Category: Individual Liberty

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
Friday, June 14, 2013
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“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
Thursday, June 13, 2013
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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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12 year old girls are a lot of things, but keenly aware of their own bodies, biological functions and the side effects of medications are typically not among their strong suits. Imagine a 12 year old girl who isn’t even sure how she might get Adolescent Girl with Head in Handspregnant, let alone if she is. Imagine a 12 year old who’s been coerced into having sex or has even been raped. Imagine she may or may not be pregnant, but has contracted an STD and doesn’t know it. Imagine she’s so afraid of being pregnant that she takes the ‘morning-after’ medication 2 or 3 times, “just to be sure.” Imagine the harm being done to her young body and mind, with no counsel from a parent and a medical professional. In fact, the parents have no rights here, despite the fact that there are only five states in the U.S. that do not have laws regarding piercings and/or tattoos for minors. The Obama administration has decided that a child facing an unplanned pregnancy needs less parental supervision than one who wants to get a nose ring. (more…)

Three years ago the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that corporations have the same rights as individuals to engage in political speech. As Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the Citizens United decision, the “corporate identity” of a speaker did not justify a reduced level of free speech protection. Can that same concept about corporate identity be applied to religious liberties? Do corporations have religious liberty rights too?

Some legal scholars are claiming they do not:
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Last night in Dublin I was having a conversation with a 65-year-old man who was ranting about the high unemployment rate in the European Union, which in the 17-nation currency area rose to 12.2 percent in April. The current unemployment rate is a new record since the data series began in 1995. My new friend was very open about being an outright socialist and said that Europe’s problem is that people are not being treated fairly.

Capitalism, he explained, promotes a culture where people do not share their resources because it encourages inequality. To solve the European unemployment crisis, my friend suggested that Europe “needs a dictator” to come in and simply tell everyone what to do so that there will be true equality. The problem, however, my Irish friend confessed, is that when someone gets in a power “they get carried away with it,” and people end up being taken advantage of. He did not seem able to connect the dots that countries that have tried socialism and dictatorships are countries where the poor are worse off in the long-run. Therefore, his proposal will not work.

The conversation raised several questions for me. To start, I wondered why this 65-year-old man drinking a Smithwick’s beer, sitting next to me drinking a pint of Guinness, did not see that we were both experiencing equality thanks to the free market, property rights, and the rule of law. I also wondered why he thinks that something like socialism would be the best way forward given the fact that a form of it is currently not working in the European Union.
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