The Manhattan Declaration

By Timothy Georgefounding dean, Beeson Divinity School Orthodox, Catholic, and Evangelical leaders have come together to reaffirm fundamental truths about … Continued

By Timothy George
founding dean, Beeson Divinity School

Orthodox, Catholic, and Evangelical leaders have come together to reaffirm fundamental truths about justice and the common good on three of the most pressing issues in our country today–the sanctity of every human life from conception to death, the strengthening of marriage as a covenant union of husband and wife, and the defense of religious liberty and the rights of conscience for all persons everywhere. These are not the only matters that require a conscientious response from followers of Jesus Christ, but they are threshold issues that touch on everything else we do including the proclamation of the Gospel, concern for the poor, nurturing of children, ministry to prisoners, care of creation, and peacemaking in a broken world. These three concerns are not new issues, but they are increasingly under assault in our society today. We know that persons of many faith traditions share these concerns with us. Thus we have issued this declaration of conscience calling on our fellow citizens, believers and non-believers alike, to join us in the defense of human life, marriage, and religious freedom.

We ourselves set forth this appeal as followers of Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen Lord, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. We hold differing political views and follow no partisan agendas. We believe it is time for Christian believers to speak together clearly and boldly on behalf of the most vulnerable members of our society. The Manhattan Declaration represents an ecumenism of the trenches that has been going on for a number of years among many denominations and confessional traditions. While we recognize that many important differences of doctrine and discipline still divide us, we nonetheless earnestly seek that unity for which Jesus prayed when he asked that his disciples be one in their love for God, for one another, and for the world.

We have addressed our concerns to the society in which we live, but the issues are global. Policies of forced abortions, ethnic cleansing, religious persecution, sexual trafficking of girls and young women, and failure to take necessary steps to halt the spread of preventable diseases such as AIDS are plagues that transcend national boundaries. We affirm that all persons have been endowed by the Creator with inherent and equal dignity and the inalienable right to life. It behooves Christians and all persons of conscience to speak and to act on behalf of the least, the last, and the lost.

As a resident of Birmingham, Alabama, I have frequently visited the jail cell from which the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote his famous “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” King was an ordained Baptist minister and wrote from an explicitly Christian perspective drawing on the Holy Scriptures, the tradition of Christian faith through the centuries, and the use of the divinely bestowed gift of reason. In a time of great tension, he set forth an eloquent defense of the rights and duties of religious conscience. He declared that unjust laws had no power to bind the conscience and he called on his fellow citizens to join him in the struggle for civil rights.

King was willing to go to jail rather than to comply with legal injustices that violated human dignity itself. King’s legacy lives on today in a new generation of Christian believers inspired by his passion and insight. Those who have embraced the Manhattan Declaration profess our commitment to Jesus Christ and his teachings. This commitment transcends all other loyalties. We have declared that 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.

Timothy George is founding dean of Beeson Divinity School of Samford University and a senior editor of Christianity Today.

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  • CPT_Doom

    It is revolting to see Mr. George compare himself and his fellow religious travellers to Reverand Martin Luther King Jr. and those who fought for equality. The “Manhattan Declaration” is nothing less than a manifesto against the Constitution and the freedom of religion for those of us who do not espouse the conservative religious and political agenda followed by Mr. George and his fellow signers. Mr. George is free to believe that his religious lifestyle choice is superior to others, and to follow the teachings of that lifestyle choice in his own decisions and the paths he follows in life. He has no right to demand that all Americans follow those same teachings, particularly as this Declaration makes it clear the signers understand there are millions of us who disagree with him. Mr. George and all the signers of this manifesto have committed themselves to declaring that those of us who are gay or lesbian are inferior and cannot enjoy the full rights of citizenship, lest the very foundation of our society be threatened. The same arguments were made by those who chose lifestyles of racism, sexism and anti-Semitism, to name just a few of the bigotries that have plagued this country. They were no more true 150 years ago than they are today, and Mr. George covers himself in shame by embracing that which is worst in humanity.

  • tahlib1

    It’s indeed a shameful day to be Catholic in America but Christ’s message of love and justice will win out. The Freedom to Marry is coming because God wants it.

  • bobbarnes

    The Taliban are thriving here in America. The “Manhattan Declaration” is their war cry against the freedoms of everyone else.

  • Athena4

    MLK would be horrified to hear what you are claiming to do in his name.

  • bpft

    i’m reposting since the earlier comment i posted got messed up (anything i put in with greater and less than signs was removed). i changed them to square brackets.—It is revolting to see [CPT_DOOM] compare himself and his fellow [non-Orthodox Christian] travellers to Reverand Martin Luther King Jr. and those who fought for equality. The ["Homosexual/Pro-Choice Agenda"] is nothing less than a manifesto against the Constitution and the freedom of religion for those of us who do not espouse the [liberal] religious and political agenda followed by [CPT_DOOM] and his fellow signers.[CPT_DOOM] is free to believe that his [non-Orthodox Christian] lifestyle choice is superior to others, and to follow the teachings of that lifestyle choice in his own decisions and the paths he follows in life. [CPT_DOOM] has no right to demand that all Americans follow those same teachings, particularly as [...] there are millions of us who disagree with him. [CPT_DOOM] and all [those that oppose this] manifesto have committed themselves to declaring that those of us who [have Christian values] are inferior and cannot enjoy the full rights of citizenship, lest the very foundation of our society be threatened. The same arguments were made by those who chose lifestyles of racism, sexism and anti-Semitism, to name just a few of the bigotries that have plagued this country. They were no more true 150 years ago than they are today, and [CPT_DOOM] covers himself in shame by embracing that which is worst in humanity.

  • johnozed

    These people will never realize that not everyone subscribes to their religion nor believes in their gods. They are truly the American Taliban. Will people wake up to see the slippery slope they keep trying to put us on? What’s next, a return to slavery? Public stonings for adulterers? That seems to be the direction they would like to head towards.

  • bobbarnes

    @BPFTUmmm, excuse me? I’m sick and tired of the “I’m a Christian, I can call you a pervert an a deviant and should not be call a bigot” schtick! Take your self-rightous `tude and stuff it!

  • bpft

    @BobbarnesI don’t understand why you’re allowed to be “self-righteous” about your position and people who do not agree with you are not entitled to speak out. You’re just as much as a bigot, if not more, since you’re essentially telling people who don’t agree with you to shut up. In contrast, I’m asking for you or anyone else to say something of substance to defend their view instead of just name-calling. Who’s the bigot here?

  • thebobbob

    Here come the religious extremists!Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council told Newsweek, “The point of the Declaration is really to avoid mistakes of the past, such as when religious leaders did not stand up early enough against no-fault divorce”, …. “I’m a former police officer and I have hard time with civil disobedience, but if it comes to the point where our religious liberty is at risk, I’d not only participate but would encourage people to resist.”How does no-fault divorce risk anyone’s Religious Liberty?? He’s ready to break the law because a couple decide that they no longer want to be married?? What happens when the city clerk stamps illegitimate on a birth certificate because the parents keep their pre-marriage names and he thinks his religion calls for women to take the man’s name?Don’t want an abortion? a divorce? to marry someone of the same sex? Don’t! You have no right to impose your narrow religious beliefs on me or anyone else. Join the Taliban and move to the Sudan if you don’t like America!

  • ccnl1

    “Carstonio”? Where have we seen that ID before? Again beware for this is an anonymous blog and imposters abound.

  • ccnl1

    Founding Dean George noted:”We ourselves set forth this appeal as followers of Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen Lord, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”As per most contemporary NT and historic Jesus experts, the only part he has correct is the crucified part.To wit:From the course notes of a large Catholic university’s graduate theology class:”Heaven is a Spirit state (no physical bodies abide so where is the resurrected, ascended body????)Christ’s and Mary’s bodies are therefore not in Heaven. For one thing, Paul in 1 Cor 15 speaks of the body of the dead as transformed into a “spiritual body.” No one knows exactly what he meant by this term.Most believe that it to mean that the personal spiritual self that survives death is in continuity with the self we were while living on earth as an embodied person.The Ascension symbolizes the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry and the beginning of the Church. Only Luke’s Gospel records it. The Assumption ties Jesus’ mission to Pentecost and missionary activity of Jesus’ followers The Assumption hascontinued below:

  • bobbarnes

    @BPFTPeople who disagree with me? Did you really say that? That’s like say Hitler had a little disagreement with the Jews.Take that`tude and stuff it in all the orifices.

  • Farnaz1Mansouri1

    Ecumenical? LOL! This “Declaration” represents the most conservative and imperialistic elements of three conservative Christian sects. Manhattan? In your dreams. Manhattan is one of the most diverse cities on earth. It breathes tolerance.Time will rid the Congress of religious interference. All it requires is an upright Constitutional lawyer. NonGod knows the words “upright” and “Congressman” don’t go together.

  • coloradodog

    How offensive for this Huckabee to invoke Dr. Martin Luther King and his words to promote this homophobic, intolerant “Christian” hatred.

  • thebump

    Thank you, both Prof. Georges and the other brave signatories for boldly proclaiming and standing up for the truth!!

  • Athena4

    Sounds more like a fatwa than a declaration to me. The only difference between you guys and Osama Bin Laden is a beard and a turban.

  • ccnl1

    Hmmm, and what do Wiccans and other pagans think about the sanctity of marriage???Based on description of pagan handfasting/marriage and handparting/divorce rituals described at Actually they still can at

  • ccnl1

    Hmmm, and what do Wiccans and other pagans think about the sanctity of marriage???Based on the descriptions of pagan handfasting/marriage and handparting/divorce rituals described at Actually they still can at

  • CommieBlaster

    Why is Obama’s Administration is Anti-Religion? It’s because they are Communists and Communists do not believe in God. Overwhelming proof to back this claim here:

  • Athena4

    CCNL, Pagans are free to choose what their beliefs about marriage are. There is no Pagan “Bible” or Pope to tell us what to do. Frankly, I’ve never heard of the site that you quote. Any idiot can put up a website. Or, as the “New Yorker” once said, “on the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.” Or a retired crank whose wife bought him a computer to keep him out her hair. I know Pagan couples who are monogamous, polyamorous, gay, straight, bi, etc. We do not judge their faith by who they sleep with. The Charge of the Goddess says that “all acts of love and pleasure are Mine.” We insist on some boundaries – stay away from people who are underage, do not abuse, and “no means no”. We are comfortable with our sexuality because we view it as sacred, not sinful.

  • ccnl1

    Well now we know at least one pagan does not believe in handfasting and handparting aka the pagan ways that mimic much of today’s Christianity’s views on the sanctity of marriage. See more about handfasting at

  • yatest

    That’s rich–the Roman Catholic hierarchy (and most the Christian church leadership) couldn’t muster any civil disobedience to respond to the holocaust–suddenly they’ve developed a conscience to oppose same-sex marriage. Gay and lesbian couples must be trembling with the thought of Cardinals and Bishops going to jail to take a stand against marriage–well maybe, if they thought there’d be altar-boys in the prison showers.

  • Athena4

    CCNL, what difference does it make to you whether Wiccans sign this fatwa or not? In fact, what business of yours is anybody else’s religion except your own? Quit looking at the “flaws” in everyone else’s faith and concentrate on changing your own. Mind your own business.

  • Athena4

    Oh, gee. You can copy and paste a website. What’s your point? MY point is that this document is a throwback to the Middle Ages, and many Christian groups are opposed to it as well as non-Christian religions.

  • withouthavingseen

    Athena4,No, lol, the document was written in 2009, not in the middle ages. It shares some ideas with the middle ages? Is that what you mean? Fine. What does that have to do with whether the ideas are correct or not, whether they accurate describe reality?Ryan Haber

  • JPDG

    “It’s indeed a shameful day to be Catholic in America but Christ’s message of love and justice will win out. The Freedom to Marry is coming because God wants it.”0 for 31 so far.

  • withouthavingseen

    Yatest, you wrote:”That’s rich–the Roman Catholic hierarchy (and most the Christian church leadership) couldn’t muster any civil disobedience to respond to the holocaust…”That’s actually entirely incorrect. Sadly, large numbers of clergy were silent on that issue (often, I’m sure) owing to the same rationale with which many wish to silence them today.August Clemens Graf von Galen, Bishop of Munster, publicly protested the Nazi euthanasia project (T4 Project) that murdered 70,000 handicapped people between 1939-1941. His protests set off a wave of protests that led Nazi leadership to shut down the project.The most serious and nearly-successful plot on Hitler’s life, which was coupled with a coup attempt, was led by Colonel Claus Schenck Graf von Stauffenberg, a devout Catholic who rankled at the Nazis’ attempts to suppress religion and their mistreatment of Jews.Archbishop Michael Cardinal Faulhaber of Munich preached continuously against the Nazi regime from its earliest days. He preached a series of sermons in Advent (December), 1933, and continued afterwards along the same effect: the Nazi regime was an abomination and anti-Semitism was anti-Christian, since Jesus was a Jew. For his troubles, he found his residence stormed and mobbed after the 9-10 November 1938 “Krystallnacht”. The first assassination attempt against him by Nazis had come in 1934, so this sort of threat was an old hat to him. Among his wittier responses to the Nazi regime: when the Nazi regime extended the requirement upon Jews in neighboring Bohemia to wear the Star of David, the Archbishop ordered his priests to put armbands with the star upon every statue of Jesus, Mary, Joseph, or any of the apostles found in his archdiocese. Naturally, the authorities were not amused.There are numerous other examples of resistance and of subterfuge against the regime, of sheltering Jews from it, and of working to undermine it. Most of these resisters had strong Christian faith, and many of those were Catholics: lay and clergy alike.

  • ccnl1

    Well at least we now have Athena4 educated in contemporary pagan marriage rituals. Her coven must be very proud of her. Mission accomplised!!!

  • ccnl1

    Well at least we now have Athena4 educated in contemporary pagan marriage rituals. Her coven must be very proud of her.Mission accomplished!!!

  • tojby_2000

    T. George wrote: “…the sanctity of every human life from conception to death,..” as bedrock to Christianism’s take on abortion and end-of-life questions. ___________________________________________1. Your deity, Jesus, lived in a time and place where abortion and exposure (infant abandonment) were both legal and common. He found the time to opine about a great many moral issues but neither of these practices got a gospel mention. If your god had no trouble with abortion, why do you presume to hold yourself to a different standard?

  • Jumpy66

    Another debated fogged and maligned by ccnl1′s dementia.

  • Athena4

    Like I said, CCNL, what do Pagan marriage rituals have to do with the topic at hand? I think I know about Pagan marriage rituals – I’ve attended enough of them, and even presided at one. Don’t presume to think that you’ve “educated” me when all you did was copy some idiot’s website.