and life; 2) marriage as a conjugal union of man and woman, ordained by God from the creation, and historically understood by believers and non-believers alike, to be the most basic institution in society and; 3) religious liberty, which is grounded in the character of God, the example of Christ, and the inherent freedom and dignity of human beings created in the divine image.[8]

Call to civil disobedience

The declaration vows civil disobedience if Christians feel that their rights to civil liberties of free exercise of religion and freedom of speech are being violated. It states:[9]

We are Christians who have joined together across historic lines of ecclesial differences to affirm our right—and, more importantly, to embrace our obligation—to speak and act in defense of these truths. We pledge to each other, and to our fellow believers, that no power on earth, be it cultural or political, will intimidate us into silence or acquiescence.

Through the centuries, Christianity has taught that civil disobedience is not only permitted, but sometimes required.[9] There is no more eloquent defense of the rights and duties of religious conscience than the one offered by Martin Luther King, Jr., in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail. Writing from an explicitly Christian perspective, and citing Christian writers such as Augustine and Aquinas, King taught that just laws elevate and ennoble human beings because they are rooted in the moral law whose ultimate source is God Himself.[8]

One of the drafters, Princeton University professor Robert P. George, stated, "We certainly hope it doesn't come to that. However, we see case after case of challenges to religious liberty", including laws which he claims would force health care workers to assist in abortions or pharmacists to carry abortifacient drugs or birth control.[9] George continued, "When the limits of conscience are reached and you cannot comply, it's better to suffer a wrong than to do it."[9]

Catholic Archbishop of Washington, Donald Wuerl's office was restrained about the issue of civil disobedience, indicating that the prelate was not calling on the faithful to "do anything specific".[6][10]

In August 2012, the Manhattan Declaration's call to "civil disobedience" was cited in a lawsuit under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, in which the Beachy Amish-Mennonite Christian Brotherhood is accused of helping a Baptist woman kidnap to Nicaragua her daughter as part of a child custody dispute with her former lesbian partner.[11] Liberty University School of Law was also a named defendant in the lawsuit, because of alleged instruction to law students that "the correct course of action for such a situation would be to 'engage in civil disobedience' and defy court orders".[11]


Notable signatories include:[12]

Drafting committee

The document was written by evangelical leader Charles Colson, who served time in prison in connection with the Watergate scandal, Princeton University law professor Robert P. George and Beeson Divinity School dean Timothy George.[10]


Some religious leaders have criticized and protested the Manhattan Declaration, calling its principles in general, and its opposition to same-sex marriage in particular, contrary to the teachings of Jesus.[15][16][17] Catholic scholar Anthony Stevens-Arroyo wrote, "While two wars are being waged, with unemployment in double digits, the financial system of the world in suspense, these religious leaders declare that abortion, stem-cell use and same sex marriage override any other Gospel value. (You won't find Jesus saying anything about abortion or stem cells in the Gospel, but the Savior said a great deal about the homeless, the sick, and the hungry.) It's cheating to speak pious platitudes about Christianity and ignore Jesus' words."[18]

Some discussed the document as a political strategy, regarding it as the religious right's effort to re-establish its relevance in the public square,[19][20] but others noted that younger generations of evangelicals and Catholics were less likely to oppose same-sex marriage and more likely to prioritize economic issues over social, and that the document was thus unlikely to win them over.[20][21] Stevens-Arroyo criticized fellow Catholics who signed the declaration for aligning themselves with evangelicals in what he described as opposition to the separation of church and state.[22]

The declaration's invocation of Martin Luther King and of the principles of civil disobedience has also been questioned.[23][24] An editorial in the Los Angeles Times characterized the invocation of King as "specious" and criticized the document, belittling the "anecdotes" regarding restrictions on Christians' religious freedom as "of the sort radio talk-show hosts purvey" or from outside the United States, and noting that federal law already exempts "believers in some cases from having to comply with applicable laws."[25]

Apple app

In response to a petition which argued the Manhattan Declaration app promoted bigotry and homophobia, which generated 7,000 signatures, Apple removed the app from iPhones and iPads, in November 2010, and later from iTunes.[26][27] Apple told CNN that the app had been removed because it "violates our developer guidelines by being offensive to large groups of people".[27] The app had originally been rated by Apple as a +4, meaning that it contained no material deemed objectionable.[26][27]

Organizers of the Manhattan Declaration have contacted Apple and have resubmitted a modified version of the app.[28] The new version lacks a "quiz", which, in the old version, had asked questions about political issues and assigned a score based on a set of normative answers.[29] In addition as of December 10, 2010, more than 45,000 have signed a petition to have it reinstated.[28] Charles Colson voiced apprehension that Apple's move could have negative implications for more Christian apps, stating: "There is nothing in the Manhattan Declaration that is not rooted in Scripture. So if that becomes the offense then all the other apps would be subject to the same charge."[28][30]

See also


  1. ^ "Manhattan Declaration & Signers". Retrieved 2013-12-02. 
  2. ^ "Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience". November 20, 2009. Retrieved 22 January 2014. 
  3. ^ Apple Says "No" to Manhattan Declaration App 2.0 December 23, 2010
  4. ^ The Manhattan Declaration - Life, Marriage & Religious Liberty Website
  5. ^ "'"Christian leaders issue 'call of conscience. Associated Press. November 20, 2009. Retrieved 24 November 2009. 
  6. ^ a b c Boorstein, Michelle; Hamil R. Harris (November 21, 2009). "Christian leaders take issue with laws: DEFENSE OF BELIEFS URGED". The Washington Post. Retrieved 16 August 2010. 
  7. ^ "Manhattan Declaration, signature counter". Retrieved August 11, 2014. 
  8. ^ a b The Manhattan Declaration at the Wayback Machine (archived October 15, 2009)
  9. ^ a b c d Duin, Julia (Nov. 21, 2009). "Religious Leaders Vow Civil Disobedience On Anti-Life Issues". The Washington Times.
  10. ^ a b c Goodstein, Laurie (November 20, 2009). "Christian Leaders Unite on Political Issues". The New York Times. Retrieved 22 January 2014. 
  11. ^ a b Thompson, Dave (2012-11-16). "LU law school, TRBC named in custody suit". WSLS-TV. Retrieved 2012-12-01. 
  12. ^ Manhattan declaration Signatories Retrieved October 25, 2014
  13. ^ Duncan, Ligon (December 2009). "The Manhattan Declaration: A Statement from Ligon Duncan". 
  14. ^ Mohler, Al (2009-09-23). "Why I Signed the Manhattan Declaration". 
  15. ^ Kingman, Cecilia (2010-02-12). "This minister is standing on the side of love". 
  16. ^ Clancy, Michael (October 15, 2010). "Liberal clergy plan gay-rights protest in Phoenix". Arizona Republic. 
  17. ^ Wang, Amy B. (October 16, 2010). "Phoenix clergy protest Catholics stance on gays". Arizona Republic. 
  18. ^ Stevens-Arroyo, Anthony (December 8, 2009). "Catholic America: Cheating the gospel and the Church". OnFaith blog. 
  19. ^ Edwards, Janet (February 2, 2010). "Super Bowl a party, not a pulpit". OnFaith blog. 
  20. ^ a b Gehring, John (November 30, 2009). "Catholic bishops as culture warriors". OnFaith blog. 
  21. ^ Grant, Tobin (November 24, 2009). "What Does the Manhattan Declaration Really Mean?". Christianity Today. 
  22. ^ Stevens-Arroyo, Anthony (November 30, 2010). "Inquisitorial exceptionalism". OnFaith blog. 
  23. ^ Dixon, Valerie (January 18, 2010). "Christian Right's misreading of MLK". OnFaith blog. 
  24. ^ Ferwerda, Julie (December 21, 2009). "Is the Manhattan Declaration an Affront to the Teachings of Jesus?". 
  25. ^ "Christian leaders' stance on civil disobedience is dangerous". Los Angeles Times. November 28, 2009. 
  26. ^ a b Signers protest removal of Manhattan Declaration app from iTunes, CNA, Dec. 3, 2010
  27. ^ a b c Tenety, Elizabeth (Dec. 11, 2010). "Apple zaps conservative Christian app", The Washington Post.
  28. ^ a b c Foust, Michael (Dec. 10, 2010). "Manhattan Declaration signers resubmit tweaked app to Apple", Baptist Press.
  29. ^ "Manhattan Declaration App to Return?". The Advocate. December 12, 2010. 
  30. ^ Phan, Katherine T. (December 3, 2010). Petition Asking Apple to Reinstate Christian App Gains Steam, Christian Post.

External links

  • The Manhattan Declaration - Life, Marriage & Religious Liberty Website
  • Manhattan Declaration & Signers
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