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Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience

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Manhattan Declaration
FoundedNovember 20, 2009

The "Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience" is a manifesto issued by Eastern 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 551,130 signatures as of July 18, 2015.[7]

Call to civil disobedience[edit]

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 that Christianity has taught through the centuries that civil disobedience is not only permitted, but sometimes required,[8] and refers to Martin Luther King Jr.'s defense of the rights and duties of religious conscience in his "Letter from Birmingham Jail".[9]

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.[8] George continued, "When the limits of conscience are reached and you cannot comply, it's better to suffer a wrong than to do it."[8]

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 2012, the Manhattan Declaration's call to "civil disobedience" was cited in the Miller v. Jenkins lawsuit under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, in which the Beachy Amish-Mennonite Christian Brotherhood was accused of helping a Baptist woman kidnap her daughter to Nicaragua 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[edit]

The document was written by evangelical leader and Christian author Charles Colson, 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]

iOS app[edit]

In response to a petition which argued the Manhattan Declaration app promoted bigotry and homophobia, which received 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]

A month later, organizers of the Manhattan Declaration 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] As of December 10, 2010, more than 45,000 had 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]

Global response[edit]

In 2010, similar declarations were released in the United Kingdom and Australia.[31][32]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Manhattan Declaration & Signers". Demossnews.com. Archived from the original on September 1, 2013. Retrieved December 2, 2013.
  2. ^ "Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience" (PDF). November 20, 2009. Archived from the original (PDF) on December 22, 2015. Retrieved January 22, 2014.
  3. ^ Apple Says "No" to Manhattan Declaration App 2.0 Archived November 13, 2011, at the Wayback Machine ManhattanDeclaration.org. December 23, 2010
  4. ^ Manhattan Declaration website
  5. ^ "Christian leaders issue 'call of conscience'". Associated Press. November 20, 2009. Archived from the original on November 24, 2009. Retrieved November 24, 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 August 16, 2010.
  7. ^ "Manhattan Declaration, signature counter". Retrieved August 11, 2014.
  8. ^ a b c Duin, Julia (November 21, 2009). "Religious Leaders Vow Civil Disobedience On Anti-Life Issues". The Washington Times.
  9. ^ "The Manhattan Declaration". Archived from the original on October 15, 2009. Retrieved May 25, 2009.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  10. ^ a b c Goodstein, Laurie (November 20, 2009). "Christian Leaders Unite on Political Issues". The New York Times. Retrieved January 22, 2014.
  11. ^ a b Motion to amend complaint eqcf.org
  12. ^ Manhattan declaration Signatories Archived November 27, 2014, at the Wayback Machine Retrieved October 25, 2014
  13. ^ Duncan, Ligon (December 2009). "The Manhattan Declaration: A Statement from Ligon Duncan".
  14. ^ Mohler, Al (September 23, 2009). "Why I Signed the Manhattan Declaration". Archived from the original on December 27, 2009. Retrieved December 13, 2009.
  15. ^ Kingman, Cecilia (February 12, 2010). "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. Archived from the original on May 17, 2018. Retrieved May 16, 2018.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  19. ^ Edwards, Janet (February 2, 2010). "Super Bowl a party, not a pulpit". OnFaith blog. Archived from the original on February 5, 2010.
  20. ^ a b Gehring, John (November 30, 2009). "Catholic bishops as culture warriors". OnFaith blog. Archived from the original on December 5, 2009.
  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. Archived from the original on December 9, 2010.
  23. ^ Dixon, Valerie (January 18, 2010). "Christian Right's misreading of MLK". OnFaith blog. Archived from the original on January 20, 2010.
  24. ^ Ferwerda, Julie (December 21, 2009). "Is the Manhattan Declaration an Affront to the Teachings of Jesus?". Christianity.com.
  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, December 3, 2010
  27. ^ a b c Tenety, Elizabeth (December 11, 2010). "Apple zaps conservative Christian app", The Washington Post.
  28. ^ a b c Foust, Michael (December 10, 2010). "Manhattan Declaration signers resubmit tweaked app to Apple" Archived March 6, 2012, at the Wayback Machine, 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.
  31. ^ "Westminster 2010 webpage". Retrieved December 20, 2023.
  32. ^ Writer, Guest. "Read Declaration". Retrieved December 20, 2023.

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