Christian Leaders Release Declaration of Conscience

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More than 150 Christian leaders are issuing a "call of conscience" to America-- urging them reaffirm their opposition to abortion, stem cell research and same-sex marriage.

"The Manhattan Declaration" stresses the need to protect religious freedom in in the U.S. It's signed by seminary leaders, pastors, professors and the heads of ministries.

The Christian leaders have come together across denominational lines to call on believers everywhere to radically commit to fight for the sanctity of life, marriage and religious liberty.

Bishop Harry Jackson, who signed The Manhattan Declaration, spoke more about the need for this declaration with CBN News. Click play to watch, following this report.

"And in all three of these areas we see threats in the culture and in our politics." Robert George, one of the document's authors said.

The key Orthodox, Catholic and evangelical Christian leaders wrote or signed on to the Manhattan Declaration, just released Friday.

It proclaims if society's laws force believers to sin, then believers must fight and disobey those laws.

One sentence in the declaration says, "through the centuries, Christianity has taught that civil disobedience is not only permitted, but sometimes required."

"So sure, we have an obligation, and we're making it very clear in here that we will not bend to Caesar," co-author Chuck Colson said.

"I think it is drawing a line in the sand," he added. "And we're saying as Christians 'beyond this we will not go. We will not compromise our faith.'"

The authors and many signers of the declaration appeared at a Washington news conference, Friday

They spoke of health workers forced to choose between quitting and doing abortions or dispensing the morning-after pill.

They also pointed to Catholic charities driven out of the adoption business in Massachusetts because they wouldn't place children with same-sex couples.

Organizers say it sends a "clear and strong call to Christians" and a "warning to civil authorities."

Preamble from the Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience 

Like those who have gone before us in the faith, Christians today are called to proclaim the Gospel of costly grace, to protect the intrinsic dignity of the human person and to stand for the common good. In being true to its own calling, the call to discipleship, the church through service to others can make a profound contribution to the public good.

Declaration

…we are especially troubled that in our nation today the lives of the unborn, the disabled, and the elderly are severely threatened; that the institution of marriage, already buffeted by promiscuity, infidelity and divorce, is in jeopardy of being redefined to accommodate fashionable ideologies; that freedom of religion and the rights of conscience are gravely jeopardized by those who would use the instruments of coercion to compel persons of faith to compromise their deepest convictions.

We are Christians who have joined together across historic lines of ecclesial differences to affirm our right-and, more importantly, to embrace our obligation-to speak and act in defense of these truths. 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 is our duty to proclaim the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in its fullness, both in season and out of season. May God help us not to fail in that duty.

Life

Although public sentiment has moved in a pro-life direction, we note with sadness that pro-abortion ideology prevails today in our government.

The President says that he wants to reduce the "need" for abortion-a commendable goal. But he has also pledged to make abortion more easily and widely available by eliminating laws prohibiting government funding, requiring waiting periods for women seeking abortions, and parental notification for abortions performed on minors. The elimination of these important and effective pro-life laws cannot reasonably be expected to do other than significantly increase the number of elective abortions by which the lives of countless children are snuffed out prior to birth.

A culture of death inevitably cheapens life in all its stages and conditions by promoting the belief that lives that are imperfect, immature or inconvenient are discardable. At the other end of life, an increasingly powerful movement to promote assisted suicide and "voluntary" euthanasia threatens the lives of vulnerable elderly and disabled persons.

We will be united and untiring in our efforts to roll back the license to kill that began with the abandonment of the unborn to abortion.

A truly prophetic Christian witness will insistently call on those who have been entrusted with temporal power to fulfill the first responsibility of government: to protect the weak and vulnerable against violent attack, and to do so with no favoritism, partiality, or discrimination. The Bible enjoins us to defend those who cannot defend themselves, to speak for those who cannot themselves speak. And so we defend and speak for the unborn, the disabled, and the dependent. What the Bible and the light of reason make clear, we must make clear. We must be willing to defend, even at risk and cost to ourselves and our institutions, the lives of our brothers and sisters at every stage of development and in every condition.

Marriage

In Scripture, the creation of man and woman, and their one-flesh union as husband and wife, is the crowning achievement of God's creation. In the transmission of life and the nurturing of children, men and women joined as spouses are given the great honor of being partners with God Himself. Marriage then, is the first institution of human society-indeed it is the institution on which all other human institutions have their foundation.

Where the marriage culture begins to erode, social pathologies of every sort quickly manifest themselves. The impulse to redefine marriage in order to recognize same-sex and multiple partner relationships is a symptom, rather than the cause, of the erosion of the marriage culture.

,,, it is critical that the impulse be resisted, for yielding to it would mean abandoning the possibility of restoring a sound understanding of marriage and, with it, the hope of rebuilding a healthy marriage culture. It would lock into place the false and destructive belief that marriage is all about romance and other adult satisfactions, and not, in any intrinsic way, about procreation and the unique character and value of acts and relationships whose meaning is shaped by their aptness for the generation, promotion and protection of life.

We understand that many of our fellow citizens, including some Christians, believe that the historic definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman is a denial of equality or civil rights.

The truth is that marriage is not something abstract or neutral that the law may legitimately define and re-define to please those who are powerful and influential.

No one has a civil right to have a non-marital relationship treated as a marriage. Marriage is an objective reality-a covenantal union of husband and wife-that it is the duty of the law to recognize and support for the sake of justice and the common good. If it fails to do so, genuine social harms follow. First, the religious liberty of those for whom this is a matter of conscience is jeopardized.

Second, the rights of parents are abused as family life and sex education programs in schools are used to teach children that an enlightened understanding recognizes as "marriages" sexual partnerships that many parents believe are intrinsically non-marital and immoral.

Religious Liberty

It is ironic that those who today assert a right to kill the unborn, aged and disabled and also a right to engage in immoral sexual practices, and even a right to have relationships integrated around these practices be recognized and blessed by law-such persons claiming these "rights" are very often in the vanguard of those who would trample upon the freedom of others to express their religious and moral commitments to the sanctity of life and to the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife.

We see this, for example, in the effort to weaken or eliminate conscience clauses, and therefore to compel pro-life institutions , and pro-life physicians, surgeons, nurses, and other health care professionals, to refer for abortions and, in certain cases, even to perform or participate in abortions. 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.

In Canada and some European nations, Christian clergy have been prosecuted for preaching Biblical norms against the practice of homosexuality. New hate-crime laws in America raise the specter of the same practice here.

As Christians, we take seriously the Biblical admonition to respect and obey those in authority. We believe in law and in the rule of law.

The biblical purpose of law is to preserve order and serve justice and the common good; yet laws that are unjust-and especially laws that purport to compel citizens to do what is unjust-undermine the common good, rather than serve it.

Through the centuries, Christianity has taught that civil disobedience is not only permitted, but sometimes required.

…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 and marriage and the family. 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.

To view the entire document and to see the church leaders who signed it, click here.

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Paul  Strand

Paul Strand

CBN News Washington Sr. Correspondent

As senior correspondent in CBN's Washington, D.C., bureau, Paul Strand has covered a variety of political and social issues, with an emphasis on defense, justice, and Congress.  Follow Paul on Twitter @PaulStrandCBN and "like" him at Facebook.com/PaulStrandCBN.