On Nov. 20, Orthodox, Catholic and evangelical leaders in the United States set a splendid example for their counterparts in Canada by issuing the Manhattan Declaration – a ringing statement of resolve to resist the growing subversion of the moral order and the suppression of freedom of religion by secular zealots in legislatures, governments and the courts.
Included among the 178 dignitaries who have signed this historic document is virtually every major, theologically orthodox Catholic and evangelical leader in the United States, from Most Rev. Timothy Dolan, the Catholic archbishop of New York, to Chuck Colson, the evangelical founder of Prison Fellowship Ministries. While avowing that “the whole scope of Christian moral concern, including a special concern for the poor and vulnerable, claims our attention,” the signatories jointly affirm: “We are especially troubled that in our nation today, the lives of the unborn, the disabled and the elderly are severely threatened; that the institution of marriage, already buffeted by promiscuity, infidelity and divorce, is in jeopardy of being redefined to accommodate fashionable ideologies; that freedom of religion and the rights of conscience are gravely jeopardized by those who would use the instruments of coercion to compel persons of faith to compromise their deepest convictions.”
These problems, of course, are no less acute in Canada. Thanks to the arbitrary ruling of the Supreme Court of Canada in Morgentaler (1988), Canada, to its shame, is the only democracy in the world where an abortionist can legally kill a baby in the womb for any reason and at any time during a pregnancy, right up to the last second before birth.
Currently, secular ideologues in the Parliament of Canada are pressing for the legalization of euthanasia. It’s difficult to imagine any legislation that would pose a more severe threat to the lives of elderly and disabled Canadians.
In December, the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench overturned a ruling by the province’s human rights tribunal that fined former youth minister Stephen Boissoin $5,000 for expressing his views on homosexuality in a letter to the editor of the Red Deer Advocate. Nonetheless, faithful Christians should beware: the oppressive provision in the Alberta human rights code that was at issue in this case remains in effect and could still be used against anyone who dares to insist that all sexual intercourse outside of marriage between a man and a woman is sinful.
Besides, the freedom of Canadians to act on their Christian convictions is under even greater threat than their freedom to speak. In an outrageous submission to the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons, the Ontario Human Rights Commission has warned: “A physician’s denial of services or refusal to provide a woman with information relating to contraception or abortion, for example, would be discriminatory based on sex.”
With this statement, the commission has served notice that pro-life physicians in Ontario who refuse on principle to participate in the commission of an abortion could be fined by the commission and ultimately jailed by the courts for allegedly discriminating against women on the basis of sex.
With the praiseworthy exception of Calgary Bishop Fred Henry and a few other outspoken stalwarts, most Catholic and evangelical leaders in Canada have had little to say in public about the mounting attacks on freedom of religion and the traditional moral order. In splendid contrast, their counterparts in the United States have not only reaffirmed their commitment to religious liberty, the sanctity of human life and marriage as the God-ordained conjugal union of man and woman, but have also solemnly stated in the Manhattan Declaration: “We pledge to each other, and to our fellow believers, that no power on earth, be it cultural or political, will intimidate us into silence or acquiescence. It is our duty to proclaim the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in its fullness, both in season and out of season. May God help us not to fail in that duty.”
J. I. Packer, the distinguished, theologically orthodox Anglican professor of theology at Vancouver’s Regent University, has signed on to the Manhattan Declaration. Would that all of the faithful leaders among Canadian Catholics and evangelicals issue a similar declaration of Christian conviction for Canada.