When Georgia voters overwhelmingly decided that marriage should be between one man and one woman, it was not because they wanted to insult or incite violence against gays and lesbians. On the contrary, it was because most Georgians – along with a majority of Americans whenever they have had an opportunity to vote – support a traditional view of marriage. Protecting traditional marriage is also one of the goals of the Manhattan Declaration.
An affirmation of “the sanctity of life, traditional marriage, and religious liberty” is the purpose of the Manhattan Declaration. The declaration was signed in 2009 by more than 150 religious leaders of various denominations and then posted online as a petition for likeminded citizens. The declaration was drafted by evangelist and former Nixon aide Chuck Colson, Princeton law professor Robert P. George, and Beeson Divinity School dean Timothy George.
In November 2010, the homosexual group Change.org submitted a petition of 7,700 signatures requesting removal of an app promoting the Manhattan Declaration. The app had been rated as having no objectionable content. Apple responded by removing the app from the iTunes store. In a statement, Apple said, “We removed the Manhattan Declaration app from the App Store because it violates our developer guidelines by being offensive to large groups of people.”
The controversial section is only a small part of the declaration’s section on marriage. Before addressing gay marriage, the declaration also points out that marriage is threatened by heterosexual promiscuity and infidelity. It points out that symptoms of the decline of marriage include the prevalence of out-of-wedlock births and the high divorce rate. It also calls the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples a “symptom, rather than the cause, of the erosion of marriage culture.”
When the declaration does address the redefinition of marriage, it takes pains to be respectful of homosexuals even while disagreeing with them, saying that “We have compassion for those so disposed; we respect them as human beings possessing profound, inherent, and equal dignity.” The section closes with an explanation of the Christian position: “And so it is out of love (not ‘animus’) and prudent concern for the common good (not ‘prejudice’), that we pledge to labor ceaselessly to preserve the legal definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman and to rebuild the marriage culture. How could we, as Christians, do otherwise?”
The authors of the Manhattan Declaration took great pains to explain the Christian positions on marriage, the sanctity of life, and religious liberty while not offending those who disagree. Unfortunately, it would seem that gay-marriage proponents and Apple are not affording those who agree with the declaration the same courtesy. For too many on the left, any dissent from the politically correct orthodoxy is deemed homophobic.
When Apple banned the Manhattan Declaration app, the group began an appeals process with a petition of their own. They also modified the app so that it would be even less offensive to those who disagree. The modified app was resubmitted on December 8 and turned down by Apple on December 22. In a recent email to signers of the Declaration, Apple’s rejection letter was quoted as saying that “references or commentary about a religious, cultural or ethnic group that are defamatory, offensive, mean-spirited or likely to expose the targeted group to harm or violence will be rejected. We have evaluated the content of this application and consider its contents to be objectionable and potentially harmful to others.”
The declaration does not defame or call for harm to any group, but respectfully describes Christian teachings on several issues. By extension, this means that Apple not only objects to the Manhattan Declaration, but to traditional Christian teaching in general. Censorship of the app is not about defaming homosexuals, but about preventing a Christian viewpoint from being propagated in the marketplace of ideas.
Ironically, at the same time Apple was denying the Manhattan Declaration’s app placement in the iTunes store, the FCC was exerting control over the internet under the guise of “net neutrality.” Net neutrality purports to protect the internet from having corporations block access to legitimate web content. An example might be a large developer of technical gadgets and software prohibiting a group from accessing its virtual store; kind of like Apple blocking the Manhattan Declaration app.
It is also somewhat ironic that the final section of the Manhattan Declaration focuses on religious liberty. There is a growing movement to restrict religious freedom and freedom of conscience even in this country, especially as it pertains to the sanctity of life and protecting marriage. Chuck Colson actually warned about the growing threat to the freedom of religious speech a few months ago, pointing out that President Obama’s appointee to the EEOC, Chai Feldblum, is on record as saying “I’m having a hard time coming up with any case in which religious liberty should win. Sexual liberty should win in most cases. There can be a conflict between religious liberty and sexual liberty, but in almost all cases the sexual liberty should win because that’s the only way that the dignity of gay people can be affirmed in any realistic manner.” It is unlikely that the Obama FCC will intervene to prevent censorship of the app.
The dispute with Apple is ongoing. The Manhattan Declaration organization is planning to ask Apple to submit to arbitration in the matter. The petition to restore the app has garnered almost 50,000 signatures thus far and the declaration itself has been signed by about 500,000 concerned citizens.
In one of his Breakpoint radio messages this week, Chuck Colson requested that supporters of the Manhattan Declaration contact Apple to request reinstatement of the app. You can email Steve Jobs of Apple at [email protected] or call Apple at 408-996-1010. You can also sign the reinstatement petition to Apple here: http://www.colsoncenter.org/petition.
You can also read and sign the Manhattan Declaration here: http://manhattandeclaration.org/the-declaration/read.aspx.