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Friday, December 3, 2010

Dear Steve Jobs,

(please feel free to take this or any portion of this and send it to
Mr. Steve Jobs
Apple, Inc.

Dear Mr. Jobs,

We were disappointed to learn that Apple has pulled the Manhattan Declaration app from its app store. We are writing to urge you to promptly restore the Manhattan Declaration app.

As you may know, the Manhattan Declaration is a non-partisan statement of conscience supporting the sanctity of human life in all stages and conditions, the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife, and religious freedom and the rights of conscience. The Declaration was issued by more than 150 religious leaders representing a broad spectrum of Christian denominations: Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Baptist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Church of God in Christ, African Methodist Episcopal, and many more. To date, nearly half a million supporters have joined them as signatories. 

As you will immediately see if you read the Manhattan Declaration, it is written in respectful language, and it engages the beliefs of those who differ in an honest, thoughtful, and civil manner. It is entirely free of rancor, name-calling, or offensive rhetoric. It restates, firmly but without animosity towards anyone, central moral teachings of the Catholic, Orthodox, and Evangelical Protestant traditions deriving from the biblical witness and the tradition of rational reflection and argumentation that has marked Christian moral philosophy from ancient times to the present day. 

We do not know exactly why the app was pulled, as we have yet to receive any explanation from Apple, but we assume that it was the result of pressure brought to bear by some who, for blatantly ideologically partisan reasons, claim that the Manhattan Declaration is bigoted, or otherwise offensive. We hope that you will see how wrong it would be to let one side shut down the opposing side in a debate by slandering their opponents with prejudicial labels such as "bigot" or "homophobe."

When Apple approved the Manhattan Declaration app, Apple rated it a 4+--free from objectionable material. Apple’s original rating was accurate: While many may disagree with the Manhattan Declaration’s positions on the sanctity of human life or the nature of marriage, no one can reasonably or fairly claim that the Declaration’s presentation of its position was anything other than reasoned, civil, and respectful of those who hold other positions. If the Manhattan Declaration’s positions are enough to have its app removed, then we wonder if Apple is considering removing other Bible-based—or even Jewish or Islamic—apps from its store. There is nothing in the Manhattan Declaration that is not also clearly stated in the teachings of Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, the majority of Protestant Christian denominations, Orthodox Judaism, and other faiths. Are these faiths to be defamed as "bigoted" and excluded from having apps? 

Certainly Apple has every interest in ensuring that the apps it offers be free from pornography and abusive and defamatory language. At the same time, as an organization that wields enormous cultural power, Apple should also want to offer apps that contribute to reasoned debate over important social and religious issues.

And it is in that spirit of civil public dialogue that we urge you and Apple to restore the Manhattan Declaration app to the iTunes and iPhone application store.


Charles Colson, The Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Dr. Robert George, Princeton University
Dr. Timothy George, Beeson Divinity School 

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