Category: Individual Liberty

On Friday, June 28, the Department of Health and Human Services offered up its final ruling on the mandate for all employers to offer insurance plans covering abortion services and abortificients. The ruling itself is over 100 pages, and will sebeliustake some time to dissect. However, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty made this statement:

‘Unfortunately the final rule announced today is the same old, same old. As we said when the proposed rule was issued, this doesn’t solve the religious conscience problem because it still makes our non-profit clients the gatekeepers to abortion and provides no protection to religious businesses’ says Eric Rassbach, Deputy General Counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. ‘The easy way to resolve this would have been to exempt sincere religious employers completely, as the Constitution requires. Instead this issue will have to be decided in court.’ (more…)

There is little doubt that America is moving further away from the kind of broad and liberal religious freedom that was championed during the founding period. In terms of intellectual thought, that period was certainly the high water mark for religious liberty around the globe. As Americans celebrate their freedoms and Independence next week, I seek to answer the question in this week’s commentary about America’s ability to remain the land of religious liberty.

Sadly, the outlook is rather bleak, and America will need a fundamental shift in thinking to secure protection for the rights of conscience and houses of worship. It’s evident the significance of spiritual freedom is waning and can’t really be articulated by the wider culture. Spiritual freedom is essential to self-government and self-control. In fact, I make the point in my commentary that the most dangerous detriment to religious liberty is the popular notion that religion and faith constricts liberty. Obviously, just winning mere court cases is not enough. That ship has sailed.

I suspect today’s Supreme Court ruling regarding the Defense of Marriage Act will only complicate matters of religious conscience for churches and dissent from culture and society becomes more dangerous. Secularization of society and the rise of centralized federal power is creating a government that seeks to operate above fundamental truths and the rights of conscience. It seeks to crowd it out and diminish its influence and limiting power upon the state. During his closing address at Acton University, Samuel Gregg explained so well how moral relativism now operates in a dictatorial fashion.

Just before the Declaration of Independence was adopted in 1776, John Adams wrote a letter to his cousin Zabdiel that I think points to our inevitable path as a nation without a rejuvenated appreciation and understanding of religious liberty. Adams declared,

The only foundation of a free constitution is pure virtue, and if this cannot be inspired into our people in a greater measure than they have it now, They may change their rulers and the forms of government, but they will not obtain a lasting liberty. They will only exchange tyrants and tyrannies.

 

HermanBavinckBigThe Dutch Reformed theologian Herman Bavinck has some wise words for reform of cultural institutions, notably marriage and family, in his exploration of The Christian Family:

All good, enduring reformation begins with ourselves and takes its starting point in one’s own heart and life. If family life is indeed being threatened from all sides today, then there is nothing better for each person to be doing than immediately to begin reforming within one’s own circle and begin to rebuff with the facts themselves the sharp criticisms that are being registered nowadays against marriage and family. Such a reformation immediately has this in its favor, that it would lose no time and would not need to wait for anything. Anyone seeking deliverance from the state must travel the lengthy route of forming a political party, having meetings, referendums, parliamentary debates, and civil legislation, and it is still unknown whether with all that activity he will achieve any success. But reforming from within can be undertaken by each person at every moment, and be advanced without impediment.

We often take the liberty necessary for such reformation for granted. Will the world continue to be open for such reformation? Will there still be circles of Christian influence that will allow us to live out the realities of the gospel everyday?

Acton’s Director of Research Samuel Gregg took to the podium on the final night of Acton University 2013 to deliver the closing plenary address for the conference. Below, Gregg closes the conference with a reflection on modern threats to religious liberty, and how the faithful can respond.

The U.S. State Department has released its annual “Trafficking in Persons” (Tip) Human Traffickingreport, used to not only further educate people about global human trafficking, but to identify countries where trafficking is most problematic. The report gives each nation a “tiered” rating. Tier 1 countries are those that fully comply with international laws and standards of the the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. Tier 2 nations are on a watch list as they are making efforts to comply with the Act, but are still struggling with full compliance. Tier 3 countries make no effort to comply with this international standard. (more…)

The double-headed eagle is a historical symbol of symphonia.

Today at Acton University, Fr. Michael Butler examined the history of Church-State relations in the Orthodox Tradition with special reference to the modern, Russian context in his lecture “Orthodoxy, Church, and State.” The audio of his lecture will be available via Ancient Faith Radio sometime in the coming weeks. As a teaser, I would like to briefly examine two concepts of Orthodox political theory to which Fr. Butler devoted specific attention: symphonia and sobornost.

Due to the influence of Max Weber, symphonia is often mischaracterized as caesaropapism (a term he coined), the state in which a nation’s sovereign is supreme in all ecclesiastical matters as well as those of state. It would be, then, a complete absorption of the Church by the state. Actual historical instances of this would include (to varying degrees) the Church of England where the monarch is the head and Imperial Russia from Tsar Peter the Great’s Westernizing reforms to the Bolshevik revolution. In the latter case, as Fr. Michael noted, one can see a distortion of symphonia for the elevation of state power, but not its essence or, by far, the complete historical picture. (more…)

Blog author: ehilton
posted by on Friday, June 14, 2013

“There, comrades, is the answer to all our problems. It is summed up in a single word– Man” ― George Orwell, Animal Farm

We are clearly at a point where we are all to be treated as criminals. Why? Because it’s politically incorrect to name the actual criminals. If a terrorist is fueled by a fundamentalist vision of his religion, such as the Tsarnaev brothers, we are told that their radical roots are “mysterious” or religion wasn’t even a factor in their choice to bomb the Boston marathon. If we, as a society, are unable to pin down what is behind terrorism, then everyone becomes suspect. (more…)

Blog author: ehilton
posted by on Thursday, June 13, 2013

AEI Scholar Christina Hoff Sommers is on a quest to reclaim feminism. Her new book, Freedom Feminism and Why It Matters Today, explores why so many women today reject the title of “feminist.” She discusses the topic further in the following video.

On June 11, 1963 Alabama Governor George Wallace became a national symbol for racial segregation by blocking the doors of a school to physically prevent the integration of Alabama schools. According to the Alabama Department of Archives, Governor Wallace “stood in the door-way to block the attempt of two black students, Vivian Malone and James Hood, to register at the University of Alabama. President John F. Kennedy federalized the Alabama National Guard, and ordered its units to the university campus. Wallace then stepped aside and returned to Montgomery, allowing the students to enter.” Unfortunately, the way Wallace defended what he did compromised the promotion of political and religious liberty for the generations that followed.

At the standoff, Wallace defended his actions by an official proclamation saying:
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Alliance Defending Freedom has released a transcript and audio of a phone conversation an IRS agent placed to a non-profit organization that provides support to women in abusive pregnancy situations. In the recorded phone conversation, the agent lectures the president of the organization about forcing its religion and beliefs on others and inaccurately explains that the group must remain neutral on issues such as abortion.
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