OpEd: Manhattan Declaration is dangerous , irresponsible
An OpEd journalist in today's LA Times believes the Manhattan Declaration, a manifesto of civil disobedience by religious leaders in the face of a secular democracy and its laws, - which was unveiled this month at a Washignton, DC press conference - is dangerous, ill-conceived, and irresponsible.
Making sweeping claims unsupported by facts, and using Martin Luther King and Henry David Thoreau as fellow ideologues embracing civil disobedience for similar reasons and with the same justification, is misleading, and a clarion call to revolt, the journalist believes. Emphasis below is my own:
Philosophers have argued for centuries over whether it is ever justifiable to break the law in the service of a higher cause. The question acquired a new complexity with the advent of societies such as the United States, in which laws were enacted by elected representatives and not decreed by a monarch or dictator.
Few today would criticize civil rights activists, including the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., for participating in or condoning the violation of laws that perpetuated white supremacy -- with the understanding that they would face punishment for their actions. But such civil disobedience is rightly regarded as the exception that proves that the proper redress for unjust laws lies in legislation or in court rulings based on the Constitution.
That cautious approach has been thrown to the wind by Christian religious leaders who, even as they insist on their right to shape the nation's laws, are reserving the right to violate them in situations far removed from King's witness.
Last week, a group of Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox leaders released a “declaration” reminding fellow believers that "Christianity has taught that civil disobedience is not only permitted, but sometimes required." Then, after a specious invocation of King, the 152 signers hurl this anathema at those who would enact laws protecting abortion or extending the rights of civil (not religious) marriage to same-sex couples:
"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 marriages or the equivalent, or refrain from proclaiming the truth, as we know it, about morality and immorality. . . . We will fully and ungrudgingly render to Caesar what is Caesar's. But under no circumstances will we render to Caesar what is God's."
Strong words, but also irresponsible and dangerous ones. The strange land described in this statement is one in which a sinister secularist government is determined to force Christians to betray their principles about abortion or the belief that "holy matrimony" is "an institution ordained by God." The idea that same-sex civil marriage will undermine religious marriage is a canard Californians will remember from the campaign for Proposition 8, as is the declaration's complaint that Christian leaders are being prevented from expressing their "religious and moral commitments to the sanctity of life and to the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife."
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