Campaigning for the Manhattan Declaration
Political Advocacy Tracker is a roundup of what Christian activist organizations have been talking about over the last week.
The Manhattan Declaration is nearly one year old. The ecumenical document now has over 475,000 signatories who affirm that Christians need to take a stand on three issues: sanctity of life, traditional marriage, and religious liberty. Despite the economy, political activists continue to put these issues at the top of their agenda this campaign season.
Sanctity of life got some attention this week as President Obama responded to a question on late-term abortions. "There are a whole host of laws on the books that after a certain period, the interests shift such that you can have some restrictions, for example, on late-term abortions, and appropriately so," he said. (Obama has repeatedly said states can restrict late-term abortions, but has also repeatedly opposed specific legislation on the matter.)
In the same discussion, Obama discussed his faith. "I'm a Christian by choice," Obama said. "I came to my Christian faith later in life and it was because the precepts of Jesus Christ spoke to me in terms of the kind of life that I would want to lead. … We achieve salvation through the grace of God, but what we can do, as flawed as we are, is still see God in other people and do our best to help them find … their own grace. And so that's what I strive to do."
"The man we know as President may be a 'Christian by choice'—but he's far better known as the leader of a movement about 'choice.' And while his salvation may be deeply private, his agenda to advance abortion has been anything but," said Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council.
"He has a vastly different understanding of biblical truth than I do," Perkins said. "Funneling billions of American dollars to the killers of innocent unborn life—life created by God and in His image—is not an 'expression' of the Christian faith, or most other faiths for that matter. It's a horrifying government-funded massacre."
Abortion may be a top priority for social conservatives, but it was barely mentioned in the Republican leadership's "Pledge to America," the GOP's most recent statement on its agenda.
CitizenLink's Tom Minnery called the Pledge "a good document," even though he would have wanted more on social issues. He was pleased that the document addresses federal funding of abortion. The Republicans said they would make the ban against federal funding of abortion permanent (it is currently voted upon annually) and make the ban against abortion funding in the health care bill law (it is banned through an executive order).
Minnery was less impressed with the Pledge's discussion of marriage, which was limited to a brief listing in the preamble. According to Minnery, "Republicans in Washington are scared of this issue."
Asked why, Minnery responded, "It's an ugly issue. The opponents, the gay activists, will call you hateful, homophobic, rightwing, fanatical. And The Washington Post and The New York Times editorials will call you something less than that, but not much less than that. Although they'll do it more politely."
Minnery said that he would like to see a marriage amendment to the Constitution. "But I have to tell you, even the conservatives in Congress don't have the stomach to put God's definition of marriage in the U.S. Constitution," said Minnery. "That's a fight for a later day, but that fight is coming."
For many conservatives, the battle over gay rights and marriage is an issue of religious liberty, but this week activists from the left, right, and middle joined together to take on the issue of religious liberty head-on. At issue was whether faith-based charities would be permitted to continue religion-based hiring.