After being sentenced to federal prison in 2001 for racketeering, Louisiana’s former governor Edwin Edwards, long famous for his corruption and political antics, humorously quipped, “I will be a model prisoner as I have been a model citizen.” In his 1983 campaign for governor against incumbent David Treen, Edwards bellowed, “If we don’t get Dave Treen out of office, there won’t be anything left to steal.” The kind of illegal corruption once flaunted by Edwards is on the decline. There is less of a need. Legal corruption in government is more prevalent and easy enough to secure. (more…)
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom’s Annual Report has been published. The commission places countries in three “tiers”, with tier one being nations that are designated “countries of particular concern” in terms of religious freedom. In this year’s report, these nations include China, North Korea and Saudi Arabia, among twelve others.
In China for instance, the report notes the following:
The Chinese government continues to perpetrate particularly severe violations of the freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief. Religious groups and individuals considered to threaten national security or social harmony, or whose practices are deemed beyond the vague legal definition of “normal religious activities,” are illegal and face severe restrictions, harassment, detention, imprisonment, and other abuses. Religious freedom conditions for Tibetan Buddhists and Uighur Muslims remain particularly acute, as the government broadened its efforts to discredit and imprison religious leaders, control the selection of clergy, ban certain religious gatherings, and control the distribution of religious literature by members of these groups. The government also detained over a thousand unregistered Protestants in the past year, closed “illegal” meeting points, and prohibited public worship activities. Unregistered Catholic clergy remain in detention or disappeared.
Obama’s new budget is in. The usual political wrangling is taking place, but there are some undeniable facts about the budget. Taxes are going up (is anyone surprised?), but some of those taxes are “sneaky” ones on senior citizens designed to fund things other than their health. In all, the president’s budget will raise taxes by $1.1 trillion dollars. (That number shouldn’t shock you: President Obama is the first president to ever spend $4 trillion in one year.)
One area of great concern in this budget is abortion funding. Despite the fact that a solid majority of Americans don’t want to pay for other people’s abortions, Obama’s new budget calls for $30 million more to do just that. In 2011, $542 million taxpayer dollars went to Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest provider of abortions. Planned Parenthood is a non-profit organization, yet reported last year revenues in excess of $87 million, and assets over $1 billion.
In addition to heavily funding Planned Parenthood, the budget will fund abortions for Peace Corps volunteers, prison inmates, immigration detainees, and American military personnel.
On the Fund Abortion Now website, there is this:
President Obama unveiled his 2014 budget this morning. We commend the President for striking restrictions on D.C. funding of abortion for low-income women in his budget and for moving to lessen some of the restrictions on coverage for women in the Peace Corps. However, we join many other groups in the women’s health and rights community in our disappointment that he did not take a critical step toward lifting the current Medicaid coverage ban. President Obama could have taken this historic opportunity at the dawn of his second term in office to present a clean budget to Congress; he did not.
Every year politicians use the budget process to deny abortion coverage for women enrolled in any federal insurance plan. But it doesn’t have to be this way. A budget is a moral document: it reflects our values. [Emphasis added.]
Again, there are undeniable truths about this budget. It increases the amount of taxpayer money that will fund abortions, a move which most Americans disapprove of. It funds this is some “sneaky” ways. It increases the groups of women receiving abortion coverage as “health care”. And most undeniably, this budge makes a moral statement: President Obama doesn’t care that you don’t want your money to kill babies. He’s going to do it anyway. Just like the kid who steals the lunch money of the weaker classmate in the school bathroom, Obama’s going to take your taxpayer dollars and use it just the way he wants. That’s bullying.
Christian’s Library Press has released Rooted & Grounded by Abraham Kuyper. This short volume includes first-ever translated sermons by Kuyper showing his passion to the church. While he’s well known for his writings on theology and common grace, this book demonstrates Kuyper’s enthusiasm for the church as well. In his seminal sermon, included in this volume, Kuyper outlines the basic distinction and connection between his conception of the church as institution and the church as organism, a view which became formative for neo-Calvinist reflection on the church and society.
In his endorsement for the book, Stephen Grabill, senior research scholar at Acton Institute says:
In a world apparently dominated by Christian footwear, a Berlin-based company has come to the rescue of atheists. Atheist Shoes boast a line of footwear that proudly announces the wearer’s lack of faith. The soles of the shoes (not to be confused with “souls”, mind you) state “Ich bin Atheist” (“I am an atheist”). The company thinks the world needed a “nice, understated way for people to profess their godlessness”, and the founders of the company wanted to help atheists proclaim their unbelief, especially in a world hostile to non-believers (despite the fact that Christians are now among the most persecuted people on the planet right now.)
We’re lucky to live in Berlin, a city where roughly two thirds of the population are atheists, but we’re conscious there are still places where it’s difficult to be godless.
We’re continuing to round up clips of Acton involvement in the media coverage of the recent papal conclave and the election of Pope Francis, and today we present two clips from across the pond that our American readers likely haven’t seen yet. First up, Istituto Acton’s Kishore Jayabalan joins Father Thomas Reese, former editor of America magazine and current fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center in Washington, DC, to discuss the conclave process as it progressed; the interview took place prior to the election of Pope Francis on March 13th.
Acton President Rev. Robert A. Sirico also made an appearance on the BBC, providing analysis for GMT with George Alagiah on March 14 following the election of Francis.
We continue to round up media appearances from the days surrounding the election of Pope Francis in Vatican City on March 13. This particular clip features Acton President Rev. Robert A. Sirico and Instituto Acton Operations Manager Michael Severance, who discuss the new Pope’s style, as well as some of the challenges and opportunities he faces as he assumes his role as the leader of the Roman Catholic Church.
Last night on Real News on The Blaze TV, Acton Institute Director of Research Samuel Gregg joined the panel to add his analysis of the current financial crisis in the nation of Cyprus, and the potential impacts that this crisis could have for other European Union nations that are currently trying to deal with financial issues of their own.
Gregg deals extensively with the problems of Europe in his book Becoming Europe: Economic Decline, Culture, and How America Can Avoid a European Future, which is well worth your time, and you can check out his appearance on the Library of Law and Liberty Podcast as well on the same topic. His Blaze TV interview is below.
National Public Radio did a roundup of views on what to expect from Pope Francis on economic issues. Reporter Jim Zarroli interviewed Acton Research Director Samuel Gregg and several commentators on the Catholic left. NPR host Audie Cornish introduced Zarroli’s report by observing that the new pope “comes from Argentina, where poverty and debt have long posed serious challenges. In the past, when thrust into debates about the country’s economic future, Francis had made strident comments about wealth, inequality and the markets. Now, some Catholics are hoping their new pope will play a similar role, giving voice to the poor and exerting influence on a global scale.” But Cornish cautioned that if “some say the idea that Pope Francis is some kind of economic liberal is to misread him and the church.”
Here’s the exchange between Gregg and Zarroli that wrapped up the report.
ZARROLI: But anyone who expects Francis to take an active role as a critic of capitalism is sure to be disappointed, says Samuel Gregg, research director of the Acton Institute. Gregg says even as the new pope was criticizing the IMF, he was also taking a stand against liberation theology, the leftist movement that swept some parts of the church in the 1970s and ’80s. Gregg says Francis saw the movement as tainted by Marxist ideas that were at odds with church teaching and he didn’t want the church in Argentina to become politicized.
SAMUEL GREGG: Liberation theology, at least certain strands of liberation theology, insisted that the church had to become involved in more or less revolutionary movements for justice. And his response was no, that is not the responsibility of priests. Priests are supposed to be pastors. They’re supposed to be guides. They’re supposed to offer the sacraments. They’re not politicians. They’re not revolutionaries. (more…)