Category: Individual Liberty

Pope Francis talks aboard the papal plane while en route to ItalyWhen Pope Francis gave addresses at the White House, Congress, and the UN, he mentioned the importance of religious freedom. But many people (including me) were rather disappointed that he didn’t speak more specifically about what sorts of religious liberties are under threat.

Once aboard the papal plane, though, it appears the pontiff provided more clarity on the issue. According to Reuters, the pope said government officials have a “human right” to refuse to discharge a duty, such as issuing marriage licenses to homosexuals, if they feel it violates their conscience.

How did the framers of the Constitution seek to preserve liberty and protect against tyranny? Many Americans would say that to protect the individual and minorities against the tyranny of the majority, the Founding Fathers added the Bill of Rights and gave the power to enforce those rights to the Supreme Court.

But as Robert George, professor of jurisprudence at Princeton University, explains, that answer is wrong—dangerously wrong—and has led to an overall reduction in freedom.

March for Life(1)Imagine if the government were to tell an organization dedicated to veganism that, because of a new mandate, they must purchase a meat platter to serve at their monthly meetings and that the chair cushions in their conference room must be made of leather.

Appalled by this governmental intrusion, the vegans ask to be excluded from the mandate since none of their members wish to eat bologna while sitting on dead cow skin. They also point out that a group of Jain vegetarians who meet next door were given an exemption and that they are merely asking to be treated similarly.

The government considers their request and decides to deny the exemption. The reason? Unlike the Jains, the vegans’ objection is based on moral philosophy rather than religion.

Such reasoning would be morally and legally absurd. Yet it is the exact reason the Obama administration gave for denying an exemption from the HHS’s abortifacient mandate to March for Life, a non-religious, non-profit pro-life organization whose staff opposes all forms of abortion, including those caused by contraceptives that can act as abortifacients.

womensequalitydayIf you’ve been on Facebook today you’ve probably noticed the graphic promoting “Women’s Equality Day” which claims “On Aug 26, 1920, women achieved the right to vote in the US.”

President Obama also issued a proclamation today which begins, “On August 26, 1920, after years of agitating to break down the barriers that stood between them and the ballot box, American women won the right to vote.”

The problem with these claims is that they imply American women had no right to vote prior to the certification of the 19th Amendment. But as Joshua Treviño explains,


We’ve had our busiest Acton Lecture Series in institute history over the course of the first six months of 2015 – we’ve had more public events at the Acton Building in that period of time than we had all of last year, I believe; I’d venture to say that 2015 is already the busiest year in that regard in the 25-year history of the Acton Institute. We’ve had a bit of a pause in the events schedule over the summer, which means that now is a great time to catch up and highlight some events from earlier in the year that you may have missed.

On April 14th, Acton joined with our friends at the Mackinac Center to host Timothy P. Carney – author, senior political columnist at the Washington Examiner, and a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute – who spoke on the topic “Is Big Business a Danger to Economic Liberty?” Carney’s talk and the Q and A session that followed are now available for your edification via the video player below.

We’ve seen lots of commentary on the lopsided outrage over the inhumane death of Cecil the Lion — how the incident has inspired far higher levels of fervor and indignation than the brutal systemic barbarism of the #PPSellsBabyParts controversy or the tragically unjust murder of Samuel Dubose.

At first, I was inclined to shrug off this claim, thinking, “You can feel pointed grief about one while still feeling empathy about the other.” Or, “the facts of the Cecil case are perhaps clearer to more people.” Or, “How can we be sure this imbalance actually exists?”


But alas, the social media rants and media (non-)developments of the past few days have only continued to confirm that the reaction we are witnessing is, indeed, stemming from some kind of distorted social, moral, and spiritual imagination. This isn’t just about what is or isn’t bubbling up in the news cycle. It’s about what’s brewing, and in some cases, festering deep inside our hearts. (more…)

city lightsWhat’s the purpose of lighting in a large city? That may seem like the a fine example of a stupid question, but it’s not. While we could answer that question with suggestions like safety, allowing for extended commercial hours and ease of travel, lighting may now be used as a way to collect data on private citizens.

Using a combination of LEDs and big data technology, public lighting is the potential backbone of a system that could use billions of fixtures to collect data about traffic congestion at an intersection or a consumer walking down the cereal aisle, to name just a couple of applications.

What’s being called “intelligent environment” means lighting won’t simply be hardware but software, collecting data on everything from traffic congestion to gunshots to tracking a particular shopper in a grocery store. (more…)