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Monday, December 6, 2010

Oh, Manhattan Declaration, you unruly thing...

Good grief, Steve Jobs, do not make me have to stick up for the freaking Manhattan Declaration...

Okay, so CNN's Belief blog is reporting that Apple had removed the Manhattan Declaration's app for iPhone from their app store, citing complaints about the offensiveness of the content.  (Well, gee, I never would have seen that one coming.)  The main issue, it seems, is a quiz you can have your friends take to show your Manhattan awesomeness or something by asking if you're against gay marriage and whatnot. 

Supporters of the Manhattan Declaration, naturally, are pitching a fit. Oh, and they've also started a petition, as it turns out.   Right now it's only got about 40,000 signers, so it might go somewhere.

Okay, so on a serious note, I really don't like this due to the issues of free religious speech surrounding it.  Sure, I don't care for the Manhattan declaration one bit.  (you can see me rant about it even more here and here.)  But this is dealing with speech specifically protected by the Constitution.  Besides, the App store has tons of religious apps, from a compass that will help me determine the direction of Mecca to Ba'hai commentaries to a complete Catholic liturgy I can run on my iPod (I almost bought that, actually.)   Some of the apps I see in this category I find just as annoying as the Manhattan Declaration.  So, why single out an app that's specifically designed to be a free declaration of a person's beliefs about their faith and its intersections with culture?  (Well, it's a squeaky wheel issue, of course.  That's a rhetorical question I guess.)

Apple Inc. has never really shown itself to be a huge proponent of free speech-- rather, they are usually more proponents of huge profits, and in order to do that, they tend not to stir the muck.  Sure, I didn't complain too much when they discontinued the "Wobble" app and limited other sexually explicit content.  But then again, there wasn't such a clear component of protected speech about that one, either.  Apple reserves the right to oust content they determine to be "widely offensive," but, come on-- stating one's moral opposition is not inherently offensive.  And I'm even saying that as a strong opponent of the MD who has read the thing. 

And so, I find myself in a strange position now.  I'm all for free speech.  I'm especially for free religious expression, whether I like what others have to say or not.  On the one hand, Apple is a private corporation and they have the right to police content.  On the other hand, they are the only way to get apps onto an iPhone.  Their decision to discontinue, then, really moves into the realm of digital censorship at that point, and in my mind, that's where things get sticky. 

So, based on my personal beliefs... do I really have to stick up for the Manhattan Declaration??!?  Blech.  I'd feel like such a hypocrite...

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