Washington, USA - A highly influential group of conservative Christian leaders are releasing a document today that they have been working on for more than a year, an attempt to unify disparate religious conservatives. Even as political conservatives in the United States are fractured and the Republican Party in a period of soul-searching, you can see some religious conservatives attempting to coalesce, such as Pope Benedict's recent outreach to conservative Anglicans.
The document, called "The Manhattan Declaration," is embargoed until noon (when we'll have it for you) but it calls for Christians to regroup around opposition to abortion (and other "life" issues) and to recognition of same-sex marriage. The document calls for 'religious liberty' but people connected with the document say that is a reference to courts and civil authorities who are allowing gay marriage and abortion availability to advance and expand.
The positions aren't new here; what's new is the teaming up. On the stage at the National Press Club today will be Catholic leaders Washington Archbishop Donald Wuerl and Philadelphia Archbishop Justin Rigali, Pentecostal leader Harry Jackson of Maryland and evangelical activist Tony Perkins. Signers include Chuck Colson and academics Timothy George and Robert George.
People involved with the document cited as evidence of their concern the current standoff between the Washington Catholic archdiocese and the D.C. City Council over a same-sex marriage bill, and the archdiocese's position that it won't be able to agree to the bill's requirements without violating Catholic teaching. They also noted the recent decision by Catholic Charities in Massachusetts (the charity arm of the church) to stop helping place children for adoption rather than comply with the state's ban on discrimination against same-sex couples.
To some ears, the document is inflammatory at a time when the archdiocese and the city are apparently trying to work out a compromise on the wording of the same-sex marriage bill. It calls for Christians "not to comply" with any law that compels them to participate in abortion or other "anti-life" act, and says not to "bend" to any rule forcing
them to "bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriages." The document also says Christianity sometimes "requires" civil disobedience."
Sure, this document has been in the works for months -- long before the same-sex marriage standoff -- and Archbishop Wuerl was not an author. However, he is signing it, and he is choosing to appear at its unveiling. What is he calling Catholics to do? His spokeswoman, Susan Gibbs, today downplayed the intense language, saying Wuerl is not advocating for civil disobedience and that he signed onto the document "because of its general focus."
Do you buy it? Does this help or inflame negotiations on the D.C. measure? Send us an email.
More to come.