NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Signers of the Manhattan Declaration — a Christian document at the heart of a growing controversy — have resubmitted a tweaked “app” to Apple in hopes that the company will approve it after pulling an earlier version from its iPhone/iPad app store.
Chuck Colson, one of the three drafters of the 4,700-word document, said the proposed app has only the wording of the Manhattan Declaration itself and does not include a series of four introductory survey questions, as did the earlier app. Among those questions was “do you support same-sex relationships?” and “do you support the right of choice regarding abortion?”
“In reading some of the blogs and press on the Manhattan Declaration app, we understand that one element of the app, the poll, seemed particularly offensive to those who asked for the app’s removal,” Colson said in a statement. “As a sign of goodwill, we have removed the poll and have resubmitted the app without it.”
Colson and others say the declaration is simply a summary of Christian beliefs on life, marriage and religious liberty. Nevertheless, Apple pulled it from its app store in late November, saying it “violates our developer guidelines by being offensive to large groups of people.”
Colson was among the 150 evangelical, Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox leaders who signed the declaration last year in an event that drew wide mainstream media coverage. In addition to Colson, other signers included James Dobson, Richard Land, R. Albert Mohler Jr., and Timothy Dolan — the new head of the U.S. Council on Catholic Bishops. More than 480,000 other people have signed it.
The app allowed owners of iPhones and iPads to read and sign the document with ease. The app was free. There are more than 200,000 apps in the app store. (“App” is short for “application” and is another name for a software program.)
Apple originally gave the app a rating of 4+ — meaning “no objectionable content” — but changed its mind after roughly 7,700 people at the liberal website Change.org e-mailed Apple and asked the company to remove the app. The Change.org webpage had argued that “supporters of equal rights and the right of women to control their own bodies” must stand together.
Meanwhile, more than 45,000 people have signed an online petition at ManhattanDeclaration.org asking Apple to reinstate the app.
Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said Apple is within its rights to remove the app but that the company’s position is a blow to civil discourse.
“The positions espoused in the Manhattan Declaration are based on biblical Christianity and affirmed by nearly half a million Christians representing dozens of denominations,” Land wrote in a Baptist Press column. “The declaration does not promote hate or homophobia. Instead, the declaration proclaims that all human beings are loved by God and are worthy of respect. As one of the original editors and signers, I am more aware than most of the extraordinary efforts that were expended to make the Manhattan Declaration as positive, winsome and engaging as possible, without sacrificing conviction.”
Land added, “It is sadly ironic that a document written out of a growing unease about very real efforts in the culture ‘to marginalize the Christian voice in the public square, to redefine marriage, and to move away from the biblical view of the sanctity of life’ has itself been marginalized by Apple.”
The Manhattan Declaration included a summary paragraph stating:
“[W]e 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.”
Regarding homosexuals, the declaration said, “We have compassion for those so disposed; we respect them as human beings possessing profound, inherent, and equal dignity; and we pay tribute to the men and women who strive, often with little assistance, to resist the temptation to yield to desires that they, no less than we, regard as wayward. We stand with them, even when they falter. We, no less than they, are sinners who have fallen short of God’s intention for our lives. We, no less than they, are in constant need of God’s patience, love and forgiveness. We call on the entire Christian community to resist sexual immorality, and at the same time refrain from disdainful condemnation of those who yield to it.”
Colson wrote a column for the San Francisco Chronicle asserting that “if the Manhattan Declaration’s positions are offensive,” then “so are those of mainstream Christianity for the past 2,000 years.”
“If the Manhattan Declaration’s positions alone are enough to have its app removed, then I have to wonder whether Apple is considering removing other Bible-based — or even Jewish or Islamic — apps from its store,” Colson wrote. “Apple has every right to decide what to offer in its app store and what not to offer. But it is chilling that such a culture-shaping company would so quickly take sides in a debate.”
Michael Foust is an assistant editor of Baptist Press. Read the Manhattan Declaration and sign the petition to reinstate it at ManhattanDeclaration.org.