Category: Individual Liberty

syrian christians church bannerAs the civil war in Syrian continues to escalate, Christians are increasingly becoming the target of violent attacks. Catholic and Orthodox groups in Syria say the anti-government rebels have committed “awful acts” against Christians, including beheadings, rapes and murders of pregnant women.

Today, the conflict has morphed into a full-fledged civil war in which more than 100,000 people have perished. The most capable units on the rebel side — those spearheading the fight against the secular government — are composed of Islamist militants, many of whom fought U.S. forces in Iraq. The militants now accuse Christians of being supporters of Assad’s regime.

“They have threatened to cut our throats,” said Bahri, a Roman Catholic. “I love my country, but if it means having the terrorists slaughter me, my wife and our two boys, I’d rather escape to Lebanon.”

These ancient Christian communities, some of the oldest in the world, have generally been protected by successive Syrian governments, including Assad’s. But that security was lost when rebel factions began mounting increasingly ferocious attacks on them throughout the country.

On Aug. 17, rebel gunmen shot dead 11 Christians and wounded three more in central Syria, eyewitnesses and human rights activists said. In April, two bishops were abducted in rebel-held areas and an Italian Jesuit priest, Father Paolo Dall’Oglio, went missing last month while on a trip to the rebel-held northeastern city of Raqqa.

Read more . . .

The New Mexico Supreme Court, in a ruling regarding a Christian photographer who declined to photograph the commitment ceremony of a same-sex couple, stated that this violated the state’s Human Rights Act.

gay-marriage-cake-toppers-485x320In 2006, Elane Huguenin, a professional photographer, was asked to photograph the ceremony of a lesbian couple. Huguenin declined, citing her religious beliefs, and subsequently had a complaint filed against her with the New Mexico Human Rights Commission. She was found guilty of discrimination and fined. Justice Richard Bosson, in the court’s unanimous decision wrote:

The Huguenins today can no more turn away customers on the basis of their sexual orientation – photographing a same-sex marriage ceremony – than they could refuse to photograph African-Americans or Muslims…

At its heart, this case teaches that at some point in our lives all of us must compromise, if only a little, to accommodate the contrasting values of others,” he wrote.

He said the Constitution protects the rights of the Christian photographers to pray to the God of their choice and following religious teachings, but offered a sobering warning.

“But there is a price, one that we all have to pay somewhere in our civic life,” the justice wrote. “The Huguenins have to channel their conduct, not their beliefs, so as to leave space for other Americans who believe something different. That compromise is part of the glue that holds us together as a nation, the tolerance that lubricates the varied moving parts of us as a people.”

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Blog author: ehilton
Friday, August 23, 2013
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We know the government is listening, watching, gathering information. We know that we’re being told it’s all for our own good; after all, who wants to miss a possible terrorist attack? Sleeper cells, the Boston bombers, the haunting memory of nsa-is-listening-to-you9/11 say all of this is necessary for our safety, right? Not so fast, says Peggy Noonan.

First, she reminds us that the NSA has – at least technically – only limited authority when it comes to spying on American citizens. Yet, it seems they are monitoring 75 percent of our internet traffic. And clearly, our privacy doesn’t matter a bit:

 [A] finding was revealed that the NSA violated the Constitution for three years running by collecting as many as 56,000 purely domestic communications without appropriate privacy protections. The secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court slammed the agency for “misrepresenting” its practices to the court, and noted it was the third time in less than three years the government misrepresented the scope of a collection program.

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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
Wednesday, August 14, 2013
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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…)