Free Speech... Except on an iPhone?

The Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience was issued in 2009 by leaders in Catholic and Orthodox and Evangelical church to affirm support for “the sanctity of life, traditional marriage, and religious liberty.” The drafting committee included Chuck Colson,  Princeton law professor Robert P. George and Beeson Divinity School dean Timothy George. The document (according to a recent article by Colson) has been signed by more than half a million Christians. The document is a respectful and well-written proclamation of the commitment of the signers to promote the sanctity of all human life, to uphold marriage as holy matrimony between a man and a woman, and to strive preserve the liberty of Christians who seek to live their religious convictions.

Read the document carefully. I don't believe there is anything in this that is different from the views held by believers in Christ from the time of the first century onward—life is to be revered, marriage is to be upheld as sacred, and faith is to be lived out in the lives of the faithful. At the end of the document there is something of all call to “civil disobedience,” but the scope of that call is the commitment not to allow Christians institutions (hospitals, schools, churches) to be forced “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.”

So why bring this up? An article by Chuck Colson in the San Francisco Chronicle on Tuesday reported that Apple had pulled the Manhattan Declaration app from its app store for the iPhone and iPad. The app had received a 4-plus rating from Apple (meaning it was free from objectionable content), but some advocates of same-sex marriage complained to Apple, saying that the Manhattan Declaration promoted hate speech and homophobia. Well, we can’t have that, and so Apple pulled the app from the app store. Colson writes, “It was a triumph of political correctness and ad hominem attack over civil discourse. And I am saddened - and very concerned - that a pioneering company like Apple, whose products are used by untold millions to interact and communicate, chose to shut down the dialogue over one of the defining cultural issues of our time.”

In case you didn't catch the code here, let me refresh your memory. When I disagree with someone’s views on health care reform, campaign finance reform, or the BCS championship, we simply just disagree. But if I disagree with homosexual marriage, then I am a hate-mongering homophobic. And that is not much of an exaggeration. To simply say that you are opposed to homosexual practice and marriage is, in the eyes of some, hate speech.  Here is the paragraph from the Manhattan Declaration that was accused of hate speech and homophobia—

We acknowledge that there are those who are disposed towards homosexual and polyamorous conduct and relationships, just as there are those who are disposed towards other forms of immoral conduct. 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. Our rejection of sin, though resolute, must never become the rejection of sinners. For every sinner, regardless of the sin, is loved by God, who seeks not our destruction but rather the conversion of our hearts. Jesus calls all who wander from the path of virtue to "a more excellent way." As his disciples we will reach out in love to assist all who hear the call and wish to answer it.

That's hateful stuff, isn't it!  By the way, the word “polyamorous” is defined as “ the practice, desire, or acceptance of having more than one intimate relationship at a time."  So if stating that Christians are opposed to homosexuality is hate speech, then it is also hate speech to suggest that we are opposed to sleeping around. We just hate everybody, don’t we?

The secular culture doesn’t have a problem with our Christian beliefs… and long as those beliefs are neither seen not heard. That means you can’t put the Manhattan Declaration in an app so you can you can choose to read it on your iPhone. Of course, the issue isn't the Apple app store. Apple has a long whimsical history of approving, disapproving and re-approving apps The issue isn’t even whether or not minority views can be expressed or expounded in the public arena. The issue is whether or not the majority view (most Americans do oppose homosexual marriage) can be expressed in the public arena in a respectful and reserved matter when those views are opposed to the wishes of the thought police. Colson ends his article—

There is something more at stake here than whether Apple hosts a particular app; whether or not we are capable as a society of maintaining the free marketplace of ideas. Because the open and civil exchange of ideas is essential to democracy and a free society. The kind of society that has produced entrepreneurial geniuses like Jobs.