Category: Individual Liberty

Source: AP

Source: AP

Bakers, florists, and photographers who refuse to use their creative talents to serve same-sex weddings have been fined and have had their business threatened because they refuse to violate their conscience. Many Americans—including many Christians—even argued that private business owners should be forced to violate their conscience when such practices are considered discriminatory.

But how far are they willing to defend their views? Would they, for instance, punish a baker for refusing to make a cake with anti-gay statements? As the AP reports:

A baker in suburban Denver who refused to make a cake for a same-sex wedding is fighting a legal order requiring him to serve gay couples even though he argued that would violate his religious beliefs.

But now a separate case puts a twist in the debate over discrimination in public businesses, and it underscores the tensions that can arise when religious freedom intersects with a growing acceptance of gay couples.

Marjorie Silva, owner of Denver’s Azucar Bakery, is facing a complaint from a customer alleging she discriminated against his religious beliefs.

According to Silva, the man who visited last year wanted a Bible-shaped cake, which she agreed to make. Just as they were getting ready to complete the order, Silva said the man showed her a piece of paper with hateful words about gays that he wanted written on the cake. He also wanted the cake to have two men holding hands and an X on top of them, Silva said.

Let me start by making my own view on the subject clear: Whether the request was serious or a stunt done to make a political point, I find the viewpoint expressed to be loathsome. Assuming the words were indeed “hateful” they should have no association with a symbolic representation of the Christian faith. I also believe Ms. Silva should not be forced to use her creative skills in a way that violates her conscience.

However, the logic used to argue why only certain bakers should be forced to violate their conscience reveals a despicable double standard.
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Freedom-of-ReligionThomas Jefferson wanted what he considered to be his three greatest achievements to be listed on his tombstone. The inscription, as he stipulated, reads “Here was buried Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of American Independence, of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom, and father of the University of Virginia.”

Today we celebrate the 229th anniversary of one of those great creations: the passage, in 1786, of the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom.

Each year, the President declares January 16th to be Religious Freedom Day, and calls upon Americans to “observe this day through appropriate events and activities in homes, schools, and places of worship.” One way to honor the day is to reflect on these ten quotes about religious liberty that were expressed by some of our country’s greatest leaders:

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Selma_posterTwo January 2015 film releases provide great opportunities for Christians to examine the not so admirable aspects of American church history in order to learn from the mistakes and successes of the past. First, the newly released movie Selma tells of the story of the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the public protests leading up to LBJ signing the bill into law.

My parents were born and raised during Jim Crow and the movie does a great job of depicting life during that era for people like my parents and why federal government intervened to override voting restrictions in the South because of overwhelming resistance by white southerners to allow African Americans proper access to voter registration. The film focuses on Martin Luther King, Jr’s leadership of the Southern Christian Leader Conference during the organization of a march from Selma, Alabama to the Alabama State capital in Montgomery as a protest. The film does not shy away from the flaws in the movement, including MLK’s marital infidelities.

During the film, we learn about the murder of Jimmie Lee Jackson, a young African-American protestor, who was gunned down in a town near Selma. After his murder by police, King issued a clarion call to anyone in America who wanted come to Selma and join him in the cause to fight for voting rights.
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france-israelEven before the Paris attacks, there were worries over a sharp rise in anti-Semitism in the UK and mainland Europe in 2014, says Caroline Wyatt of the BBC. In the past few years thousands of French Jews have fled the country to the one place they feel safe: Israel.

“The French Jewish community is gripped by a very deep sense of insecurity and that sense is often traced back to the attack in Tolouse in 2012,” says Avi Mayer, a spokesperson for the Jewish Agency for Israel. “But there’s also a lower-level sense that it’s simply impossible to be openly Jewish in the streets of France, and that’s something that’s manifested itself with Jewish discomfort with wearing yarmulkes in the streets or necklaces with Jewish stars.”

The resurgence of anti-Semitic sentiment in Europe is appalling and tragic. What it shouldn’t be, however, is unexpected. Like it’s Islamist extremist counterpart, the roots of this hatred are often economic.

Europe has always been susceptible to the siren’s call of socialism, and as economist Tyler Cowen pointed out nearly 20 years ago, there is a direct link between statism and the persecution of minorities:
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George-Clooney-recalls-post-Golden-Globes-prank-on-Tina-Fey-and-Amy-PoehlerThis is a sentence I never could have predicted I’ve ever write: George Clooney has offered a wiser assessment of a political problem than many of my fellow conservatives.

A group of cyber-terrorist behind a recent high-profile hacking incident of Sony Pictures have threatened a 9/11 type attack on movie theaters that screen the upcoming film, ‘The Interview.’ In response, many of the country’s largest movie chains (AMC, Regal, Cinemark, and Cineplex) issued a statement saying the film would not be played in their venues. A few days later Sony Pictures said the movie would not be released at all. Currently, the studio has no plans to even release the film on DVD or video-on-demand.

The reaction by most conservatives and libertarians has been that the threat should lead everyone to watch the movie (assuming it’s ever released). A representative example is Rebecca Cusey’s article at The Federalist, “Here’s Why Every Freedom-Loving American Must See ‘The Interview’.” As the sub-hed says, “What do a free people do when a thug says they can’t watch a terrible movie? Damn well watch ‘The Interview.’”

Well, no. That’s just silly. Freedom-lovers don’t have an obligation to watch some lame raunchy comedy simply because it was threated by terrorists associated with North Korea. Besides, watching the movie would have no real impact on anything (other than Sony Pictures bank account).

Even Cusey’s alternative option (“Maybe send the price of a movie ticket to an organization that helps Korean refugees or American troops.”) does nothing but make people feel good for having “done something” when they actually haven’t done anything to change the problem. We often mock this sort of ineffectual activism when it comes from the left (Tweet this hashtag to save the world!)—and rightly so. We should instead focus on seeking solutions that will actually fix the problem.
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Blog author: ehilton
Monday, December 1, 2014
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European-Parliament-StrasbourgPope Francis spoke to members of the European Parliament on November 25. The focus of his speech was “dignity:” specifically the transcendent dignity of the human person.

He reminded his audience that the protection of dignity was key to rebuilding Europe following World War II, but now, the pope says, ” there are still too many situations in which human beings are treated as objects whose conception, configuration and utility can be programmed, and who can then be discarded when no longer useful, due to weakness, illness or old age.”

Pope Francis then declared that dignity is intimately intertwined with faith, and the governments of Europe must protect the right to practice one’s faith. (more…)

Larry Schweikart

This edition of Radio Free Acton features an interview with Larry Schweikart – drummer, history professor, and producer of the documentary “Rockin’ The Wall” – on the power of music and the influence of rock and roll in undermining communism in the Soviet empire. When we think about the fall of the Berlin Wall, it’s only natural that names like Reagan, Thatcher, and Pope John Paul II come to mind, but there were other elements involved in the battle against communism that also played important roles in its downfall, including cultural influences. How did western rock and pop music help to undermine Soviet Communism? Schweikart, former drummer for Rampage, explains how it happened.

prison reformThe numbers are discouraging: 1 in 28 American children has at least one parent in prison. Even though crime rates have dropped, our prison population has quadrupled; there are now about 2.4 million adults behind bars. It is costing us $80 billion a year to maintain our prison system. At one point, society thought that prison was about reform. We’ve all but dropped any pretense of reform; we’re just warehousing people.

Can we fix this?

One organization is trying. Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) would like to see changes in harsh mandatory minimum sentencing laws, many of which involve drug cases.

In 1990, Julie Stewart was public affairs director at the Cato Institute when she first learned of mandatory minimum sentencing laws. Her brother had been arrested for growing marijuana in Washington State, had pled guilty, and — though this was his first offense — had been sentenced to five years in federal prison without parole. The judge criticized the punishment as too harsh, but the mandatory minimum law left him no choice.

Motivated by her own family’s experience, Julie created Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) in 1991. Though her brother has long since left prison, has a beautiful family and a good job, Julie continues to lead FAMM in the fight for punishments that fit the crime and the offender.

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globalslaveryindexThere are 35.8 million people living in some form of modern slavery, claims the Global Slavery Index. The Index is a report produced by the Walk Free Foundation, a global human rights organization dedicated to ending modern slavery.

This year’s Index estimates the number of people in modern slavery in 167 countries, and includes an analysis of what governments are doing to eradicate the this form of human suffering.

According to the Index, of those living in modern slavery 61 percent are in five countries: India, China, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, and Russia.

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LBJ’s so-called “war on poverty” kicked off a trajectory of public policy that has shown a remarkable tendency to create more of the same — affirming cycles of dependency, disintegrating relational capital, and over-elevating material tinkering to the detriment of the permanent things.

Yet somehow the prevailing narrative still holds that those same sickly policies are the best we can hope for, and anyone who disagrees is an enemy of the poor. If money shall be transferred from Person X to Person Y and the label on the packaging reads “anti-poverty!”, what else is there to discuss?

In a recent interview with Senator Tim Scott (R-SC), MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts assumes the common prejudice (4:11):

Roberts begins by pointing to a series of progressive measures that Scott has opposed in the past, proceeding to ask, quite presumptuously, “How do you respond to that, if your true concern is about lower income families and kids?” One can only be concerned for the poor if they subscribe to the very policies that have failed them, apparently. (more…)