PORTLAND, Maine — The spiritual head of Maine’s Catholics has joined 140 Christian leaders, including the Revs. Charles Colson and James Dobson, both evangelicals, in signing a joint declaration pledging “renewed zeal” on social issues, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland announced Wednesday.
By signing the Manhattan Declaration, Bishop Richard Malone pledged to speak out on three fundamental areas of mutual concern to these Christian leaders — the sanctity of human life, marriage as the exclusive union of one man and one woman, and religious liberty and freedom of conscience.
The Manhattan Declaration is a movement of Orthodox, Catholic and evangelical Protestant Christian leaders collaborating on moral issues of great concern, said Marc Mutty, director of public policy for the diocese, in a news release.
Malone is one of 14 Catholic bishops to sign the declaration. In all, nearly 30,000 people have signed the online version of the document, according to the Web site www.manhattandeclaration.org.
The document, according to Mutty, pledges the group’s “obligation to speak and act in defense of these truths” and stressed that “no power on earth, be it cultural or political, will intimidate us into silence or acquiescence.”
“I see this as a very important document that sets the record straight that we, as Christian leaders coming from different religious traditions, are in solidarity over these core issues,” Malone said in the news release. “With the very foundation of marriage threatened with redefinition in our culture, the funding of elective abortions being insisted upon in the health care reform legislation, our rights to religious freedom being challenged repeatedly by demands that Catholic hospitals provide referrals for abortions, and efforts to force Catholic institutions to recognize same-sex marriage, I can see no more opportune time for us to reconnect to our shared values and together declare our vow not to remain silent in the public square over these defining issues.”
The Manhattan Declaration also calls for signers to engage in civil disobedience should the “core values of those united together in this declaration be disregarded by the government,” Mutty said.
“We certainly hope that defending our core principles and beliefs need not involve elements of civil disobedience,” Malone said in the news release. “However, should it ever come to that, you can be assured that it would be respectful and certainly nonviolent in nature.”
The Manhattan Declaration was drafted by Colson, founder of the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview and a former Republican strategist who spent time in prison for his role in the Watergate scandal; Robert George, a law professor at Princeton University; and Timothy George, a professor of religion at Sanford University in suburban Birmingham, Ala.
The concerns of the new organization appear to be similar to the goals of the Moral Majority, founded in 1979 by the Rev. Jerry Falwell and disbanded a decade later. Falwell died in May 2007.
The goals of the Moral Majority included outlawing abortion, opposing state recognition and acceptance of homosexual acts, the Equal Rights Amendment and Strategic Arms Limitation Talks, and promoting a traditional vision of family life, according to information on the Web site for its successor, the Moral Majority Coalition founded in 2004.
The Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience
Christians, when they have lived up to the highest ideals of their faith, have defended the weak and vulnerable and worked tirelessly to protect and strengthen vital institutions of civil society, beginning with the family.
We are Orthodox, Catholic, and evangelical Christians who have united at this hour to reaffirm fundamental truths about justice and the common good, and to call upon our fellow citizens, believers and non-believers alike, to join us in defending them. These truths are:
• 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 non-negotiable. 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.
We make this commitment not as partisans of any political group but as followers of Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen Lord, who is the way, the truth and the life.