Category: Individual Liberty

Astute Acton readers more than likely are aware already that U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) has fired another salvo in the ongoing battle to silence conservative voices. Durbin joins our progressive friends in the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility and As You Sow – both involved in proxy shareholder resolutions that would force companies to disclose donations to nonprofits – in their attempts to declare lights-out on the American Legislative Exchange Council.

At issue for Durbin is ALEC’s draft legislation called the “Castle Doctrine Act,” based on Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law. Apparently, Sen. Durbin doesn’t like either, in much the same fashion ICCR and AYS dislike ALEC’s stand on climate-change, genetically modified organisms, Citizens United  and “Castle Doctrine.”

In his letter sent last week to right-of-center and free-market think tanks across the country, Durbin demands “yes or no” answers. The numbered questions below are lifted directly from the Aug. 6 letter sent to the Center of the American Experiment in Minneapolis:

  1. Has Center of the American Experiment served as a member of ALEC or provided any funding to ALEC in 2013?
  2. Does Center of the American Experiment support the “stand your ground” legislation that was adopted as a national model and promoted by ALEC?
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shariaIn 2010, voters in Oklahoma passed a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment that would prohibit state courts from using international law or Sharia law when making rulings. But yesterday, a federal judge ruled the amendment violated religious freedoms granted by the U.S. Constitution:

In finding the law in violation of the United States Constitution’s Establishment Clause, U.S. District Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange issued a permanent injunction prohibiting the certification of the results of the state question that put the Sharia law ban into the state constitution.

“While the public has an interest in the will of the voters being carried out, the Court finds that the public has a more profound and long-term interest in upholding an individual’s constitutional rights,” the judge wrote.

You don’t have to be in favor of Sharia law to be appreciate this victory for religious freedom. By helping to push the idea that religious beliefs should be kept private, anti-sharia laws are a threat to all of our religious liberties. As legal scholar Robert K. Vischer explained last year in First Things:

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The Gateway Pundit reports today that a provision in Obamacare’s Affordable Care Act allows for what the government is calling the “Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Visiting Program.”monster door

What does this mean? The program is designed to award monetary grants to states that have “modest” home visiting programs currently, and would like to expand those programs. The goal, purportedly, is to increase the health of mothers and young children and things like “developing a family-centered approach to home-visiting.” This comes from an amendment in the Social Security Act. (more…)

Blog author: ehilton
posted by on Wednesday, August 14, 2013

james madisonWhat do vegans, Catholics, and Starbucks have in common? According to attorney Mark Rienzi they all share the right to “decisions of conscience.”

Starbucks has ethical standards for the coffee beans it buys. Vegan stores refuse to sell animal products because they believe doing so is immoral. Some businesses refuse to invest in sweatshops or pornography companies or polluters,” Rienzi said in an Aug. 11 opinion essay for USA Today.

“You can agree or disagree with the decisions of these businesses, but they are manifestly acts of conscience, both for the companies and the people who operate them,” he said. “Our society is better because people and organizations remain free to have other values while earning a living.”
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Obamacare – or the Affordable Care Act (ACA) – is meant to give everyone in America the best access to the best health care. But things aren’t looking so good. As we get closer to its onset, it’s becoming clear that there will be fall-out. little girl with medsEmployers (especially small-to-medium size businesses) are looking for ways to handle the onslaught of costs Obamacare will bring; one way is to offer healthcare ONLY to employees, leaving employee families out of luck, and insurance.

Mike Shoop, who owns a debt collection agency and employs 150 full-time employees, says he’s generous with employee salaries, but there are limits to how much the company budget can handle. (more…)

actonLord Acton once said of the American revolution: “No people was so free as the insurgents, no government less oppressive than the government which they overthrew.” It was America’s high view of liberty and its ideas that cultivated this unprecedented freedom ripe for flourishing. Colonists railed over 1 and 2 percent tax rates and were willing to take up arms in a protracted and bloody conflict to secure independence and self-government.

In a chapter on Lord Acton in The Moral Imagination: From Adam Smith to Lionel Trilling, Gertrude Himmelfarb explains how Acton was a historian who saw moral absolutes, and these were the same absolutes Lord Acton found in America’s Framers.

In America, there is certainly a great dearth of moral clarity in today’s political culture and really most of society. I think a large segment of our population certainly feels aimless and fatigued over the trajectory of not just the political debate, but where our nation is headed. As a country that is losing its history, many thirst for a return to first principles and away from the kind of relativistic rot which has become the status quo. Below is an excerpt from Himmelfarb’s book which discusses Lord Acton’s view on the American Revolution:

Although the first tentative overtures toward freedom came in ancient and medieval times, only in modernity, Acton claimed, did it emerge in its true nature. English Protestant sects in the seventeenth-century discovered that “religious liberty is the generating principle of civil, and that civil liberty is the necessary condition of religious.” But not until the American Revolution had “men sought liberty knowing what they sought.” Unlike earlier experiments in liberty, which had been tainted by expediency, compromise, and interest, the Americans demanded liberty simply and purely as a right. The three-pence tax that provoked the revolution was three-pence worth of pure principle. “I will freely spend nineteen shillings in the pound, Acton quoted Benjamin Franklin, “to defend my right of giving or refusing one other shilling.” Acton himself went further. The true liberal, like the American revolutionists, “stakes his life, his fortune, the existence of his family, not to resist the intolerable reality of oppression, but the remote possibility of wrong, of diminished freedom.” The American Constitution was unique in being both democratic and liberal. “It was democracy in its highest perfection, armed and vigilant, less against aristocracy and monarchy than against its own weakness and excess. . . . It resembled no other known democracy, for it respected freedom, authority, and law.”

Ever since the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that requiring most employers to cover birth control, abortificients and abortions as part of employee health care coverage, there has been a firestorm of attention pill in handfocused on the mandate. Both secular and religious employers have fought the order, stating that it violates their moral and/or religious principles to pay for these things, which many do not believe fall into the category of “health care.” (See Acton PowerBlog posts here, here, and here.)

Today, August 1, was the date the mandate was to go into effect. However, HHS has given a “stay” for religious non-profits until January 2014. That isn’t good enough for the group “Women Speak For Themselves” (WSFT), founded by Helen Alvaré, Professor of Law at George Mason University. In today’s Washington Post, Alvaré and Meg T. McDonnell give 5 reasons why women care about this mandate. She says, in the words of one of the organization’s members that these women “don’t want anyone buying the phony message the government is selling…that ‘women care more about free birth control than freedom of religion.’” WSFT backed up their convictions by protesting today in Lafayette Park across from the White House. (more…)

contraceptive pillsTwo different federal appeals courts have issued opposite rulings on whether Obamacare can force company owners to violate their religious beliefs by providing contraception and abortifacients to their employees.

A divided panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit ruled that a Pennsylvania cabinet-making company owned by a Mennonite family must comply with the contraceptive mandate contained in the Affordable Care Act.

The majority said it “respectfully disagrees” with judges in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in Denver, who recently narrowly found just the opposite. A split in interpreting federal statutes is usually an invitation for the Supreme Court to resolve the issue.

The court noted that there are numerous rulings that held corporations have free speech rights, but said there was a “total absence of caselaw” to support the argument that corporations are protected by the Constitution’s guarantee of free exercise of religion. Apparently, the court thinks that only part of the First Amendment applies to corporations.

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The official White House website says that all Americans will now have access to affordable medical care, and that small business owners need not worry about rising costs:Unemployment-line-640x245

The proposal will also provide tens of billions in tax credits for small business owners to make insurance coverage more affordable. Small businesses will also have a new option of purchasing insurance through the exchanges. By pooling their resources in the new insurance marketplace, small business owners will lower their costs and have the same choices that big corporations and unions enjoy.

That’s all well and good, but as the National Bureau of Economic Research sees it, we may end up with less people working. In a paper published this month, three of the think tank’s researchers concluded, “Our results appear to indicate that the soon-to-be-enacted health-care reform may cause substantial declines in aggregate employment.” What does that mean? Small businesses aren’t going to go for the “pooling” option; they’ll just hire less people, and provide less people with health insurance. (more…)

Michael and Shaun Willis, brothers and attorneys at Willis & Willis, PLC in Kalamazoo, Mich., have filed suit against the federal government’s mandate regarding the inclusion of artificial birth control, abortificients and abortion as part of willis_brothersemployee health care. The brothers are both committed Christians and staunchly pro-life; one is Catholic, one Protestant. In addition to their law practice, they have a legal aid organization, doing pro bono work for the homeless in southeast Michigan. They also fund scholarships for children of military parents who’ve been killed or disabled in combat. This fund, the Corporal Christopher Kelly Willis Foundation, is a memorial to their brother, who was killed in an auto accident after returning home from active duty. (more…)