Social communications is about the exchange of information and ideas. There’s not a lot of censorship (examples abound), except when some ideas are restricted by those who disagree. The democracy of the internet stops at the threshold of its powerbrokers. Like Steve Jobs, who was coerced to pull the plug on direct access to…what?

The Manhattan Declaration, ‘A Call to Christian Conscience.’ This is what they’re about:

Christians, when they have lived up to the highest ideals of their faith, have defended the weak and vulnerable and worked tirelessly to protect and strengthen vital institutions of civil society, beginning with the family. It was in this tradition that a group of prominent Christian clergy, ministry leaders, and scholars released the Manhattan Declaration on November 20, 2009 at a press conference in Washington, DC. The 4,700-word declaration speaks in defense of the sanctity of life, traditional marriage, and religious liberty. It issues a clarion call to Christians to adhere firmly to their convictions in these three areas.

However, the marketplace of ideas….even in boundless cyberspace….is limited by those who have the power to do so.  Like Apple.

The Declaration launched an iPhone/iPad application for its near 500,000 signers in early October with a 4+ rating, which means that it contains “no objectionable material,” according to Apple. The application mysteriously vanished from the iTunes Store after a vocal group of opponents petitioned Apple. Manhattan Declaration supporters call for reinstatement of the application.

Vocal is the key, because it was a relative small group of anti-Christians who could not tolerate the existence of an app that contains beliefs they found intolerant. Huh?

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, Apple discreetly removed the application from its iTunes Store with no warning or reason given to Manhattan Declaration leaders…

The application…was removed after Change.org, a progressive website supporting abortion and homosexuality, issued a petition to its followers asking Apple to remove the application, claiming the Manhattan Declaration “is offensive to Americans who support equality and free choice.” The petition also said, “The Manhattan Declaration application exists to collect signatures on a website which espouses hateful and divisive language.”

They obviously haven’t read it. It’s easier to throw around charges of hate and divisiveness and put the accused on the defensive.

Catholic blogger Matthew Warner…points out that Change.org only gathered 7000+ petitioners.  Is that a large group, compared to the nearly 500,000 Manhattan Declaration signers?

Warner also writes, “Apple is making a huge mistake choosing to make this entirely traditional and innocuous declaration their example of what constitutes “offensive to large groups of people.”  Not only because the language used in the Manhattan Declaration is more civil and has been more thoughtfully chosen than that used in just about any other app, but mostly because of what they are calling so offensive: Christianity. There is nothing in the Manhattan Declaration that isn’t completely in line with Christian teaching. To call it offensive is to call Christianity offensive.”

And that’s what they’re doing.

Showing equal frustration to having the app pulled, the Manhattan Declaration leadership has voiced concern that a small group of opponents are able to sway the opinion of a multi-billion dollar company with lies about their intent.  Their website blog reads, “We emphasize with great sincerity that “disagreement” is not “gay-bashing.”  Anyone who takes the time to read the Manhattan Declaration can see that the language used to defend traditional marriage, the sanctity of human life, and religious liberty is civil, non-inflammatory, and respectful.”

So…

The three primary drafters of the declaration–Chuck Colson, Dr. Robert George, and Dr. Timothy George–sent a letter to Steve Jobs, President of Apple Inc, on Monday with no response. The Manhattan Declaration has since launched a petition and social media campaign to make all orthodox Christians aware of what Apple has done through Twitter and Facebook.

The petition says, in part, “Civil discourse is a hallmark of a civilized and free society. Disagreement is not hate. We urge you and Apple, therefore, to promote communication and civil dialogue on these important social issues by reinstating the Manhattan Declaration App.”

Denying access to ideas that small groups oppose does not shut down the debate, it only reveals their inability to reasonably engage it.

Here’s for civility and a lively and strong arena of ideas in a global community so (otherwise) appreciative of Apple’s (usual) brilliance. Last time I checked, the petition to restore the Manhattan Declaration app had 36,332 signers, and rapidly climbing (just click refresh to see). It doesn’t take a math app to figure how many more than 7,000 that is.

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....