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Chuck Colson, among other religious leaders, announcing the Manhattan Declaration

Over 150 Orthodox, Catholic and evangelical Christian leaders have signed the Manhattan Declaration, a pledge in defense of life, religious liberty and traditional marriage, a line in the sand of the culture war warning that Christians will resort to civil disobedience if necessary rather than retreat from these three moral principles.

“The Manhattan Declaration is a wake-up call – a call to conscience – for the church,” writes Chuck Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship Ministries and co-author of the declaration. “It is also crystal-clear message to civil authorities that we will not, under any circumstances, stand idly by as our religious freedom comes under assault.”

According to ManhattanDeclaration.org, over 47,000 others in the last few days have added their signatures to the list of 152 Christian leaders who have committed to the pledge.

The website states that the declaration calls upon all fellow citizens to join in defending “fundamental truths about justice and the common good,” namely:

  • The sanctity of human life
  • The dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife
  • The rights of conscience and religious liberty.

“Inasmuch as these truths are foundational to human dignity and the wellbeing of society, they are inviolable and nonnegotiable,” the website states. “Because they are increasingly under assault from powerful forces in our culture, we are compelled today to speak out forcefully in their defense, and to commit ourselves to honoring them fully no matter what pressures are brought upon us and our institutions to abandon or compromise them.”

The language of the Manhattan Declaration itself, however, is even more bold:

“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,” the declaration states. “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.”

At a D.C. press conference last week, Dr. Robert George of Princeton University, one of three leaders who drafted the declaration, affirmed that if laws require Christian doctors and hospitals to perform abortion or euthanasia, if the government demands churches bless homosexual ‘marriage’ or any other dictates attempt to force Christians to act against their moral convictions, there will be no compromise. Recalling the actions of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. years before, George said there may even be call for Christians to engage in civil disobedience:

“We hope and pray that it does not come to this,” George said, “that the impositions on conscience will not require anybody to practice civil disobedience. But if it comes to it, as it came to it for Dr. King on the great issue of racial justice, then we have to be prepared to make sacrifices.”

Evangelical leader Chuck Colson, who with Dr. Robert George and Beeson Divinity School Professor Timothy George constituted the document’s drafting committee, explained on Fox News network’s “Huckabee” the significance of the declaration. Video of his interview with show host and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee can be seen below:

“We’ve always said that we will never compromise what we believe,” Colson said, “but this is the first time that all of us have come together across confessional lines and said, ‘We’re prepared to pay the price. You cannot cross this line, otherwise we will pay the price – we will suffer if we must to avoid doing evil.’”

“‘Suffering,’ being what?” Huckabee asked.

“‘Suffering’ being prison, loss of your tax exemption,” Colson answered. “We’re saying, ‘If we’re a doctor and we’re told to perform an abortion or to refer someone for an abortion, we will refuse. And if you want to put us in prison, put us in prison.’”

Huckabee followed up by asking, “What about hate crimes?”

“Hate-crimes legislation – we’re already seeing what this has done in Europe and done in Canada. Human-rights commissions are hauling pastors in,” Colson said. “If someone walks in our church and says, ‘You preach a sermon on [homosexuality], we’re going to arrest you as a violation of the hate crimes,’ then they’ll have to arrest us.”

Specifically, the text of the Manhattan Declaration declares:

  • 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 antilife act
  • Nor will we bend to any rule purporting to force us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriage or the equivalent
  • [Nor] refrain from proclaiming the truth, as we know it, about morality and immorality and marriage and the family.

The authors and original signatories of the Manhattan Declaration are now inviting others who will agree to the pledge to sign the declaration as well.

As Colson told Huckabee, “If you continue to assault the family, continue to assault life, continue to assault our liberties, we will ungrudgingly render to Caesar what is Caesar’s, but under no circumstance will we render to Caesar what is God’s. So we have taken a very firm line. We’ve drawn a line, and we want true Christians to stand up and defend what we believe now.”


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