Apple Pulls Manhattan Declaration App

Apple Pulls Manhattan Declaration App November 30, 2010

I’ve had my own run-in with the Manhattan Declaration — it was placed at the registration table of an academic conference at which I presented a paper in order to protest my appearance.  Among other things, the MD states that true evangelicalism stands against the equal rights of women and against the rights of gay and lesbian persons to marry.

Well, those stances, and a little pressure from the Huffington Post, got the Manhattan Declaration app dropped from the App Store by Apple.  The story from Macworld:

After some controversy and complaints, Apple has reportedly pulled an application from the iTunes App Store after claims it was anti-gay.

Highlighted by The Huffington Post and others last week due to its reportedly objectionable content, the Manhattan Declaration iPhone application has been quietly removed sometime in the last few days.

via Apple pulls anti-gay app from iTunes Store | Topics | iOS Central | Macworld.

Some in the comment section there are crying foul, as did Ed Stetzer and others on Twitter, claiming “#intolerance.”  It seems this is another example of evangelicals complaining that their freedoms are curtailed because their opinions are not “politically correct.”

But the truth is that in this scenario, Apple has First Amendment rights, but those who submit their material to Apple do not.  This reminded me of a movie I watched this week, Smothered – The Censorship Struggles of the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, in which Tom Smothers got angrier and angrier about the CBS censors cutting skits out of his show in the late 1960s.  But while he was surely censored, and even the Johnson and Nixon administrations had a hand in it, he didn’t have First Amendment rights in this situation.  He had, by contract, submitted his intellectual property to CBS.  If they didn’t like it, he was free to publish and broadcast it elsewhere (which he often did, publishing the censored scripts in various newspapers).

Conservative evangelicals have every right to be homophobic and misogynistic, but to claim intolerance is a bit of an overreaction.  Intolerance is in the eye of the beholder, and that’s just what was in Apple’s eye when they looked more closely at the Manhattan Declaration.  And to take it even further and claim a violation of free speech — well, that’s just plain silly.

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  • While I have no particular truck with the Manhattan Declaration, you’re brushing aside too lightly the free speech / censorship concerns involved when powerful online intermediaries restrict speech based on politics, religion, etc. Intermediaries like Google, Apple and Microsoft play vital social gatekeeping functions. This is what the debate over “Net Neutrality,” for example is all about.

  • Tom

    I would say that intolerance is in the eye of the victim. I’m intolerant of rap music, grated coconut, and, at times, poor customer service. “The Manhattan Declaration promotes intolerance, therefore, I cannot tolerate it.” “You cannot tolerate the Manhattan Declaration, therefore, you are intolerant.” Round and round. The word is over-used and has lost all meaning. It’s just another salvo in the culture wars.

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  • carla jo

    Net neutrality is about access, not content. Apple is a private company that can accept or reject any app they want to. That’s not a free speech issue. It’s the free market. It’s no different than Barnes and Nobel not stocking hardcore porn or a Christian bookstore not having a Buddhism section. Every media outlet acts as a gatekeeper and they all decide what they think is most important and appropriate for their audience.

  • I don’t have much use for the Manhattan declaration, but neither is Steve Jobs the keeper of my conscience; if I pay for one of Apple’s expensive toys, it no longer belongs to Apple, I should be able to load whatever applications I want on it. This is one reason I will never buy an iPhone or an iPad, just too much control-freakery attached to them.

    On the other hand, Apple’s somewhat ham-handed attempt at censorship is certainly going to fail in this case. The Manhattan Declaration’s web site is still available using a web browser, at least until Apple decides it needs to monitor and control what web sites its customers are viewing.

    One also should keep in mind, when declaring that Apple is a private entity and can do what it wants that Apple is not an individual, nor is it private, it is a public corporation, it is granted, or should be granted, corporate-hood on the basis of said incorporation serving the public good. I fail to see anything in this that serves the public good as that term is typically understood in liberal democracies. Apple also depends on many of our laws in order to enforce actions like these, copyright, DMCA, and others, I’m not entirely comfortable with the idea that our laws should be used to promote private censorship.

  • Jubilee888

    It’s ~not~ “homophobic” to want to deny the holy privilege of marriage to people who will be defiling the institution of marriage, designed by the Creator to be solely between a man and a woman, by behavior that the Word of God specifically forbids, in the New Testament as well as Old Testament. And what horrible example are we teaching our kids about what is normal, God-designed sexual behavior, if we allow and approve the travesty of homosexual “marriage?

  • So wait… Apple is not “intolerant”… but the Man. Decl. is pro-life and therefore “misogynistic” and states a belief that sex is designed for one man and one women in the context of marriage and so is “homophobic”??

    I’d say that I agree with you that intolerance is in the eye of the beholder (I also happen to think Apple was wrong here), but I would hope for more intellectual honesty than to use words like “misogynistic” to describe the Manhattan Declaration.

    It’s fine to disagree with it- but that kind of rhetoric doesn’t move the conversation anywhere good.

  • Sorry for the double post-
    I thought this was an interesting quote from another post on your blog:
    “I’m not sure why civility should be such a problem, even with people with whom we vehemently disagree on matters of faith. Even if some who call themselves Christians – or “claim the name of Christ” as the statement says – don’t qualify as “Christian” by our standards, shouldn’t we still be civil with them and when we speak about them?

    Are we only to be civil toward those who think exactly like us?”

    I think that the Covenant For Civility probably needs to apply to those coming from the left just as much as those from the right, yes?
    Again, I’d urge you Tony, to rethink the statement “Conservative evangelicals have every right to be homophobic and misogynistic” as it is neither civil nor charitable.

  • carla jo

    Apple also rejects hardcore porn apps. Is that censorship?

  • carla jo
  • Jim

    I’m with Bob here. The sentence “Conservative evangelicals have every right to be homophobic and misogynistic, but to claim intolerance is a bit of an overreaction” is an astonishing and, I must say, rather brilliant piece of rhetoric.

    In a relatively short sentence, it manages to strongly imply (without directly saying) that the rather mild Manhattan Declaration is homophobic and misogynistic. Then it turns a simple statement of fact, that the apple store refuses to tolerate the Manhattan Declaration, thus being, by definition, intolerant of it, into an “overreaction.”

    So an almost a priori statement becomes an “overreaction” in the very same sentence where Tony grossly overreacts to the Manhattan Declaration itself. And at the very same time he preserves deniability. He hasn’t directly called the MD or conservative evangelicals misogynistic and homophobic. He’s only said “they have the right to be” so. He hasn’t actually called anybody anything; he’s only very, very strongly implied it. (Kind of like how not finding something intellectually or emotionally compelling nor in keeping with the biblical narrative doesn’t amount to rejecting.)

    Tony, I enjoy reading your blog, and have learned some important things from it. You have my gratitude and all good will from me. But if you ever wonder why so many people don’t trust the emergent church, it’s because of sentences like this.

    As for apple, they can do whatever they like. I’ll never have the money for an iphone anyway.

  • I agree.

  • Dustin Bagby

    Doubly agreed with both Bob and Jim. Tony, you presented an interesting argument up to that point. But that sentence maligning and misrepresenting evangelicals who have theological convictions (one way or another) about homosexuality and abortion showed the true motivation for the argument in the first place, and thus made the argument much less compelling if not killing the credibility of it altogether. I’ve also enjoyed your blog posts in the past, but in regard to this post, I don’t think you’re going to win anyone over to your ideas when you use such unnecessary and ungenerous rhetoric.

  • Bob, et al,

    I see your point, but I’ve been on the record over and over. I strongly believe that churches that keep women from certain ecclesial offices are misogynistic. I think it is a sinful practice to keep bar women from preaching, ordination, serving communion, etc. Sinful. Period.

    I also think that much of the anti-same sex marriage rhetoric is driven by homophobia, though I am more willing to afford latitude on that issue regarding simple exegetical and hermeneutical differences.

    However, I was a bit ham-fisted in my prose in this post. What I really meant to say was that the Manhattan Declaration seemed misogynistic and homophobic to the Huffington Post and, ultimately, to Apple (although they released no statement about pulling the app, so for all we know, they pulled it because it was buggy).

    My opinion in the matter is beside the point. My point is: one person’s intolerance is another person’s conviction. See Carla Jo’s comments for cases-in-point.

    And, Jim, if people turn on the emergent movement because either 1) my prose is inexact, or 2) I have strong opinions, well, they wouldn’t have liked it much anyway.

  • Bob Hyatt

    But Tony- I may have missed it (I’ll go back and read it again) but the Man. Decl. made no statements on women in leadership.
    And what you said in you first paragraph (that any reader would logically connect to your last) is that the Pro-life stance of the Dec should be equated to being against equal rights for women- never mind the strong human rights sentiments throughout.

    It wasn’t just hamfisted- it was worse- you did exactly what you were dinging others for. You said calling taking the app out of the store “intolerance” an overstatement and then proceeded to call a very carefully written expression of mainstream evangelical thought on homosexuality and abortion “homophobia” and “misogyny”- pot, meet kettle!

    And IF you really were talking about SOME (by no means all) of the signers’ positions on women in leadership, something the statement doesn’t adress, then I say that’s no better than those decrying it on the basis that some signers are catholic and have unevangelical views on justification. Both issues are neither here nor there in this particular discussion.

    If you really meant to say that the app only APPEARED to Apple/Huff Po
    as homophobic/misogynistic, it’s time to stick up for the principles outlined in the Covenant of Civility and push back against the idea that expressing mainstream Christian views (even ones you disagree with) is “hate speech” (the language of the original complaint.

    Unless of course, you actually believe that to be pro-life is to be, by definition misogynistic and to believe that sex was designed for marriage between a man and woman is BY DEFINITION homophobic and to say so is hate speech. I mean, you don’t think that, do you?

    • OK, Bob, if you want to read that closely, then let’s.

      In my final paragraph, I do not necessarily equate misogyny and homophobia with the MD. After a paragraph on free speech, I state, “Conservative evangelicals have every right to be homophobic and misogynistic…” That’s a bald-faced truth claim by me. I’m saying that they have that right. It’s really beside the point whether the MD is either of those things or not, and it’s really beside the point of the post what I think of the MD. I didn’t pull the app, Apple did.

      What you’re calling me out on is hyperbolically calling the MD a statement that uses hate speech when in fact it’s a “a very carefully written expression of mainstream evangelical thought…” But I am not calling it hate speech. I am saying that Apple has every right to be “intolerant,” and so do evangelicals.

      And, for that matter, so do I. And this, I think, is the bone that you really came to pick with me. Do I think that many evangelicals are misogynistic and homophobic? Yes. And do I think that they often hide that hatred behind “a very carefully written expression[s]”? Yes.

      And, I think that a lot of them aren’t. I’ve talked to evangelicals who are pained by their own positions on women in ministry and gays in the church, and they actually pray for a change of heart. But they read the Bible in a certain way and therefore have certain views. I have great respect for them, even if I disagree.

      So, am I “intolerant” if I call a fellow Christian a misogynist? Possibly. It is a word with some zing, and it does literally mean, “one who hates women.” That is a strong sentiment, and I realize that even the most conservative evangelical would not admit to hating women.

      But it’s also a word that has gained wider usage of late because of feminist scholarship. It’s come to mean (check the dictionaries), “anti-feminist,” which I’m guessing Al Mohler would happily proclaim himself to be.

      Further, Bob, as a renowned blogger yourself, you can surely forgive some rhetorical flourish. In the other post of mine to which you referred, I didn’t call for civility. And I didn’t sign Jim Wallis’s statement. I think statements are fairly ridiculous.

      The bottom line: I’m not going around accusing people of being intolerant.

      Let me ask you this, Bob: Don’t you find it a tad ironic that evangelicals are so quick to cry, “Intolerance!” when in fact evangelicals are recognized across our culture of being among the least tolerant of all people?

      For instance, Ed Stetzer implies that Apple is “intolerant” for pulling the app. But I’m guessing that he would say that Apple’s policy to provide health insurance coverage to employees and their same-sex-partners is an example of too much tolerance of a sinful lifestyle. Yes?

      (And, again, let me reiterate, that I’m not necessarily against intolerance.)

  • Clark Dunlap

    TJ: “I think it is a sinful practice to keep bar women from preaching, ordination, serving communion, etc. Sinful. Period.
    I also think …anti-same sex marriage rhetoric is driven by homophobia, though I am more willing to afford latitude on that issue …”

    Amazing, lattitude on the homosexual disagreement but not on the Women in minstry. I too, believe women can serve in many ways and dis-like the man-constructed doctrines of ordination, but those that disagree can make some measure of biblical case, especially in the area that i agree with, that women are not called to be pastors anywhere in scripture and in fact there is the possibility of textually clear direction against it. SIN? Really?
    Apple can do as it pleases, but your duplicity is showing.

  • Stephen James Archer

    Since I am a Christian,
    a sinner saved by grace in the only Saviour Jesus Christ, who died for me,
    and being an ex-homosexual,
    having repented of my sinful behaviour,
    does all of this make me an homophobe?
    I beg to differ!
    On the contrary, I dearly love my fellow lesbian neighbours, transexuals, cross-dressers, men who sleep with men, queer and transgender folk. I covet that they repent of their sin and be counted as the ones described as “such were some of you… but you were washed…” I am washed and justified before God; do you desire the same for your fellow GLBTQX friends, or are you followkng the footsteps of Romans chapter one verse 32 b?

  • Mark C

    Once again we see how intertwined the gender issue is with the homosexual issue. It is no mere coincidence that the hermeneutic that promotes one the justifies the other. Its all part of the same relativistic toll box.

  • Seems to me that if one takes Scripture at face value they would come away with one opinion alone on gender roles and sexual orientation. Scripture is clear!!!

  • Sam

    So now it’s sinful to believe God’s word? Wow “relevance” really comes at a high price these days. Tony, your opinion is just that, an opinion. Scripturally you don’t give yourself a leg to stand on. It’s really sad. When you start appealing to something greater than your own sense of indignation then perhaps you’ll have something of greater value to say. I mean no disrespect here, just pointing out the obvious problem of your new enlightenment…

  • Jim

    I should apologize, Tony. I expected a response from along the lines of “I never said the MD was homophobic and misogynistic, and only said conservatives had the right to be so.” Instead, you did the opposite and made it clear you meant exactly what you implied and stood by it. Thanks. That’s hugely appreciated. If there’s one place that exact prose is necessary, it’s in theology. As Charles Williams said, “It was a preposition that split the church.”

    On the other hand, your position (which I do appreciate you standing by) is absurd. Holding the position (readily confirmed by anyone with eyesight) that men and women are different, and made for different things makes me a woman-hater? The woman who cheerfully submits to her husband is secretly full of self-loathing? That’s pretty laughable, actually.

    But this post isn’t really about that. For most of the apple issue, I’m right there with you, Tony. Apple can sell whatever it pleases, whatever fits its image. I’d no more try to force them to allow conservative christian apps than i’d try to force a church to allow a gay civil union. Oh wait…

  • Jim

    Whoops. I posted too late, not having read Tony’s above mine. Makes mine fairly irrelevant.

    • Actually not irrelevant, Jim. Thanks for the comment.

      Exact wording is important in theology, but blog posts do not lend themselves to detailed and nuanced commentary. I guess I’ll keep trying to shoot the middle.

  • Tony- I don’t want close readings or bone pickings- just some intellectual honesty. I don’t want to argue- but man- you keep digging on this. What you were doing, regardless of how you want to parse it, was calling the Manhattan Declaration and it’s signers misogynistic homophobes. And if you weren’t, I apologize, but then that makes this a time when you probably need to own your “hamfistedness” to the point of bringing some further clarity. I’m not calling you out on calling the MD “hate speech.” I’m calling you out on standing with those who do, and adding to the pile-on of ridiculous overstatement by adding “misogynistic” and “homophobic.”
    You may not be going around accusing people of being intolerant- you are doing worse- you clearly call the MD and it’s signers against equal rights for women based on their pro-life position and then imply homophobia and misogyny.
    I didn’t intent to keep adding posts here- but it seems like now the hole has been dug deep enough to expose some brass tacks-
    1. No- I don’t find it ironic that evangelicals would “cry” intolerance. I think MOST of what gets chalked up to “intolerance” is simply people using a big rhetorical stick to beat on people with whom they disagree, and most often, in the case of Christianity, a refusal to recognize the difference between tolerance and relativism. Every group has points of “intolerance”, but when it actually happens, even to groups I disagree with, I get concerned. This particular instance concerns me because this wan’t the Westboro Church app that got accused of “hate speech”. It was (as I said) a careful, fairly respectful exposition of mainstream Christian thought. And even if you disagree with the positions, adding to the pile on with words like you used is ridonkulous.
    2. I don’t know what Ed thinks about Apple’s policies- but I’ll go ahead and tell you what I think. I think everyone should have equal civil rights, including benefits and the right to legal unions (though I’d prefer to get the state out of the “marriage” business). But I still think that same sex sexual activity is out-of-bounds for Christ followers. So am I a homophobe? I’m a vocal advocate for women in leadership but as the child of a teen mother, I’m ardently pro-life. Am I a misogynist?

    • Bob,

      Reading your latest comment leads me to think that you are reading the worst in me, rather than the best. Both knowing you and reading your blog, I consider you neither a misogynist nor a homophobe. I think you’re probably to the left of the majority of evangelicals on the same sex marriage/civil union issue, and you and I concur on the marriage in general, although I think it’s the church that should get out of the marriage business.

      I’m not calling the MD signers, en masse, homophobes and misogynists. I don’t agree with the MD, and I appreciate neither the theology nor the social theory behind it. But I’m not disparaging all the signers.

      But it is clearly ironic when evangelical leaders cry foul for intolerance in one moment but bewail our society’s “politically correct tolerance” the next.

      Honestly, Bob, I’m being as intellectually honest as I can be. I’d rather that you stop accusing me of being otherwise. Because, speaking of intellectual honesty, you seem to be reluctant to admit that many evangelicals are, indeed, homophobic and misogynistic. If they’re not, then why is everyone gaga over Gabe Lyons’s books that say they are at least perceived to be so.

  • Jim W

    Jones, you never cease to amaze me. Keeping women from certain ministries is sinful? When the Bible clearly states that women aren’t to be in certain positions? Yet, apparently by your lights, blasphemy, cursing, adultery, fornication, homosexuality and only God knows what else isn’t sinful? You read an entirely different Bible than I do. Are you like Thomas Jefferson; you wrote your own Bible?

  • Josh Mueller

    Bottom line is: Apple had every legal right to pull the app and they made use of that right. One can agree or disagree with their judgment of the Manhattan Declaration as intolerant or hateful (or the possibility of being perceived as such), no one’s going to send you to prison or close down your church because of your particular stance on the issue. It’s this insinuation of a very real threat to free speech or further infringements on evangelicals that makes Ed Stetzer’s comment look like an overreaction, not the intolerance charge and any implied double standard per se. He may as well have spelled out “gay agenda” even if he didn’t mean to say it because this is exactly how a majority will read his question in the comment.

  • Sam

    Isn’t it ironic that the major offense is to call someone intellectually dishonest rather than unbiblical? Wake up Mr. Jones, your problem isn’t with the theology of the signers of the MD or their “intolerance” but with what God has said in His word. Until you come to terms with that you are indeed being intellectually dishonest. God has given roles to men and women in the church not because one is of more value to Him than the other but because it is His good plan for the church. God has designed sexual relations to be between a man and a woman in the context of marriage. He made the church and He made marriage so we would do well to do it His way.

  • He made the church and He made marriage so we would do well to do it His way.

    Don’t you mean “we would do well to do it my way”? The Bible isn’t as clear on these issues as you seem to think it is.

  • Sam

    So Larry tell me, what is unclear about marriage in Scripture?

  • Sam

    Don’t YOU mean the Bible isn’t as murky on these issues as you would LIKE for it to be?

  • So Larry tell me, what is unclear about marriage in Scripture?

    Plenty, I assume you are defining marriage as “one man and one woman”. To start with scripture isn’t exactly clear on the “one woman” part, indeed it commands polygamy in some situations. Moreover, no where in scripture is same-sex marriage condemned, you are simply reading your desires into scripture. While it is true that scripture presents heterogamy as the norm, this does not imply that it is the only acceptable form for marriage.

  • Don’t YOU mean the Bible isn’t as murky on these issues as you would LIKE for it to be?

    What one considers clear and “murky” in the Bible depends greatly on where one is standing in regard to time and culture. We tend to see things that confirm our cultural and temporal prejudices very clearly. As the old saying goes, scripture is used as a drunk uses a lamp post, not for illumination but for support.

  • Sam

    No Larry what one considers “clear” or “murky” relates more to how they view the Bible’s authority. It’s interesting that you bring up time and culture when in fact it’s our current time and culture that Mr. Jones is bowing too. It’s easier to claim that it’s “sinful to deny a woman the opportunity to preach,” etc. than to take a stand on things the Bible really does declare as sinful (homosexuality for example). It’s not humility which leads people to declare scripture unclear or difficult to understand. It is pride and an unwillingness to subject oneself to God’s word and his authority. Perhaps if you change your attitude about the “lamp post” you’ll find illumination and support.

  • Okay Tony- and for the record- I think there are plenty of both homophobes and misogynists in the ranks of both the religious and secular worlds of America- including evangelicalism.
    But, since I don’t think we’re going to get a clear statement from you that being pro-life doesn’t make either a document or a person anti-woman or a misogynist (a reasonable reading of your article, regardless of intent), I’ll let it go.
    But I will disagree on one last point- it’s not ironic to claim both intolerance and over-tolerance in the same sector- it’s simply to point out the hypocrisy one perceives- I *certainly* see both intolerance and over-tolerance on both the left and the right… and indeed in my own life. It’s human nature to be unbalanced in this way, to over tolerate certain things in yourself (and your group) and under tolerate them in others.

  • Sean LeRoy

    Apple can do what they want w/ their apps; there are plenty of frustrated folk w/ their approval process in the first place. Regardless, they kowtowed to the outcries and I think they should’ve stood their (original) ground.

  • Ellen


    I am so glad there is someone out there willing to boldly call out mainstream evangelical thought where their ‘orthodox’ theology against women and gays causes so much damage. As a woman who cares deeply about the issue of women and ministry (and does not see it merely as some morally neutral choice for a Church to decide one way or the other), I’m glad you are out there boldly saying that, indeed, it is sinful for the Church to bar women from certain positions because of gender.

  • Bill

    Why is it that when the clarity of scripture bumps up against culture, it’s always scripture that’s expected to move?

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  • Tony,

    I don’t argue on blogs much (except my own, grin). I think Bob and others have done a good job pointing out the problems here, but I will point out one concern since I am mentioned (twice).

    First, intolerance is defined as, “lack of toleration; unwillingness or refusal to tolerate or respect contrary opinions or beliefs, persons of different races or backgrounds, etc.” Seems to fit the situation regardless of your views on the issues (but, as you say, that is in the eye of the beholder).

    You wrote (immediately after quoting my tweet) that, “It seems this is another example of evangelicals complaining that their freedoms are curtailed because their opinions are not ‘politically correct.’”

    I see no mention of “freedom,” curtailing, or complaining in my tweet. I simply pointed out, an “unwillingness or refusal to tolerate or respect contrary opinions or beliefs.” I don’t mention censorship or free speech, though you do later in your argument.

    And, then later you speculate on my support of Apple’s policies… another odd tangential addition to the conversation with my name attached.

    Others have already pointed out the problems in some of your comments, and it seems you have received some of them. I would just ask that you not use my comments as a launching point to create a straw-man foil for your points.

    I don’t do that to you and would appreciate you not doing that to me. To quote your comment down in the thread, “Reading your latest comment leads me to think that you are reading the worst in me, rather than the best.” That’s always something we should all seek to avoid.



    • Ed, I sure appreciate you taking the time to comment. I tried to use your tweet as the jumping off point for a post exploring what I often see in evangelicalism, as do others. Sociologist Christian Smith calls it “sub-cultural identity theory,” in which evangelicals claim to be a small, persecuted, misunderstood group, when in fact they are one of the most powerful blocs in American society. And Smith’s thesis has been affirmed by many other sociologists and social theorists.

      I did not intend to draw a direct line from your tweet to First Amendment arguments. I think my post makes that clear. You wrote about “#intolerance,” and I commented on that. Then a paragraph break. Then I wrote about the bigger issues of First Amendment rights, which you clearly did not address.

      Alas, my post was far from perfect in its prose, as has become clear in the commentary. But it’s not a “straw man” argument to challenge the beliefs and practices of evangelicals along the same lines as others, from Christian Smith to Gabe Lyons.

      I apologize if I assumed incorrectly your opinion about companies that offer benefits to same sex couples. I did that based on what I’ve read from you. What is your opinion on that?

      Thanks again for responding.