We believe that the Manhattan Declaration is dangerous because it attempts to legitimize and enshrine bigotry and needs to be vigorously confronted and refuted. We have therefore written a counter declaration and ask you to do three things: read it, sign it, and solicit your friends to do likewise.
We make a special appeal to people of faith to speak out against hatred masked as righteousness and to come to the defense of women and Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, Bisexual and Intersex people. We ask you to affirm the separation of church and state and to help reclaim the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.
We the undersigned stand implacably opposed to the following: the hatred of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) people; violations of the separation of church and state; discriminatory attacks upon abortion rights and upon the rights of transgender and intersex people to own and control their bodies; and attempts to hijack the legacy of Martin Luther King and other Civil Rights heroes to serve bigotry and discrimination.
OPPOSITION TO EQUAL RIGHTS IS BIGOTRY
Right-wing Christian church leaders are seeking to impose a narrow set of religious dogmas on the rest of our society.
The latest salvo in their mean-spirited crusade is the Manhattan Declaration, a call to destroy civil rights' protections for LGBT Americans and end abortion rights for women. They would impose a narrow "Judeo-Christian" bias on civil society, and they have the chutzpah to wrap themselves in the mantle of Martin Luther King, who opposed unjust laws through civil disobedience.
We the undersigned hereby adopt a counter declaration of principles, one that rejects all homophobic and transphobic intrusions into the lives of LGBT people and efforts by the state or anyone else to control our bodies. We invite our readers, if you are of like mind and no matter what your sexual affections, to sign our declaration as well.
Our nation has a diverse society that includes millions of LGBT inhabitants. We will NOT tolerate discrimination and hate masked as religious rhetoric; this is bigotry masquerading as righteousness. Just as we are not silent when bigotry and discrimination thunders from the political podium, so, unlike many LGBT "leaders," we do not shrink from condemning the same bigotry and discrimination when they hide behind stained glass windows, priestly robes, and the pulpit.
We reject the shopworn tactic of bigoted Christians employing Biblical passages to justify discrimination against LGBT people while at the same time decrying any angry opposition from its victims as an attack on their so-called "religious freedom." There is no Constitutionally-protected "freedom to discriminate" against gays any more than there is to discriminate against African Americans, women, or Jews.
Civil rights belong to everyone. Rest assured, we will meet all efforts wherever they are made to roll back LGBT civil and human rights with relentless force.
This nation is not a theocracy. The famous "establishment clause" of the First Amendment to the Constitution built a wall to separate church from state. It is a barrier that desperately needs repairing in order to prevent religious tyranny by bands of Christian believers who seek to make their beliefs the law of the land and thereby impose on the rest of us beliefs we do not share.
It is true that this nation has an historical debt to a minority of religious believers―farsighted and brave Christians, unorthodox and often unpopular in their day―who helped play significant roles in abolishing slavery, obtaining the vote for women, fighting unjust wars, ending child labor, leading the Civil Rights movement―the list goes on. Many times those remarkable Christians met with objections from their own brothers and sisters within the Christian community who championed interpreting the Bible in ways that divided the human family and maintained a traditional, yet evil and oppressive, status quo.
It needs remembering that every system of oppression in the United States has had a religiously sanctioned pillar to uphold and defend it. Through the years, many a preacher or priest has provided that pillar by urging that, “according to the Bible,” black slaves should obey white slaveholders, husbands should have authority over their wives, and it is a sin for workers to strike. Today there are “social-conservative” Christian leaders who conveniently choose to ignore this history or even deny it.
Fortunately, our society has made progress. Slavery has ended. Women can vote. Workers can strike. But, even with the rebirth of a robust feminist movement in the 1960s and '70s, marriage is one area meeting stubborn resistance. Of course, when the Supreme Court struck down anti-miscegenation laws in 1967, it settled the matter that marriage, to quote its decision, is one of the “’basic civil rights of man,’ fundamental to our very existence and survival.” However, President Obama, who as a Constitutional scholar should stand for full civil rights, cynically uses the excuse of his "spiritual beliefs" to oppose equal marriage rights for a whole group of citizens. Let's be clear: Stopping LGBT people from marrying is pure bigotry. In addition, allowing a popular vote to decide a civil rights issue affecting millions of Americans mocks everything the Constitution signifies.
But none of this bothers many Christian leaders who, worried that they may lose the vote on same-sex marriage, frighten an ill-informed public by fabricating imaginary calamities, from pedophilia in the schools to the "destruction" of heterosexual marriage. What these Christians leaders deny is that today many loving partners, heterosexuals as well as gays, have created a variety of enriching spousal arrangements that would be banned if reactionary, so-called "marriage traditionalists" have their way. They also ignore that marriage has evolved into a more just and humane institution over time. Otherwise, we might still have that type of “traditional marriage” in which a wife’s person, income, inheritance, and children were the property of her husband. (In fact, it is hard to escape the conclusion that the secret wish of these advocates of "traditional marriage" is precisely a return to a time when women and children were no better than chattel).
Along with advocating a repressive brand of “traditional marriage,” these same Christian leaders wish to dictate what a woman can do with her body. They are “pro-life” on behalf of the fetus though they are conspicuously and notoriously silent about the quality of life of the mother and about that of her children (one in five of whom lives in poverty in the United States ). They deny loving homes to children in need based upon the sexual orientation of the adoptive parents. The duplicity of their "pro-life" position is also underscored when it comes to their full and open support of U.S. wars and the death penalty for "capital crimes."
We believe a woman’s body is her own. She has a right to abortion on demand. The state has no business telling her what she should do with her body; the choice is, and should be, solely hers. We also believe that transgender persons have the right to modify their bodies in any way they see fit and deserve the same full civil rights as everybody else. Further, we support the right of sexual autonomy for all intersex children―those born neither unambiguously male nor female. We oppose all non-consensual and medically unnecessary “normalization” treatments that attempt to force infants to fit into stereotypical gender categories.
In addition to opposing a woman's right to abortion on demand and pathologizing the desires of transgender people and the bodies of intersex children, all in an effort to deny them their full rights, these bigots also oppose genuine sex education in our secondary schools and the passing out of condoms there. They push "abstinence only" as the single "morally correct" response to the often overwhelming sexual urges of adolescents. This is their irresponsible substitute for sex education, and the results―amply verified wherever "abstinence only" holds sway―are an increase in the unwanted pregnancies that lead to the very abortions these Christian leaders abhor.
Martin Luther King was one of the greatest Americans of the last century. He took courageous stands in defense of equal housing, equal employment opportunity, equal voting rights, and equal access to public accommodations. He opposed the Vietnam War when it was very unpopular to do so. He took great risks and paid for doing so with his life. The Christian leaders who claim to appropriate King's legacy of civil disobedience against laws that discriminate are not taking any risks that will get them killed or even jeopardize their careers.
But they are on the wrong side of history. Coretta Scott King, the best interpreter of her husband’s legacy, spoke eloquently in 1998 that "[I]njustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere" and that it is a part of "Martin Luther King, Jr.'s dream to make room at the table of brotherhood and sisterhood for lesbian and gay people." Those Christian leaders who are abusing King's legacy in a disgraceful effort to adorn their hate and intolerance with legitimacy are not only besmirching a great American's reputation. They are also betraying the great tradition he did so much to further: Facing down power with courage and standing with the wronged and oppressed in society.
While death squads operate with impunity against gays in Iraq , leaders in Uganda were inspired by prominent American Christian bigots who attended a conference there in 2009, to initiate legislation that will imprison LGBT people for life and make it a crime for Ugandan citizens, including parents and teachers, to fail to report suspected gays and lesbians to the authorities. In view of the firestorm of worldwide protest, many of these Christian leaders now wish to distance themselves from the Ugandan anti-gay leaders they influenced and deny responsibility for the latter's draconian plans for LGBT people. However, if history has taught us anything, it is that once you ride the tiger of hate and discrimination against a minority, the end of the journey is the demonization of that minority and state-sanctioned torture and murder of its members.
About homosexuals and homosexuality, these cynically sanctimonious Christian leaders are fond of saying that they “love the sinner but hate the sin.” But those are just slick words used by bigots to sugar-coat their public message. (The same type of chauvinist bigots used to say things like, “We love women, as long as they stay in the kitchen.”) Make no mistake, anti-gay prejudice is as poisonous, pervasive, and ugly as racism, sexism and anti-semitism. And make no mistake, these church leaders claim to speak for all "right-thinking" Christians.
We therefore call upon leaders and congregants within Christian and other communities of faith, as well as people of conscience and goodwill everywhere, to stand up and be heard in your churches, cathedrals, temples, mosques, and elsewhere. As the leaders and congregants of the churches in Nazi Germany learned to their everlasting shame, silence is complicity. It is time to speak up and take a stand.
But the question is: Will you stand with the bigots and the haters who currently may have the majority on their side? Or will you stand and link arms with us? You must decide whether to back the forces of ignorance, discrimination, and hate, or join us in word and deed to advance equality and justice for all.
What would King have you do?
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