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Manhattan Declaration Petitions Apple After Being Stripped of iPhone Application

By Billy Atwell
December 3rd, 2010
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

56 Catholic Bishops and Cardinals signed the Manhattan Declaration, a call of Christian conscience, taking a stand for life, marriage, and religious liberty. 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.

WASHINGTON DC (Catholic Online) - In early October of this year, the Manhattan Declaration, a "Call of Christian conscience," signed by some of the most prominent Catholic, Orthodox, and Evangelical Protestant leaders including 56 Catholic Bishops and Cardinals, launched an iPhone/iPad application for its followers.

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, Apple discreetly removed the application from its iTunes Store with no warning or reason given to Manhattan Declaration leaders. Further perplexing many Christians, when Apple developers first accepted the application for the iTunes Store, the company rated it 4+, which means it displayed "no objectionable material."

The application allowed signers, which now breach 478,000 individuals, to sign the declaration, read the 4732-word document, post and share events and take a quiz testing the reader's knowledge of orthodox Christian teaching on the issues of sanctity of life, dignity of marriage, and religious liberty.

The application - or "app" as they are commonly called - 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."

After several days with no response from Apple, reporters were finally able to pull a statement out of the corporate monolith of Apple headquarters.  The media team at Apple responded by saying, "it [the Manhattan Declaration app] violates our developer guidelines by being offensive to large groups of people." If the application offered no objectionable material, than why did Apple remove it for being offensive to a relatively small group of people?

Catholic blogger Matthew Warner blogged today about this story with the title "Apple Finds Christianity Offensive To Large Groups of People, Removes App."  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."

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."  They are also calling on Manhattan Declaration signers to call Apple and email Steve Jobs, voicing their disagreement.

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."

The website also asks its signers to "reject 'disdainful condemnation" and "declares that all people are worthy of respect, because all are loved by God."

If the Manhattan Declaration uses Biblical and classically Christian language to articulate an orthodox Christian belief, as Warner indicates, then do Bible apps, Christian apps of various sorts, and other applications pose an equal threat of being "offensive to large groups of people?"

[Editor's Note: Catholic Online strongly supports the Manhattan Declaration. Our Editor-in-Chief is a signatory. We stand in solidarity with this call for reinstatement. We ask our readers to do the same. We call upon Steve Jobs and Apple to restore access to this application. To selectively exclude orthodox Christian expression is not only discriminatory, but fails to recognize that disagreement, when expressed with civility and respect, is a hallmark of authentic freedom.  Selective discrimination against Christians is not.]

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Billy Atwell contributes to Catholic Online, and blogs for The Point and the Manhattan Declaration. As a young lay Catholic and two-time cancer survivor he offers commentary on faith, culture, and politics. You can find all of his writings at For the Greater Glory.

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