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12/03/2010

Okay, far-right: You wanna talk about the Manhattan Declaration? Let's go.

by Jeremy Hooper

The social conservatives keep wanting to talk about the Manhattan Declaration and Apple's decision to remove its associated, supposedly benign app from the iTunes store. For instance, check out this snippet from the National Organization For Marriage's latest e-blast:

Screen Shot 2010-12-03 At 2.49.54 Pm

So okay, fine. We'll play along. In fact: Let's go ahead, take a moment, and remind them of a few things about their precious little document/app.

(A) The Manhattan Declaration publicly and proudly touts signatures from Scott "the gay movement is a nuclear bomb" Lively, someone who this year earned considerable attention for his belief that the Uganda "kill gays" bill is a "step in the right direction."

(B) Two other people listed on the Manhattan Declaration's "Religious leader's [sic] signatories" list are Peter Akinola, a man who says "homosexuality does violence to nature", and Rev. Emmanuel Musaba Kolini, who has referred to homosexuality as "moral genocide."

(C) Major Declaration backer Tony Perkins has come right out and said the document represents "a struggle between good and evil." Hint: We're not the ones he puts in the "good"category:


Perkins.mpg [YT user: ptrvns47]

(D) Five SPLC-designated hate groups (Traditional Values Coalition, Abiding Truth Ministries, American Family Association, Family Research Council, Watchmen on the Walls) have at least one associate on one of the two signatories lists. Now, of course the "pro-family" folks are all attacking the SPLC as being agenda-driven and therefore without credence. But not a one of them has even attempted to (much less succeeded at) refuting the documented claims that got these groups on the highly selective list. Which is particularly odd, considering it'd be in the outraged non-listees' interests to note that SPLC does make careful distinctions. But I digress.

(E) The most major voice behind the Declaration, Chuck Colson, has all kinds of nasty, hurtful comments on the record that more than belie NOM's "reasonable and civil debate" claims. Like the time Chuck warned about gays' marriages leading to "Cultural Armageddon," for instance:

Or when he compared Manhattan Declaration supporters' mission as constituting "non-cooperation with evil," for another:

"This kind of principled non-cooperation with evil won’t be easy—there are signs of a reduced tolerance for that most basic of American values, religious freedom. As we’ve discussed many times on BreakPoint, Christian organizations are losing tax-exempt status for refusing to buy in to homosexual “marriage.” Some are going out of business rather than cave into immoral demands—such as placing children for adoption with homosexual couples. Conscientious medical personnel are being sued or being fired for obeying their consciences.

I say, enough is enough. The Church must take a stand. And with the release of the Manhattan Declaration, that’s exactly what we are doing."
The Manhattan Declaration

Or perhaps our favorite: The time when Chuckles admitted just how he sees the tens of thousands of soul-crushed people who took to the streets in the national, almost entirely peaceful protests against Proposition 8

"When I watched the violence on television, memories came back of earlier generations of thugs: Bull Conner, who, with the help of brutal cops, used violence and intimidation to chase African Americans out of the public square. Or roving gangs of Nazi brownshirts who ruled the streets of Germany during Hitler’s rise to power. Do opponents of Proposition 8 who attacked Mormons and their churches think they’re any better than Bull Conner, or nicer than Nazi thugs? I don’t." [SOURCE]

Civil, huh?

(F) The app in question was also offensive to "reasonable and civil debate" on a purely intellectual level, with the in-app survey pretending to query users on their support for marriage equality and reproductive choice, but then proceeding to tell them they were just plain incorrect if they fell out of evangelical lock-step. If we want to talk about 1984, let's start with this "agree with us or else" survey.

(G) The Declaration repeats (as did the app) the oft-bastardized claim:

"In New Jersey, after the establishment of a quasi-marital “civil unions” scheme, a Methodist institution was stripped of its tax exempt status when it declined, as a matter of religious conscience, to permit a facility it owned and operated to be used for ceremonies blessing homosexual unions."

The reality is that the church pavilion was receiving a SPECIAL tax benefit under the Green Acres tax-exemption. This tax break was always a bonus -- a privilege bestowed upon eligible non-profits that open their private lands and/or accommodations up for public usage. Public, as in ALL of the public, not some. And since LGBT people are part of New Jersey's public and civil unions are the law, A PUBLIC ACCOMMODATION MUST EITHER ACCOMMODATE THE PUBLIC OR STOP RECEIVING THESE KINDS OF PUBLIC HANDOUTS! A church can ABSOLUTELY keep gay couples from marrying in their own pavilion. However, they cannot receive special state, federal, and local tax breaks if they are going to pick and choose which kinds of couples are allowed to use the pavilion! In this NJ case, they still received the tax-exemption for the rest of their properties, which weren't found to be in violation. But the pavilion in question was acting outside the rules for this particular state program.

(H) The Declaration refers to gays who are seeking civil fairness as really seeking "a right to engage in immoral sexual practices."

(I) need not say more. Apple is not the American government with the power to stifle free speech -- it is a company with its own right to make its own decisions. The technology behemoth pulled the app not because they or gays are out to shut down speech, but rather because gay activists gave attention and light to the offenses contained within the app and larger Declaration, and Apple saw fit to make a corporate decision that led to the app's removal. The merits (or lack thereof) are what did the Declaration supporters in.

But of course, yet again, these same supporters take no responsibility for what they have said and done, since the victim strategy makes them seem so much more sympathetic. Or so they think.

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