Category: News and Events

Samuel Gregg, Acton’s director of research, recently wrote about the “complicated relationship” between religious freedom and business. While there may not seem like a natural connection between these two concepts, Gregg points out that, especially recently, we are seeing a number of businesses “impacted by apparent infringements of religious liberty.” He goes on to discuss just how complicated this relationship is:

Until relatively late in the modern era, most Jews in Europe were legally prohibited from formal involvement in political life and barred from serving in particular professions such as law, the civil service, and the military. Throughout Western and Eastern Europe, many Jews consequently gravitated towards commerce and finance as activities in which they were allowed to exercise their talents. To the eternal shame of Christians, the tremendous success of Jews in these areas made them frequent and easy targets for anti-Semitic pogroms (often incited by Christian business rivals) as well as legalized extortions by Christian kings and princes.

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A Note to Readers: The Acton Institute is presenting a special screening of the film Rockin’ the Wall on November 20 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The event features a talk by Larry Schweikart, who worked closely with the film’s producers and is featured prominently throughout the documentary. To register, click here.

Back in my college days, my friends and I debated the merits of military spending by the then-current administration. As this was the 1980s, featuring two terms of President Ronald Reagan, we took somewhat opposing views on whether the United States could outspend the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics until it – and its odious ideology – collapsed into the dustbin of history. This argument – believe it or not – was adopted by my friend Ron. My friend John – coincidentally named after the president on whose inaugural he was born, John Kennedy – argued that the revolution would come from within the Iron Curtain rather than without. Eastern Europe and the Soviet states wanted Calvin Klein jeans, jazz and rock and roll music, he asserted, and he was convinced that comrades of the Soviet states and its satellites would tear down oppressive regimes to attain artifacts of Western culture. (more…)

Recently, Acton President and Co-founder Rev. Robert Sirico spoke with Joe Wooddell, professor of philosophy and vice president for academic affairs at Criswell College. They discuss the concept of classic liberalism, Lord Acton, the Institute, and what led to the creation of Acton’s largest event of the year, Acton University.

If you’re new to Acton or want to learn more about Acton University, this is certainly a helpful resource. Registration for Acton University 2015 opens on Monday, November 17.

Listen below:

European workers and trade union reps protest in Brussels

Things really aren’t looking good across the pond.  Acton’s Director of Research, Samuel Gregg, has written quite a bit about the decline in Europe. His latest ‘Meanwhile, Europe is (Still) Burning’ in the American Spectator, discusses the inability or unwillingness of European governments to respond to economic trouble.

Two of the world’s large economies, France and Italy, are examples of this. In France, workforce unemployment is 11 percent, the government has engaged in possibly illegal activity by hiding the fact that it hasn’t cut its fiscal deficits, and it won’t actually get around to making these cuts until 2017. The situation in Italy is even worse: unemployment is at 12.6 percent, youth unemployment is at 42.9 percent, and the country is ranked as one of the worst in the world in terms of “labor market efficiency.”

Despite these problems, necessary changes are not being made:

Prime Minister Matteo Renzi is the latest Italian head of government to propose some marginal labor-market reforms. Alas, he too has discovered that Italy’s unions are essentially opposed to anything except the status quo. That’s why an estimated 1 million Italians marched in the streets on October 25, claiming that “fundamental rights” (which evidently don’t extend to Italians below 30) were being endangered.

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Cheval_de_Troie_d'après_le_Virgile_du_VaticanMore groups are beginning to notice the hypocrisy of nuns advocating for progressive causes, including and especially their stumping for campaign finance disclosure. Over at Juicy Ecumenism, the blog published by the Institute of Religion & Democracy, guest writer T.J. Whittle echoes what loyal PowerBlog readers will recognize as a familiar theme. Namely, the nuns are working in league with leftist organizations interested only in stifling their opponents’ political speech.

In his essay, “Nuns in Glass Buses,” Whittle, a research assistant at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, writes:

After helping to re-elect President Obama in 2012 and advocating for immigration reform in 2013, Sr. Simone Campbell and the Nuns on a Bus have returned for the 2014 midterm elections. Sr. Campbell, who heads the progressive Catholic group NETWORK and spoke at the Democratic National Convention in 2012, has warned in her typical populist tone that “Our election campaigns are now awash with big money.”

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dr evil

Ooh, ooh dark money!

Now that the midterms and 2014 shareholder proxy resolution thankfully are in our rearview mirror, we can pick through the claims of the progressive religious groups such as those affiliated with the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility. Some of the charges hurled against donations by the libertarian billionaires Charles and David Koch serve only to deflect similar charges that progressive political action committees, candidates and causes are receiving storage lockers full of mad stacks of beaucoup bucks (author’s redundancy intentional).

In short, ICCR and its posse’s protests against the brothers Koch amount to nothing more than hypocrisy. Progressive PACs receive remarkably more bank than their conservative counterparts. Yet, ICCR boasted like a cackling Dr. Evil complete with pinky pressed to mouth’s corner in early September it had amassed 1 million comments for submission to the Securities and Exchange Commission:

In a record-breaking demonstration of support, over one million commenters have submitted comments to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) calling on the agency to take immediate steps to require publicly traded corporations to disclose their use of corporate resources for political purposes to their shareholders….

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Blog author: sstanley
Thursday, November 6, 2014
By

What is the purpose of a for-profit business? Just for revenue to exceed expenses or something more? The Acton Institute and Calvin College recently answered this question by co-sponsoring a Symposium on Common Grace and the role it plays in business. Chris Meehan of CRC (Christian Reformed Church) Communications attended the event held at Calvin’s Prince Conference Center and recently wrote about it. He quotes keynote speaker, Peter Heslam, director of Transforming Business. “Business can be a positive agent in society,” Heslam told the participants. “Christians ought to value the transformational qualities that business can have.”

Heslam works particularly closely with faculty at Cambridge’s divinity and business schools and with leaders in international business. He has also published widely, including a book on Kuyper.

In his talk, Heslam said that Kuyper’s ideas, especially that every “square inch” of the world is under the sovereignty of God, apply to economics in significant ways.

“Faith and business do mix,” he said. “We know that God calls people to specific roles, and they feel called to business.

“The church and business can have a mutual relationship,” he said. “There are business people who refuse to separate their business practices and their theology.”

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The Acton Institute will hold the second of five conferences in the international series, One and Indivisible? The Relationship Between Religious and Economic Freedomin Washington on Nov. 10. These events are designed to explore the concept of expanding government in the Western World and its impact on religious liberties and freedoms.

The Washington conference, titled “The Relationship Between Religious and Economic Liberty in an Age of Expanding Government,” will examine how the Christian conception of religious liberty limits the state’s exercise of power, the manner in which the expansion of economic freedom creates new opportunities and challenges for believers, how social welfare policies can inhibit or facilitate religious activity, and the effects of growing government upon the ability of Christians and Church.

Speakers include Cardinal Robert Sarah (Pontifical Council ‘Cor Unum’), Prof. Russell Hittinger (The Catholic University of America), Mr. Michael Novak (Author and former Ambassador), Dr. Jay W. Richards (The Catholic University of America) and is co-sponsored by The Catholic University of America’s School of Business & Economics.

The conference is scheduled to start on Monday Nov. 10 at the Catholic University of America at noon. For those unable to join, there will also be a live streaming event at Acton’s headquarters in Grand Rapids, Mich as well as live broadcast available online.

To join the conversation online use the Twitter hashtag #DitchtheDivide.

We are expecting a great turn out as we seek to “ditch the divide” between religious and economic liberty. For more information, to register for the conference, or to access the live stream (available the day of the conference) visit the conference website www.acton.org/DC2014

Ukraine-Memorial-Holodomor

Holodomor Memorial in Kyiv, Ukraine

Seventy years ago this November, a new word entered the lexicon which would contextualize and put a name to the mass killings of minority groups that had gone on for centuries: genocide.

The Polish-Jewish lawyer who coined the word, Raphael Lemkin, used it for the first time in his book, Axis Rule in Occupied Europe, published in November 1944. Lemkin had been deeply troubled with mass killing and the lack of legal framework for adjudication of its perpetrators from a young age. He found it appalling that in the name of “state sovereignty” a leader was effectively able to kill his own citizens, without punishment under the law.

Lemkin’s coining of the word was followed by a relentless, single-handed effort to lobby diplomats, heads of states, and then the newly formed United Nations to create a law which would make illegal this recently named crime against humanity. Lemkin’s efforts were eventually rewarded when on December 9, 1948 the United Nations General Assembly unanimously passed into law the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

History reveals many “crimes against humanity” which preceded this development in international law. The current U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, notes a few of these in her book, A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide.

And there are still many other largely unknown genocides that deserve our recognition. One of these will be covered in an upcoming Acton Institute art and lecture event on Thursday, November 6: “The Famine Remembered: Lessons from Ukraine’s Holodomor and Soviet Communism.”

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Winner.

In an otherwise excellent post yesterday on how, of all things, politics in our (basically) two-party system actually brings together Americans like nothing else, Joe Carter ends with this addendum:

Addendum: Casting a “protest vote” for third-party candidates is essentially casting a vote for the party you like the least. For example, say you prefer the Democrats to the Republicans but choose to vote for the Green Party candidate. Since the Green candidate will not win, you vote effectively reduces the vote for the Democratic candidate (your second favorite choice) by one. Had you cast the vote that way, it would have offset a vote for the Republican.

On the one hand, I do not disagree that one should not be deluded about the chances of most (there have been exceptions) third party candidates. One must consider that, in fact, a third party vote is also a passive vote for “the party you like least.”

But, on the other hand, there are times where I can see this as more than a protest vote. As I wrote in 2012, third party votes are different than abstaining to vote altogether in that while the latter may at best be a form of protest, a purely negative act, the former is actually a vote for someone/something. Thus: (more…)