Chuck Colson, Robert George and Timothy George have authored and released a Christian manifesto of sorts, The Manhattan Declaration. It is a call for serious Christian living in our current cultural climate – almost a call for civil disobedience. It identifies several areas where they think core beliefs are being compromised by the culture at large, and the general tone of the document can be summed up in this arresting final thought:
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.
About 150 Christian leaders from all three major orthodox confessions signed the document upon its release last Friday. I am considering signing it myself, so it is sitting on my desk for digestion. But in the mean time, I ran across this article in the NYT and thought it deserved some comment.
Apart from the expectedly typical progressive smarminess just beneath the surface, the article cites a law professor at George Washington University, Lupu.
Ira C. Lupu, a law professor at George Washington University Law School, said it was “fear-mongering” to suggest that religious institutions would be forced to do any of those things [pay taxes or support social schemes against their conscience]. He said they are protected by the First Amendment, and by conscience clauses that allow medical professionals and hospitals to opt out of performing certain procedures, and religious exemptions written into same-sex marriage bills.
The stance that religious speech is automatically protected by the First Amendment is naïve to the extreme given the current climate of other western democracies. First Amendment or not, pastors and conscientious objectors are in and out of prison for violating their nation’s current politically correct fads all the time. (And if that’s not provocative enough for you, I decided last week that hate crime laws are, by logical extension, necessarily hate speech and hate thought laws.)
Lupu added that the real tension comes into play when religious organizations “provide social services to the public.” And he is right. Catholic adoption agencies on the east coast have had to shut their doors because they refuse to adopt to homosexual couples. A camp in New Jersey lost its non-profit status when it refused to perform a gay marriage. The notion of “social services” can and will be defined so broadly as to include anything – I guarantee it. My church runs an active food pantry in conjunction with a handful of non-religious social organizations. We support a couple of local elementary schools throughout the year. Do we count as a target for political intolerance?
I typically don’t react to Christian manifestos with much lasting interest, but this one is a real consideration for me, and I fully expect it to have real consequences for those who sign and support it.