Category: News and Events

The 2014 proxy shareholder season is over, and left-of-center religious investment groups such as the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility and As You Sow are crowing about victories and announcing their plans for next year. For example, ICCR notes in its latest issue of The Corporate Examiner:

While virtually every company participates in lobbying of some sort, companies often make undisclosed expenditures to third-party trade associations which then use that money in ways that can run counter to a company’s publicly-stated positions. After sustained engagement with ICCR members, VISA left the controversial model legislation group American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and has implemented board-level oversight of its lobbying activities. Amgen agreed to disclose its membership in trade associations along with the amounts the trade associations spend from its fees for lobbying. Accenture has significantly expanded its public lobbying disclosure. A resolution calling for lobbying disclosure at Emerson won 41.6%.

Political spending by corporations is also an issue for investors. Hess committed to fully disclosing its trade association memberships and the names of the tax exempt organizations to which it makes contributions, as well as the portion of those payments that is used for political activities. EQT adopted a political contributions transparency policy. A resolution on contributions at Emerson won 47% of the vote. (more…)

Blog author: ehilton
posted by on Friday, August 8, 2014
Yazidi children

Yazidi children

The Yazidis are a tiny religious minority, Kurdish by ethnicity, who are facing extinction by the Islamic State in Iraq. While there are about 700,000 Yazidis worldwide, more than half a million were living in Iraq, although many have fled the violence in the nation. The Yazidis trace their religious roots back to the 11th century, when an Ummayad sheik broke off from mainline Islam. Their ancient religion is a blend of Christianity, Zoroastrianism, Judaism and Islam.

Yazidis believe that a supreme God placed the earth under the custody of seven holy beings, the most exalted of which is the Peacock Angel. For this, Yazidis are sometimes labeled as heretics or devil worshippers.

The Islamic State justifies the killing of Yazidis due to their heretical beliefs. (more…)

Blog author: sstanley
posted by on Tuesday, August 5, 2014

autocamA few weeks ago, Hobby Lobby made waves when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the arts and crafts chain in its lawsuit against the Health and Human Services Contraception Mandate. West Michigan manufacturer, Autocam, has been engaged in a similar legal fight. John Kennedy, owner of Autocam, stated that his and his family’s Roman Catholic faith “is integral to Autocam’s corporate culture” and the Affordable Care Act’s requirement to provide contraceptives and abortifacients was a violation of their beliefs.

Late last year, the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals denied Autocam’s lawsuit against the HHS department. The company’s claim was denied on the grounds that, according to that court, engaging in for profit business is  separate from any religious beliefs of owners.

On Monday August 4, The Supreme Court officially reversed the decision from the Sixth Circuit. Tom Ciesielka from the Thomas More Society, who represents the company, gave a statement:

Today, the United States Supreme Court officially vacated the 6th Circuit’s decision that denied Autocam Corporation and its owners, protection against governmental violation of Constitutionally protected religious freedoms. The case has now been sent back to the lower court, following the decision in the Hobby Lobby case, argued on comparable merit. (more…)

Peter Johnson, External Relations Officer at Acton, recently wrote an article for the Institute for Religion and Democracy’s series of commentaries on social justice. This series explains what social justice is and examines what it means for Christians in light of the Gospel and natural law. Acton’s Dylan Pahman wrote the first article in this series by defining social justice. Johnson’s piece, Checking On My Privilege (And, Yes, It’s Still There) is the second in the series:

The suggestion that the Church has abandoned its calling to hospitality was demonstrated by my own church only a few Sundays ago. From the pulpit, the pastor exhorted the congregation to sign letters that had been prepared for us in the church narthex. We were told that the letters were part of a campaign designed to “end hunger forever.”

Curious (and I admit it: doubtful) about how the Church was going to end hunger through a letter-writing campaign, I asked for a copy of the prewritten letter. It was written by an organization called Bread for the World, which lobbies Congress for an end to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement. Wanting to learn more, I visited the Bread for the World website, which is written in the tone of so many “Christian” lobbying organizations: It manages to patronize even as it panders. The tone is that of a Postmodern thinker who believes that privileged Presbyterians will never truly understand hunger issues from their comfortable, bourgeois lives. Perhaps this is why the letters are prewritten: Privileged folks could never write such a letter on their own. (more…)

immigration pledgeIn a commentary for the National Catholic Register, Acton’s Director of Research Sam Gregg considers the topic of immigration, specifically the current U.S. border crisis. Gregg views the border crisis through the lens of Catholic Social Teaching, which he says gives us a principled and thoughtful (as opposed to emotional) framework.

We also have a rich tradition of teaching about political questions that embodies principles based upon the Gospel and the natural law: principles that lay Catholics have the primary responsibility, as Vatican II underscored, to apply to complex subjects such as immigration.

Catholic teaching on immigration contains many exhortations to be merciful. Indeed, the commandment to love our neighbor often means we’re required to go beyond the strict demands of justice, albeit not in ways that violate justice. At the same time, the Church articulates a framework for thinking — rather than merely emoting — through the immigration issue in a manner consistent with Catholic concerns for liberty, justice, human flourishing and the common good. And part of this involves affirming that there is a right — albeit not an unlimited right — to migrate.

(more…)

picedenAs reported by the Wall Street Journal, Iraq’s largest oil refinery for domestic use has been overtaken by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the radical jihadi terrorist group aiming to establish an Islamic caliphate in these two nations. As Iraq’s most lucrative resource is now siphoned off by a radical organization, the global oil market risks destabilization while financially empowering ISIS. Economic stability facilitates greater religious freedom – establishing an ISIS controlled government as detrimental to Iraq’s advances toward a stable and secular democratic state. The Christian population has been a primary target of this fundamentalist movement, with ISIS demanding they must convert to Islam, pay a fine, or face “death by the sword.” It was in here, in ancient Babylon, where political and economic institutions took stead; today these have been condemned while the Biblical story of Exodus is being retold with 50,000 Christians fleeing their homes.
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SurveillanceAs surveillance technology continues to cost less, we live in a world in which our activities are being increasingly monitored. And it’s not just the NSA doing it–even employers are utilizing surveillance technology in the workplace. The basis for this surveillance has been to catch employees abusing work time (e.g. scrolling through Facebook posts), to protect against sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuits, and to discover if any company secrets are being leaked. It also helps deter workers from breaking the rules if they know they are being watched. Workplace surveillance is something that all employers will have to carefully consider. Take Ryan Tate, for example, the CEO of a Christian publishing firm who fired 25 employees over an anonymous email. In a recording of a business meeting that was leaked, Tate can be heard threatening to use electronic records to discover those involved.

Could employers, even Christian ones, be going too far in some cases? What happens if your employer discovers personal information that doesn’t have anything to do with work? And is this surveillance even legal, or is it an invasion of privacy rights? (more…)

“You are a slow learner, Winston.”
“How can I help it? How can I help but see what is in front of my eyes? Two and two are four.”
“Sometimes, Winston. Sometimes they are five. Sometimes they are three. Sometimes they are all of them at once. You must try harder. It is not easy to become sane.” – George Orwell, 1984

In a calculation that surely qualifies as “new math,” the government has created an equation in which $29,000 is equal to $69,000. Within the current welfare structure a single mother is better off making $29,000 per year in income and subsequent welfare benefits, than she is making $69,000 per year in income alone. This perverse incentive is what perpetuates the cycle of poverty and condemns impoverished moms to dependence on a paternalistic state. Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and SNAP (food stamps) are all larger than ever before with no subsequent reversal in the level or scope of poverty.

The “Welfare Cliff,” an economic model developed by Gary Alexander, the Secretary of Public Welfare in Pennsylvania, shows the amount of net income a person would need to receive in order to match their current net income plus welfare benefits. This is called a cliff, as there are drastic drop-offs in welfare benefits as one increases their income. In this graph, “the single mom is better off earning gross income of $29,000 with $57,327 in net income and benefits than to earn gross income of $69,000 with net income & benefits of $57,045.” In fact, if a single mother were to raise her income from $29,000 to just $30,000, she would lose nearly $10,000 in welfare benefits per year.

The incentives provided under this system replace the desire for individual development with the maintenance of the status quo.  A single mother is highly unlikely to spend the time, effort, or capital in order to gain skills that result in receiving a lower disposable income. (more…)

Blog author: ehilton
posted by on Wednesday, July 23, 2014

john-blundellThe Acton Institute lost a dear friend this week. Historian John Blundell passed away on Tuesday. According to the Atlas Network (where Blundell had served as past president and board member), he will be remembered for his writing.

[Blundell] followed his own Margaret Thatcher: A Portrait of the Iron Lady (2008) with an edited collection, Remembering Margaret Thatcher: Commemorations, Tributes and Assessments (2013). He wrote Ladies For Liberty: Women Who Made a Difference in American History (2nd expanded edition 2013) to also showcase American women that contributed to individual freedom.

One of his greatest written contributions is a slender volume, Waging the War of Ideas (most recently published in 2007 in its third expanded edition), that has served as a primer for audiences around the world looking for cost-effective ways to affect social change in the direction of greater liberty.

Mr. Blundell shared his intellectual work and wit with the Acton Institute. Most recently, he spoke at a 2013 Acton Lecture Series on “Ladies For Liberty.” He is survived by his wife Christine and two sons. The Acton Institute has been asked to organize Mr. Blundell’s public memorial; details will be forthcoming.

 

Blog author: etrancik
posted by on Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Detroit WaterAs I was poring over the morning news the other day, it seemed to me that every few days there is another water crisis somewhere; whether it’s California’s drought, or more recently the controversial decision in which the Detroit water companies shut off the water supply to over 15,000 customers. But are we really looking at water regulation, appropriation, and the morality of shutting water off in the correct light?

Let’s start with some of the basics: Water is essential for survival. Water needs to be purified. But, how is this done? In most cities water companies or public utilities offer the service of collecting the water, filtering the water, and pumping it to our homes. How should a service like this be supported in a market? It should be supported by rewarding the provider of that service with a profit, so that they have an incentive to efficiently use their resources, and make it available to the widest range of people possible. To not pay, would be stealing from the water companies. (more…)