Americans United for Separation of Church and State today expressed grave concern about a renewed push by a coalition of conservative church groups to impose religious teachings on all Americans through government action.
At a press conference today, Religious Right leaders and Roman Catholic bishops unveiled a joint statement criticizing laws that allow reproductive choice and same-sex marriage. The "Manhattan Declaration" indicates that participating religious leaders will defy such laws if they conflict with church doctrines.
'Manhattan Declaration' Signals Conservative Church Groups' Intention To Undercut Separation Of Church And State, Says AU's Lynn
Americans United charges that the real agenda is not protecting the religious freedom of churches, but rather attempting to impose those doctrines on all Americans by government decree.
Said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director, "This declaration is certain to be deeply divisive. These religious leaders want to see their doctrines imposed by force of law, and that goes against everything America stands for.
"The United States is an incredibly diverse nation," he continued, "and it would be a disaster if government started favoring one religious perspective over others."
Lynn said most Catholics and evangelical Christians do not want to see their houses of worship drawn into politics.
"I am optimistic that the people in the pews will not heed their leaders' misguided call to action," Lynn said. "Polls show that most church-goers do not want to see their faith politicized. But I am also well aware that religious leaders have vast lobbying power that cannot be ignored."
Lynn noted the House version of health-care reform was revised at the behest of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to curtail women's access to abortion.
Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.