Category: News and Events

gr cityThe city of Grand Rapids, Mich. continues to deny the Acton Institute application for property tax-exemption, even as Acton presents evidence to support such status.

The Acton Institute, recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization and ranked #11 in the world as a social policy think tank by the University of Pennsylvania, received notice from City Assessor Scott Engerson that it did not meet the criteria for tax-exempt status for property tax purposes.

Most people think that if they’re a tax-exempt 501(c)3 they’re exempt from property tax, and that’s not the case in Michigan,” he said. “In regard to Acton, it’s the charitable piece that the city was not able to definitively conclude.”

Acton is one of 435 organizations appealing the city’s ruling regarding tax-exemption this month alone. Today, Acton made its appeal. (more…)

leghornchicken1

Leghorn Chicken, a “socially conscious chicken shop” in Chicago, makes it quite clear that they intend to be, as one might put it, a culture-making enterprise.

Behold, their statement of faith (HT).

Such an attitude, worldview, and moral orientation isn’t all that appealing to someone such as myself, particularly when paired with the lovely parental advisory sign located at the counter. Yet I feel no inclination to enlist the muscle of the magistrates to manipulate them toward watering things down. I can consume their chicken blindly (not advisable), take my business elsewhere, or start a delicious chicken shop of my own.

Respond to the market signal with your own market signal. Heed your conscience. Shape and create the culture. Bear witness to the Truth. Etc.

Yet for those like Kirsten Powers, these folks should simply subdue their strident beliefs and get back to plain-old materialistic business. “Most people just want to eat a chicken sandwich,” she might say. “It’s not clear why some chicken shops are so confused about their role here.” Or, as Andy Stanley might put it, “leave gay rights out of it.”

I bring this up simply to re-affirm a point I’ve already made: businesses are culture-making enterprises, whether they or we like it or not. When we detest or disagree with particular cultural outputs of particular cultural enterprises, we should respond with healthy Christianly output, not systemic strong-arming and stifling.

This means maximizing the freedom to shape culture and maximizing it for all. That includes religious freedom for the baker, the florist, and the photographer, just as it includes the ramblings of the supposedly a-religious chicken shop.

Business for the Glory of God: The Bible's Teaching on the Moral Goodness of Business

Business for the Glory of God: The Bible's Teaching on the Moral Goodness of Business

Wayne Grudem believes that by engaging in work and business we glorify God because we are emulating God's creative work.

$11.00

On March 4, Acton’s Director of International Outreach, Todd Huizinga, participated on a panel discussion hosted by Calvin College on Ukraine and the Cold War. Huizinga focused on the EU during the discussion; he was joined by Prof. Becca McBride who focused on Russia; Prof. Joel Westra, who focused on the Global Security Implications; and  Dr. Olena Shkatulo, assistant professor of Spanish at Calvin, who is from Ukraine. The  moderator was Prof. Kevin den Dulk.

Ukraine – The Last Frontier of the Cold War from Calvin College on Vimeo.

protestersgaAs noted previously this week, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan shot down a $9.5 billion (reported in some news accounts as $6 billion) judgment against Chevron for allegedly bespoiling Ecuadorian wilderness in cahoots with PetroEcuador. Judge Kaplan exonerated Chevron, and had some particularly nasty things to say about Steven Donziger, the attorney who sued the oil company for $113 billion.

I pointed out that Donziger’s since-discredited claims were taken up quickly by religious shareholder activists, many who submitted resolutions requesting that Chevron concede to Donziger’s extortion. Attach the “environmental disaster” epithet to any given legal claim and some leftists will buy it at face value. Mother Superior jumped the gun – before waiting for the courts to determine if Chevron would be exonerated. Indeed, Donziger’s charges were found without merit – as well as completely fraudulent, and the initial judgment rendered by the Ecuadorian court was found to have resulted from bribery, coercion and a vast public relations conspiracy consisting of half-truths, lies and bald-faced lies. (more…)

Nun-aids-Civil-War-soldier-620x320Acton Director of Research, Samuel Gregg, recently discussed Catholicism and healthcare over at Crisis Magazine. In his article, he asks “Must Catholics favor socialized medicine?” Gregg begins by addressing whether or not “access to healthcare may be described as a ‘right.’” He asserts that Catholics should agree it is a right based on a 2012 address Pope Benedict XVI made to healthcare workers, in which he unambiguously spoke of the “right to healthcare.” Gregg continues:

But the real debate for Catholics starts when we consider how to realize this right. Rights are a matter of justice, and justice is a primary concern of the state. Indeed Benedict XVI noted in his 2012 message that healthcare is subject to the demands of justice—specifically distributive justice—and the common good.

Some Catholics may believe this implies we’re obliged to support a more-or-less socialized healthcare system such as Britain’s National Health Service. Yet nothing in Benedict’s message or Catholic social teaching more generally implies this is the only possible path forward. (more…)

Philosopher and theologian, Michael Novak recently delivered a speech at the Catholic University of America on the vocation of business and Forbes published the transcript. Novak argues that “capitalism is lifting the world out of poverty.” As many Asian and African economies shift from socialist to capitalist, they are seeing enormous economic growth, and small businesses are the force behind these economic gains:

Even in developed nations, most jobs are found in small business. In Italy, over 80 percent of the working population works in small businesses. In the U.S., the proportion is just about 50 percent, but some 65 percent of new employment is in small businesses.

During the great economic expansion of 1981-1989, the U.S. added to its economy the equivalent of the whole economic activity of West Germany at that time. Sixteen million new jobs were created in the U.S., the vast number of them in small businesses. Startups peaked as new businesses came into being at a rate of 13 percent (as a portion of all businesses) – an all-time high. Much the same happened under Clinton in 1993-2001, but even better – 23 million new jobs were created.

In the creation of small businesses, four factors are necessary. First, ease and low cost of incorporation; second, access to inexpensive credit; third, institutions of instruction and technical help (such as the system of local credit unions in the U.S.), and the steady assistance of the extension services of the A&M universities; and, fourth, throughout the population habits of creativity, enterprise, and skills such as bookkeeping and the organization of work. Economic development is propelled, as John Paul II said, by know-how, technology, and skill (Centesimus Annus 32). Therein, perhaps, lie the greatest entry-points for Americans and others who wish to help poor nations by proffering assistance in economic development from the bottom up. (more…)

bieberJustin Bieber is no different than many 20-year-olds in the US and Canada. He is naturally searching for identity, meaning, and purpose — and searching for a community with whom to pursue those things. This is a normal process of transitioning from the teenage years into adulthood. Bieber, like many 20-year-olds, has shown a lack of judgement at times that has landed him not only in the news but also in jail. Many of us remember our own antics in those years and breathe a sigh of relief that we were never caught.

January 23, 2014 was one of those nights for Bieber. He was taken into custody with singer Khalil Amir Sharieff after police busted an illegal street drag race involving exotic cars, according to news sources. The Miami Police are now releasing photos from the custody intake process that put on display Bieber’s many tattoos. What I find interesting is that Bieber not only has a tattoo of Psalm 119:105 and but also one of Jesus. It made me wonder what Bieber’s life would like look if these things were tattooed not only on his skin but also on his heart.

It would be great to have an opportunity to ask Bieber what Jesus and Psalm 119 mean to him with no cameras, no media, no “selfies,” and the like–just to have an honest conversation about how he believes Jesus and Psalm 119 provide direction in his life. According to the Christian Post, Bieber recently tried to get baptized in an evangelical Protestant church.
(more…)

chevron-ran-clean-up-ecuador-oilIn 2005, religious shareholder activists of various stripes jumped aboard the bandwagon filing resolutions against Chevron for an environmental disaster it allegedly caused. Chevron asserted its innocence, but the activist shareholders put the squeeze on:

Chevron’s Ecuador environmental disaster, considered by experts to be the worst oil-related ecological problem on the planet and currently the subject of a high-stakes law suit estimated to cost the company upwards of $6 billion, will be high on the agenda of the company’s 2006 annual shareholder meeting with the filing of three new resolutions asking Chevron’s management to take various steps to protect human rights, the environment and shareholder interests.

The resolutions were filed by institutional and socially responsible investors, including the New York State Common Retirement Fund, Trillium Asset Management, Amnesty International USA and members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), which together own more than $1 billion in Chevron shares. The resolutions increase the pressure on the California-based oil major to address the widespread toxic contamination left by Texaco (now Chevron) in the Ecuadorian Amazon during a 20-year period that began in the early 1970s.

This story has a twist, however. Over at the National Review, Kevin Williamson reports Chevron beat the rap on the $6 billion judgment rendered against it by an Ecuadorean court several years ago. Seems the judge who established the original fine was in cahoots with a cadre of nasty elements. (more…)

In an excerpt from the splendid PovertyCure series, Michael Fairbanks offers a helpful bit on why our attitudes about competition matter for economic development:

I can predict the future of a developing nation better than any IMF team of economists by asking one question: “Do you believe in competition?” When I go to Venezuela and I say, “do you believe in competition?,” they say “competition means the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.” They say “competition is the unnecessary duplication of effort because you have two firms doing the same thing.” They say “competition is a quaint North American concept that doesn’t apply here.”

But when I go to Silicon Valley and I say,“What do you think about the word competition?,” they say, “Well, I love competition, because even when I lose, I learn something. And my success is due to the fact that I speeded up my failures, and the only way to fail was to compete, and figure out where I wasn’t good enough.”

As Hayek put it, competition is a discovery procedure. If we neglect, distort, or downplay that process, we can expect the outcomes of discovery — the fruits of our sacrifice and service — to digress accordingly.

PovertyCure DVD Series

PovertyCure DVD Series

Join host Michael Matheson Miller on a journey around the world to explore the foundations of human flourishing, and learn how people are moving toward partnerships and pursuing entrepreneurial solutions to poverty rooted in the creative capacity of the human person made in the image of God. Meet religious and political leaders, entrepreneurs, missionaries, and renowned development experts, and discover the powerful resources Christianity brings to the pursuit of human flourishing.

Visit the official PovertyCure website for more information.

$59.99

The massive federal student loan program is creating a gargantuan higher education bubble and unsustainable levels of student loan debt, but at least all that borrowed money is going primarily to educate people, right? Apparently not. Yahoo Finance reports on yet another way that the nanny state is creating moral hazard and impoverishing the culture:

A number of factors are behind the growth in student debt. The soft jobs recovery and the emphasis on education have driven people to attain more schooling. But borrowing thousands in low-rate student loans—which cover tuition, textbooks and a vague category known as living expenses, a figure determined by each individual school—also can be easier than getting a bank loan. The government performs no credit checks for most student loans.

College officials and federal watchdogs can’t say exactly how much of the U.S.’s swelling $1.1 trillion in student-loan debt has gone to living expenses. But data and government reports indicate the phenomenon is real. The Education Department’s inspector general warned last month that the rise of online education has led more students to borrow excessively for personal expenses. Its report said that among online programs at eight universities and colleges, non-education expenses such as rent, transportation and “miscellaneous” items made up more than half the costs covered by student aid. (more…)