. . . with a wave of toxic religious traditionalism!
I read today that Archbishop John Nienstedt of the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis is one of the signatories of the “The Manhattan Declaration” - a manifesto that, as Andrew Gerns notes, “links the preservation of religious freedom to the need for a government ban on all abortions and any sort of same sex marriage.”
Reports the Associated Press:
The 4,700-word document, called “The Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience,” sounds familiar themes from political and social debates over the health care overhaul and gay marriage battles.
While acknowledging that “Christians and our institutions have too often scandalously failed to uphold the institution of marriage,” the group rejects same-sex marriage. The declaration states that opening a legal door for gay marriage would do the same for “polyamorous partnerships, polygamous households, even adult brothers, sisters, or brothers and sisters living in incestuous relationships....”
What nonsense. And as rightly observed by the folks over at AsGoodAsYou.org:
They have framed [polygamy and homosexuality] as if the two concepts are one and the same, for obvious tactical reasons. But honestly, we’d argue that this actually does damage to their cause, as the vast majority of Americans have zero trouble seeing the flaw in the logic.
Yes, indeed. It’s as flawed as the science in a Roland Emmerich movie!
Meanwhile, the New York Times notes:
Citing the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s call to civil disobedience, 145 evangelical, Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christian leaders have signed a declaration saying they will not cooperate with laws that they say could be used to compel their institutions to participate in abortions, or to bless or in any way recognize same-sex couples....
...The document was written by Mr. (Chuck) Colson; Robert P. George, a professor of jurisprudence at Princeton University, who is Catholic; and the Rev. Timothy George, dean of Beeson Divinity School, an evangelical interdenominational school on the campus of Samford University, in Birmingham, Ala.
Below is an excerpt from Andrew Gern’s insightful commentary on “The Manhattan Declaration.” I particularly appreciate his concluding remarks (Archbishop Nienstedt, take note!): “The signatories not only want to preserve the right to teach and discriminate within their own institutions but they want the government to give them a special place in the public sphere so that their private scruples become public policy. They want their own freedom of religion to be protected at the expense of other peoples freedom of conscience.”
Now that, for a liberal democracy such as ours, is a disaster. And quite frankly, it’s a disaster for authentic Catholicism as well. For in its demonizing of gay people, this declaration disgracefully spits in the face of God’s loving presence in these people’s lives and relationships.
My only consolation is that, like those disaster movies that are trundled out every few years, this declaration will similarly (and rightly) be viewed as overblown, out of touch with real life, and readily disposable.
The document does some cite examples where conservative churches have bumped up against anti-discrimination statues in matters of employment, public accommodation, client access or delivery of services.
We see it in the use of anti-discrimination statutes to force religious institutions, businesses, and service providers of various sorts to comply with activities they judge to be deeply immoral or go out of business. After the judicial imposition of “same-sex marriage” in Massachusetts, for example, Catholic Charities chose with great reluctance to end its century-long work of helping to place orphaned children in good homes rather than comply with a legal mandate that it place children in same-sex households in violation of Catholic moral teaching. In New Jersey, after the establishment of a quasi-marital “civil unions” scheme, a Methodist institution was stripped of its tax exempt status when it declined, as a matter of religious conscience, to permit a facility it owned and operated to be used for ceremonies blessing homosexual unions.
They cite the example of the controversy in Ocean Grove, New Jersey, a seaside resort within the township of Neptune, which had been operating as township in the State of New Jersey for many years. The controversy the document cites is not the simple matter of the State trying to force a church into holding same-sex civil union ceremonies, but the case of a private association that manages a public accommodation that heretofore did not require a religious test or limitation to use the facility denying a same-sex couple from using it for a civil union ceremony. No matter where one stands on the issue of same-sex marriage, the question is far from a simple case of religious (or non-religious) coercion that the writers of the document portray.
In the case of Catholics in Massachusetts getting out of the adoption business because they would not field same-sex clients, the writers ignore the fact that the agencies own board and most employees disagreed with the Catholic hierarchy on this issue and had developed a process that met both the terms of state law and church teaching. As we are seeing in Washington, DC, and in the current health-care bill before congress, this kind of compromise is not enough.
Those who signed this statement say that they are fearful that even teaching that same-sex marriage is wrong could get them arrested, accused of “hate-crimes.” This was put to the test this week when some Christian pastors tried to provoke their own arrest by publicly saying unkind and harsh words against homosexuals on the steps of the Justice Department. No one was arrested. The organizers forgot that to be arrested for a hate-crime, one must commit or plan to commit, an actual crime. According to Dana Milbank of the Washington Post,
The evangelical activists had been hoping to provoke arrest, because, as organizer Gary Cass of the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission put it, “we’d have standing to challenge the law.” But their prayers were not answered. Nobody was arrested, which wasn’t surprising: To run afoul of the new law, you need to “plan or prepare for an act of physical violence” or “incite an imminent act of physical violence.”
The manifesto makes much of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, who wrote from a Birmingham jail to mainly white pastors who claimed sympathy with civil rights but refused to commit to the struggle, citing his understanding of civil disobedience as the basis for their proposed resistance. What the writers do not acknowledge, nor repent of, is the fact that many of these same traditions and scriptural arguments were used then to justify state-sanctioned racism and violent resistance to integration.
The Manhattan Declaration defines the struggle to maintain state-sanctioned laws that promote discrimination and limit abortions in terms of religious freedom. The signatories not only want to preserve the right to teach and discriminate within their own institutions but they want the power of government to give them a special place in the public sphere so that their private scruples become public policy. They want their own freedom of religion to be protected at the expense of other peoples freedom of conscience.
Recommended Off-site Links:
The Manhattan Declaration – Full text and commentary at GoodAsYou.org.
Manhattan Declaration of Religious Traditionalism – Andrew Gern (Episcopal Café, November 20, 2009).
Statement of Conscience: Just Give Us the Money - Bruce Garrett (TruthWinsOut.org, November 20, 2009).
Can a Culture War Manifesto Reach a New Generation of Evangelicals and Catholics? - Dan Gilgoff (U.S. News and World Report, November 20, 2009).
A “Hierarchy of Issues”? - Thom Curnutte (Ad Dominum, November 20, 2009).
Two Catholic Bishops, Conscience, and the Common Good - Paula Ruddy (The Progressive Catholic Voice, June 14, 2009).