'Christian' Manifesto Comparing Liberals to Nazis Gathers Signatures of Religious Right Leaders -- and Catholic Bishops
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Religious right leaders are making a concerted push to gain thousands of new signatures for their "Manhattan Declaration," a manifesto released late last year by about 150 conservative Christian leaders. The document, signed by such religious-right heavy-hitters as Focus on the Family eminence James Dobson and Prison Fellowship Ministries leader Chuck Colson, compares pro-choice advocates to eugenicists (and implicitly to Nazis) and equates same-sex marriage with polygamy and a gateway to legalized incest. Its authors promise to defy any law that does not comport with their religious beliefs. Joining the religious right's Protestant leaders as signatories to the declaration are four Roman Catholic bishops, including those presiding over the powerful archdioceses of New York and Washington, DC.
Described by New York Times religion reporter Laurie Goodstein as "an effort to rejuvenate the political alliance of conservative Catholics and evangelicals that dominated the religious debate during the administration of President George W. Bush," declaration authors initially set a target for a million signatures by December 1. Although they fell well short of that goal, they claimed at press time to have gathered more than 419,000 signatures and have redoubled their efforts to add more names.
The American Family Association made the Manhattan Declaration the centerpiece of a January fundraising letter, urging members to sign the document, warning of the grave threat from "the anti-family/anti-religious radicals who control the White House and Congress." Focus on the Family posted a note on its "Action Center" on January 14. And several U.S. Catholic bishops -- Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia, Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, and Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville -- are urging their fellow bishops to preach about the declaration, get signatures from the faithful and use the document as an organizing vehicle.
If You're Not With Us, You're a Lot Like a Nazi
Supporters of legal access to abortion and supporters of physician-assisted suicide are described in the 4,700-word manifesto as "those who today assert a right to kill the unborn, aged and disabled." The declaration goes on to link reproductive rights and death-with-dignity advocates with the early-20th-century eugenicists whose notions fueled the murderous Nazi ideology of genetic purity. From the declaration:
Eugenic notions such as the doctrine of lebensunwertes Leben ("life unworthy of life") were first advanced in the 1920s by intellectuals in the elite salons of America and Europe. Long buried in ignominy after the horrors of the mid-20th century, they have returned from the grave. The only difference is that now the doctrines of the eugenicists are dressed up in the language of "liberty," "autonomy," and "choice."
In other words, the declaration suggests the only difference between Nazi master-race theorists and today's pro-choice and death-with-dignity advocates is rhetorical.
Similar respect is accorded to same-sex couples and those who support them. The declaration never mentions same-sex relationships without pairing them with polyamorous relationships or incest, a fact reflected in the headline of an Associated Press story (as it appears on Edge, an LGBT Web site) about the declaration: "Evangelicals, Catholics: Gay Marriage Paves the Way to Incest." That, along with the well-documented anti-gay histories of many signers, makes it hard to take seriously the document's assertion that it is " love (not ‘animus') and prudent concern for the common good (not ‘prejudice')" that is motivating the signers' pledge to resist and defy laws that recognize civil marriage equality.
For the declaration's authors, the concept of civil union seems worthy of contempt. "No one has a civil right to have a non-marital relationship treated as a marriage," they write -- echoing sentiments found on the site of the Conference of Catholic Bishops explaining the church's opposition to any legal recognition of same-sex relationships: "We strongly oppose any legislative and judicial attempts, both at state and federal levels, to grant same-sex unions the equivalent status and rights of marriage -- by naming them marriage, civil unions, or by other means."