A group of more than 150 Christian leaders have issued a joint declaration challenging the Christian community to defend central principles of the Christian
faith in today's culture. The joint statement asserts the right of conscience not to comply with government actions which violate Biblical principles.
The document is known as the "Manhattan Declaration", signifying the location where Christian leaders gathered to formulate what they describe as "A Call of Christian Conscience." Prison Fellowship founder Chuck Colson and Dr. Robert George of Princeton University spearheaded the effort, which includes endorsements from leading figures in the evangelical, Catholic, and Orthodox Christian community.
The Manhattan Declaration states that "the sanctity of human life, the dignity of marriage as a union of husband and wife, and 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."
The signatories state that they have joined together "across historic lines of ecclesial differences" to affirm the right and obligation to defend Biblical truth. "No power on earth, be it cultural or political, will intimidate us into silence or acquiescence...May God help us not to fail in that duty."
The Manhattan statement seeks to balance the Scriptural command to obey those in authority with the Biblical requirement to obey the Word of God. The document states: "We take seriously the Biblical
admonition to respect and obey those in authority...The Biblical purpose of law is to preserve order and serve justice and the common good; yet laws that are unjust--and especially laws that purport to compel citizens to do what is unjust--undermine the common good, rather than serve it."
The Declaration closes with a pledge to resist any participation in government mandates that contradict essential Christian precepts. "Because we honor justice and the common good, we will not comply with
any edict that purports to compel our institutions to participate in abortions, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide and euthanasia, or any other anti-life act."
"Nor will we bend to any rule purporting to force us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriage or the equivalent, or refrain from proclaiming the truth, as we know it, about morality and immorality and marriage and the family. We will fully
and ungrudgingly render to Caesar what is Caesar's. But under no circumstance will we render to Caesar what is God's."
The joint authors make clear that they believe that Christian tradition teaches that civil disobedience is not only permitted, but sometimes required. They point as an example to the fourth chapter of the Book of Acts, where Peter and John were ordered by the Sanhedrin not to speak or teach in the name of Jesus. Peter and John replied: "Judge for yourselves whether it is right to obey you rather than God."
The issue of compliance with immoral government mandates has become a burning topic for Christians with issues like government-run health care, the conscience rights of health care workers, "hate speech" laws, and homosexual indoctrination in the workplace and in schools. Christians are faced with the loss of their jobs or civil or criminal penalties for failure to comply with immoral mandates.
Among the signers of the Manhattan Declaration are the leaders of the national organizations that are
partners in the work of the Missouri Family Policy Council: Dr. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, and Jim Daly, the President of Focus
; Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council; and Alan Sears, President of the Alliance Defense Fund.
Signatories with Missouri or Midwest connections include Dr. Bryan Chapell, President of Covenant Theological Seminary; Bishop Joseph Naumann of the Kansas City, Kansas Archdiocese; Cardinal Justin Rigali, the fomer Archbishop of St. Louis; and noted Christian author Bill Federer.
Promoters of the Manhattan Declaration are seeking the support of one million Americans who will affirm their support of the document with their signatures by
the end of the year. You can read a summary and a full copy of the Manhattan Declaration by going to the web address below managed by the Family Research Council.. You can then make a personal pledge to support this call to conscience by providing an electronic signature. The web address is www.frc.org/manhattan-declaration
The authors of the Manhattan Declaration cite the example of Christian civil disobedience of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. "There is no more eloquent defense of the rights and duties of religious conscience than the one offered by [King] in his letter from a Birmingham
jail. Writing from an explicitly Christian perspective, and citing Christian writers such a 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. Unjust laws degrade human beings. Inasmuch as they claim no authority beyond sheer will, they lack power to bind in conscience."
The day is arriving when we as Christians will have to choose which God we will serve--the True God of the Bible, or the gods invented by man and ordained by the laws of men. Many Christians pay with their lives for making that choice in countries around the world.
Many Christians in our own nation are increasingly confronted with that choice as they take a stand for the faith against the evil edicts of government and the private sector.
The choice before Americans today is the same one faced by the people of Israel as described in Joshua 24:15: "Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve..." Joshua made his own "Manhattan Declaration, saying: "But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord." We encourage you to do the same, and be a signer of the Manhattan document.