LOPEZ: Many who signed the declaration are politically conservative. And yet you don the cloak of a Christian tradition of “proclaiming God’s word, seeking justice in our societies, resisting tyranny, and reaching out with compassion to the poor, oppressed, and suffering.” Conservatives aren’t exactly known for such things. though. Should they be? Are those who signed the declaration doing anything to change the perception?
GEORGE: Actually, not all of the signatories are conservatives. Ron Sider, for example, who leads Evangelicals for Social Action, is an unabashed liberal. On matters of economics and foreign policy, he would be more comfortable in the company of the editors of The Nation than in the company of the editors of National Review. Several other signatories fall into that category. But they are strongly pro-life, pro-marriage, and pro–religious liberty. I would add that many conservatives certainly have resisted tyranny and reached out to the poor, the oppressed, and the suffering. Conservatives fought Soviet tyranny and worked for the liberation of millions of oppressed and suffering Poles, Czechs, Hungarians, Russians, Romanians, and others.
Many conservatives have been in the forefront of the fight against poverty and disease in Africa, the trafficking of women and girls into sexual slavery at home and abroad, and the fight for human rights across the globe. Are there many liberals who have accomplished nearly as much as has been accomplished by the conservative activist Michael Horowitz on any of these fronts? Moreover, it is worth noting that many people who are today “conservatives” were civil-rights activists in the 1960s. Start that list with Mary Ann Glendon, Leon and Amy Kass, and the late Fr. Richard John Neuhaus. They have not changed their views about racial justice. They are today “conservatives” and no longer “liberals” because mainstream liberalism has embraced a combination of statism and moral libertarianism that they regard — rightly in my view — as deeply misguided.
LOPEZ: What’s the top-priority issue for signers of the Manhattan Declaration?
GEORGE: The three principles — life, marriage, and religious freedom — are integrally connected. They are, as the Declaration says, foundational to justice and the common good, properly understood. They will stand or fall together.
LOPEZ: Why did so many Catholic bishops sign it?
GEORGE: Because they understand the profound truths it proclaims and the urgency of proclaiming them. Moreover, they understand the importance of standing shoulder to shoulder with leaders of other Christian traditions in a common witness.
LOPEZ: How should the White House take your statement?
GEORGE: I hope that President Obama will understand that the signatories to the Manhattan Declaration are determined to defend the sanctity of human life, the dignity of marriage, and respect for religious freedom. On these issues, they cannot compromise, and they will not remain silent. Moreover, they “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.”
LOPEZ: How should conservatives?
GEORGE: The same way.