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O'REILLY: Christians take a stand

It took a while, we're talking decades, but finally some American religious leaders say they are fed up. A few days ago, a faith-based group including Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York issued a scathing indictment of secularism in the U.S. entitled ‘‘The Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience.''

The document, which includes input from Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox Christians, basically says that Christian values are under siege in America and people of faith need to act aggressively to stem the tide. The declaration goes so far as to encourage civil disobedience and uses Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as a model for that.

Why now? Why are some Christian leaders coming out of the sacristy at this point in time?

The declaration gives a strong hint, as abortion is the lead issue. There is no question that the Obama administration and the media in general are ardently pro-choice. No surprise there. But the fact that so many Democrats in Congress are supporting public funding for abortions as part of health care reform has rocked the pro-life world.

The issue is simple: Should a country that values sincere conscience require taxpayers who believe abortion is murder to pay for the life-ending procedure? Obviously, millions of Americans say no.

The intensity of the debate is made crystal clear in the showdown between Rhode Island Bishop Thomas Tobin and Rep. Patrick Kennedy, son of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy. The bishop has ordered the congressman not to receive communion because of his support for abortion rights. Kennedy, like many pro-choice Catholics, falls back on personal belief versus public policy. He says just because he takes a pro-choice position doesn't mean he personally approves of abortion.

The bishop is having none of it.

On my television program, Tobin flat-out said that Kennedy has a moral obligation as a Catholic to fight against abortion. And if he doesn't, his soul is in danger of damnation. Words don't come stronger than that.

It is apparent that some religious leaders are engaging in high-stakes rhetoric, including the condemnation of homosexual marriage. After abortion, gay nuptials dominate the declaration, and once again the language is stark.

The tract states that the drive for same-sex and multiple-partner marriage is diminishing ‘‘true'' marriage. ‘‘Marriage is made possible by the sexual complementarity of man and woman ... No one has a civil right to have a non-marital relationship treated as a marriage.'' The Christian manifesto concludes with a call to arms and, some believe, a direct arrow aimed at the Obama administration: ‘‘Unjust laws degrade human beings. ... They lack any power to bind in conscience. (Martin Luther) King's willingness to go to jail, rather than comply with legal injustice, was exemplary and inspiring.''

And so, with the stroke of a pen, the Christian writers have turned the tables on those who say gay marriage and unfettered abortion are civil rights and, therefore, should be constitutionally protected. Obviously, there is disagreement on that.

With polls showing that more than 80 percent of Americans believe in God, the question now becomes: Will they rally behind The Manhattan Declaration? So far, the secular media have given it little attention, and that might well continue. But even if the manifesto gets a full airing, are people of faith as upset as some of their leadership with the secularism of America?

At this point, I simply don't know.

Veteran TV news anchor and author Bill O'Reilly is a host on Fox News.