Rod Dreher calls attention to The New York Times which  has a piece describing a coalition of religious leaders who are pledging to defy the federal government. From the NYT:

“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.

“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,” it says.

This is exactly the kind of pushback that needs to happen from a variety of centers. It is a kind of “make-weight” to which I referred here.  States could do the same sort of thing. The best (only?) way to stop the persistent encroachment of power is to resist it.

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  1. This is good news and FPR should join in this rebellion directed against the current radical Marxist regime.
    I would hope someone would bring this to Professor Peters attention.

  2. Thanks AML for the Times article. It raises the typical problem that comes when the abnormal is treated as normal. It may make normal choices–religious institutions operating according to their own conscience and doctrine–seem abnormal.
    Really the gist of the Manhattan Statement is not so much about trying to get governmental agencies to do right, as it is a statement by these church leaders that “We will not be compeled to do wrong.”
    When we (The church) do right we hope to win, but we do not do right because we think we can win. We do right, because it is right. At least that is how it should be.
    Though for some reason the folk in New York didn’t aske me to sign their paper, I endorse it.

  3. dr. mitchell

    i’m curious what you think about what john stackhouse said about the manhattan declaration on his blog. he believes it is essentially incoherent from a political standpoint.

    i told him i thought the document was not a product of the religious right (as he initially indicated), but nonetheless, he still had some points that he further clarified in the comments:

    “(Note, for example, their disturbing reference to “parental rights” when it comes to whether their children should be taught something other than what they believe in a public school. “Parental rights” are important, yes, but other rights and obligations matter here, too–such as other parents’ rights, children’s rights, the state’s legitimate concern for the education of its citizens, and perhaps more. What kind of public schools can we have where everyone insists that their values be taught therein and none other? And if that’s not what the Declarers mean to say, then what do they mean to say?)

    Part of the problem with the Manhattan Declaration is its linking of issues that are of quite different importance, moral clarity, political feasibility, and philosophical “level.” Whether to allow abortions is not the same thing as allowing assisted suicide, which is not the same thing as allowing homosexuals to marry, which is not the same thing as protecting free speech, which is not the same thing as putting up with different values being taught in the public schools, and so on.”

  4. Mark, thanks for this. It was downloaded under orders from she-who-must-be-obeyed, taken to church, and widely distributed.
    The movement begins?

  5. Micah,

    I’m not Dr. Mitchell, but I hope you won’t mind if I try responding to that very interesting critique you raised from John Stackhouse’s blog.

    Your response on Prof. Stackhouse’s blog was really well done, so I’ll add only a few things. First, I’m surprised that Prof. Stackhouse spent so much time critiquing the particular individuals who signed the Manhattan Declaration instead of critiquing their ideas. Something about his article smacks of ad hom…

    Furthermore, I fail to see how points #2 and #3 carry any historical or philosophical weight. Stating something that has already been stated can be extremely powerful rhetorically. History bears witness to this. (Consider the impact of Cato’s recurring theme before the Roman Senate, “Carthago delenda est!”) And restating commonly held beliefs in a democracy is particularly effective. Even if none of the signers do anything further, a declaration like this will give politicians and non-politicians alike courage to stand by their principles more confidently. Such things should not be underrated.

    Finally, I think that Prof. Stackhouse’s analysis of law and liberty in #4 is simply wrongheaded. As Alasdair MacIntyre suggests, any pluralistic society that wants to continue meaningful dialogue and maintain basic rights will need to agree on (and enshrine in law) basic moral ideas. Certain immoral ideas are mutually exclusive with certain moral ideas. Furthermore, it seems that some of those moral ideas most necessary for a healthy society are fundamentally Christian in nature, even though they often have broad appeal outside of religious circles. You raised the idea of imago Dei in your response to Prof. Stackhouse, so I’ll pull an example from that.

    I’m currently taking a bioethics class in which we’ve read philosopher, Frey, who argue that because there is no clear distinguishing line between animals and humans, we ought either to abolish all medical experimentation or else begin medical experimentation on some humans who have a very low quality of life (example: anencephalic babies and patients in a permanent vegetative state). I would challenge Prof Stackhouse to answer Frey’s request for a definition of moral status that includes all and only humans – without referring to a religious ideal.

    I dearly hope America never sees the day in which our commitment to a pluralism purified of all religious ideals destroys our commitment to protect the most basic liberties of the vulnerable.

    So in answer to Dr. Mitchell’s original post, yes, the Manhattan Declaration could be a make-weight — and a good one at that.

  6. Whilst the point of civil disobedience is one I had expected by all means, Rod Dreher is most likely right that it will in most places be difficult in the long term to oppose same-sex marriage.

    The reason one can say this is that there is little doubt that most countries of the world possess neither abundant minerals nor large areas of flat, unfrozen land on which they can build large, spread-out suburbs or exurbs. History clearly chows that those two features are essential for the possibility of traditional, orthodox religion surviving. It is simply too difficult to build stable families in any other type of environment, especially when there is either welfare that devalues childrearing or a free market that causes development so rapid the stability needed for both family formation and a strong spiritual life is completely absent.

    As a result, we can easily see that traditional Christianity may in the long term be restricted politically to those few regions that support economic agriculture and have abundant land (which I must stress are exactly equivalent because economic agriculture means abundant flat land on which machinery can be efficiently used). The most likely regions are Australia, sub-Saharan Africa and parts of the Americas. (When I think of myself as a fiction writer, I often imagine writing stories in which the Papacy has to leave Rome and even Europe with no intention of returning. Moreover, when I think about it I feel that such a choice could well have been faced much earler had Communism taken over Italy).

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