By Kathleen Gilbert

WASHINGTON, D.C., November 20, 2009 ( – A group of prominent Christian leaders and scholars unveiled a manifesto Friday declaring firm opposition to current and future laws infringing upon the sanctity of life, marriage, faith, and liberty.

The 4,700-word “Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience” was drafted by Dr. Robert George, Dr. Timothy George and Chuck Colson and signed by more than 125 Orthodox, Catholic and evangelical Christian leaders, including Focus on the Family Dr. James Dobson and National Association of Evangelicals president Leith Anderson. 15 Roman Catholic bishops, including Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York and Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., were among the signatories.

The declaration issues a clarion call to Christians to adhere to their convictions and informs civil authorities that the signers will not – under any circumstance – abandon their Christian consciences.

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“We are Christians who have joined together across historic lines of ecclesial differences to affirm our right – and, more importantly, to embrace our obligation – to speak and act in defense of these truths,” reads the 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.”

The document lays out the groups’ arguments against anti-life, anti-family, and anti-religious public policy as contravening “foundational principles of justice and the common good,” in defense of which the group says they are “compelled by our Christian faith to speak and act.”

In asserting Christians’ right to conscientious objection to such policy, the declaration says it is “ironic” that those who advance as “rights” various immoral practices “are very often in the vanguard of those who would trample upon the freedom of others to express their religious and moral commitments to the sanctity of life and to the dignity of marriage.”

“Because we honor justice and the common good, we will not comply with any edict that purports to compel our institutions 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, as we know it, about morality and immorality and marriage and the family,” it concludes.

“We will fully and ungrudgingly render to Caesar what is Caesar’s. But under no circumstances will we render to Caesar what is God’s.”

Co-author Timothy George, who is founding dean of Beeson Divinity School of Samford University and a senior editor of Christianity Today, said the Manhattan Declaration “represents an ecumenism of the trenches that has been going on for a number of years among many denominations and confessional traditions.”

“While we recognize that many important differences of doctrine and discipline still divide us, we nonetheless earnestly seek that unity for which Jesus prayed when he asked that his disciples be one in their love for God, for one another, and for the world,” said George.

On his radio show BreakPoint Wednesday, Evangelical leader Chuck Colson called the Manhattan Declaration “probably the most important document I’ve ever signed.”