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Religious Tolerance logo

The Manhattan Declaration of 2009

Reactions to the Declaration

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About the Manhattan Declaration:

A group of over 150 "Orthodox, Catholic, and Evangelical" Christian leaders released their Manhattan Declaration -- a call for people to resist many changes to the culture. It advocates civil disobedience as necessary to promote their beliefs. 1,2

They stressed three items:

bulletPreventing access to abortion.
bulletPreventing loving committed same-sex couples from marrying.
bulletPreserving religious freedom and freedom of conscience.

Reactions to the Declaration:

bulletRudi Stettner, a blogger at RantRave.com expressed disappointment that the document is exclusionary in that its contents preclude a Jew from signing it.  3

Presumably the same objection would be raised by mainline, liberal and progressive Christians as well as Baha'is, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, etc. who were excluded from the preparation of the document.
bulletDave Boehi, a writer for Family Life, commented:
"... the Manhattan Declaration addresses some of the most controversial issues of our day. My prediction: Plenty of name-calling, hysteric indignation and accusations that Christians are plotting to take away the liberties of everyone who disagrees with them. As one person wrote in a comment on a Washington Post blog post by one of the Manhattan Declaration authors, 'The Taliban are thriving here in America. The 'Manhattan Declaration' is their war cry against the freedoms of everyone else'." 4
bulletJim Daly, president and CEO of the fundamentalist Christian, Colorado-based, parachurch group Focus on the Family called the document:

"... a historic development within the American church. ... The document is a fresh and lively presentation, a renewed rallying cry to those who have been engaged in this historic effort of spiritual and cultural conversion. This is not a manifesto for culture war; it is a prescription for cultural change. ... This is a document that exhorts us to champion Christian truths in a Christian manner." 5

bulletJohn MacArthur of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, CA noted that the Gospel is barely mentioned in  the document. He said that it:

"... falls far short of identifying the one true and ultimate remedy for all of humanity's moral ills: the Gospel."

He doesn't agree with playing down differences among evangelical Christians and other faith groups. He considers Roman Catholics to be:

"... purveyors of different gospels. ... Instead of acknowledging the true depth of our differences, the implicit assumption (from the start of the document until its final paragraph) is that Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Protestant Evangelicals and others all share a common faith in and a common commitment to the gospel's essential claims. The document repeatedly employs expressions like 'we [and] our fellow believers'; 'As Christians, we''; and 'we claim the heritage of . . . Christians.' That seriously muddles the lines of demarcation between authentic biblical Christianity and various apostate traditions. ... [Supporting the document would] tacitly relegate the very essence of Gospel truth to the level of a secondary issue. That is the wrong way -- perhaps the very worst way -- for evangelicals to address the moral and political crises of our time." 5,9

bulletDr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, normally refuses to sign agreements involving Catholics but did add his name to the Manhattan Declaration because it is not a theological document, but rather a limited statement on three critical issues. He said:

"The Manhattan Declaration does not attempt to establish common ground on these doctrines. We remain who we are, and we concede no doctrinal ground." 5

bulletCommentator Michael Stone for the Portland Progressive Examiner commented:

"The Manhattan Declaration is a propaganda stunt sponsored by conservative right wing Christians intent on portraying Christians as victims of a secular America. The Declaration is in actuality an attempt to hi-jack American culture, and force a theocracy upon an unsuspecting and unwilling American public. The true motivation of this document is a call to culture war, an attempt to force conservative Christian values into the body politic. In particular, it is a desperate and futile attempt to stop a natural social progression from darkness to light, from ignorance and intolerance to enlightenment and acceptance."
"Not surprisingly, the two big issues raised in the Declaration are women's reproductive health and civil rights for the gay and lesbian community. The Christian right is not worried about protecting their own rights, they are worried about their ability to deny their neighbor his or her rights. ..."

"The Manhattan Declaration represents the greatest threat we face as a species, the threat from religious ignorance and superstition. The signers of the Declaration represent the American Taliban; they are Christo-Fascists, and they are every bit as dangerous as the religious fanatics who flew airplanes into buildings on 9/11." 6

bulletLibertarian Christian author, "Colin" commented on Zeal For Truth:

666 "... it is not good to confuse religious liberty, which is a negative right (being free from aggression against us) into a positive right (being entitled to force our customs and behaviors onto others). This declaration conflates these two kinds of rights. We should be affirming our right to not be aggressed against, but we must avoid language which changes 'sharing the gospel' - an act consistent with salvation by faith, human freedom and voluntary choice - into 'affirming the state's role to enforce our values in civic life.' We have no right to do this. It is idolatry." 7

bulletPastor Ralph Ovadal, pastor of Pilgrims Covenant Church, Monroe, WI seems to have pulled no punches when he said:

"The Manhattan Declaration is an ungodly manifesto, contemptuous of the blood and righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is an ecumenical treatise, complete with a Romish gospel and shot through and through with popish error. Those evangelicals who have authored this document and who have led the way in signing it show themselves to be in rebellion to God. It is, in their case, a brazen manifesto of treason against the Lord Jesus Christ. And they are not friends but rather are enemies of Christian liberty in that they disobey and provoke the Author of liberty with their spiritual fornication, even wresting His word and corrupting His blood-bought church. It is the biblical duty of all faithful Christian pastors to stand against the evangelical authors of the Manhattan Declaration and all evangelicals who sign it or promote it in any way. Such betrayers of Christ and His church must be separated from and called to account by all faithful Christian ministers and people." 8

bulletJim Daly, president and CEO of Focus on the Family said that the declaration encourages Christians to do and say the right things. He commented:

"What this declaration is saying is, if you want a fulfilling, rewarding, joyful, peaceful life, then embrace Jesus Christ as your Savior."

We were a little surprised by this comment. As many observers have stated, the declaration is short on the Gospel message. It is primarily a social action statement. If one's goal is to have a peaceful life, then it would probably be best to not come between individuals and what they see as their right to control their fertility, or between loving, committed same-sex couples and what they see as every person's fundamental right to marry the person that they love.

This list of reactions continues in a separate essay

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Manhattan Declaration," official website, at: http://manhattandeclaration.org/
  2.  Rudi Stettner, "The Manhattan Declaration, Gay Marriage," Rant Rave blog, 2009-NOV-22, at: http://www.rantrave.com/
  3. The Manhattan Declaration "Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience," Text of the Manhattan Declaration, 2009-NOV-20, at: http://manhattandeclaration.org/ This is a PDF file.
  4. Dave Boehi, "The Manhattan Declaration," Family Life Culture Watch, 2009-NOV-20, at: http://www.familylifeculturewatch.com
  5. Lillian Kwon, "Over 150,000 Americans Sign Manhattan Declaration," Christian Post, 2009-NOV-26, at: http://www.christianpost.com/
  6. Michael Stone, "When religion dictates politics: Manhattan Declaration and culture wars ," Examiner.com, 2009-NOV-22, at: http://www.examiner.com/
  7. "Colin," "Christian 'Manhattan Declaration' Hit and Miss," Zeal For Truth,
  8. Ralph Ovadal, "A Rebuke of the Manhattan Declaration Signers," Sermon Audio, 2009-NOV-22, at: http://www.sermonaudio.com/
  9. John MacArthur, "John MacArthur on the Manhattan Declaration," Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog, 2009-NOV-24, at: http://www.aomin.org/

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Copyright © 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
Originally written: 2009-NOV-22
Latest update: 2009-NOV-27
Author: B.A. Robinson

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