Category: Religious Liberty

Brooks-2x1500We continue to see the expansion of freedom and the economic prosperity around the world. And yet, despite having enjoyed such freedom and its fruits for centuries, the West is stuck in a crisis of moral imagination.

For all of its blessings, modernity has led many of us to pair our comfort and prosperity with a secular, naturalistic ethos, relishing in our own strength and designs and trusting in the power of reason to drive our ethics.

The result is a uniquely moralistic moral vacuum, a “liberal paradox,” as Gaylen Byker calls it — “a hunger for meaning and values in an age of freedom and plenty.”

In the past, American prosperity has been buoyed by the strength of its institutions: religious, civil, political, economic, and otherwise. But as writers such as Yuval Levin and Charles Murray have aptly outlined, the religious and institutional vibrancy that Alexis de Tocqueville once hailed appears to be dwindling, making the space between individual and state increasingly thin.

The revival and restoration of religious and civic life is essential if we hope to cultivate a free and virtuous society, occurring across spheres and sectors, from the family to business, from the church to political institutions.

Given the increasing attacks on religious liberty, Christian colleges and universities are standing particularly tall, even as they endure some of the highest heat. In a recent talk for the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, David Brooks demonstrates the cultural importance of retaining that liberty, explaining how his recent experiences with Christian educational institutions have affirmed their role in weaving (or re-weaving) the fabric of American life. (Read his full remarks here.) (more…)

state-department-religious-libertyThe State Department recently released its International Religious Freedom Report for 2015. A wide range of U.S. government agencies and offices use the reports for such efforts as shaping policy and conducting diplomacy. The Secretary of State also uses the reports to help determine which countries have engaged in or tolerated “particularly severe violations” of religious freedom in order to designate “countries of particular concern.”

A major concern addressed in this year’s report is the threat to religious freedom posed by blasphemy laws:

In many other Islamic societies, societal passions associated with blasphemy – deadly enough in and of themselves – are abetted by a legal code that harshly penalizes blasphemy and apostasy. Such laws conflict with and undermine universally recognized human rights. All residents of countries where laws or social norms encourage the death penalty for blasphemy are vulnerable to attacks such as the one on Farkhunda. This is particularly true for those who have less power and are more vulnerable in those societies, like women, religious minorities, and the poor. False accusations, often lodged in pursuit of personal vendettas or for the personal gain of the accuser, are not uncommon. Mob violence as a result of such accusations is disturbingly common. In addition to the danger of mob violence engendered by blasphemy accusations, courts in many countries continued to hand down harsh sentences for blasphemy and apostasy, which were used to severely curtail the religious freedom of their residents.

The report highlights several examples of state-sponsored persecution because of these laws:
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Today, a group Christian, Muslim, and Jewish leaders have released a statement in defense of the religious freedom of private colleges and universities in California. Current legislation pending in the California State Senate threatens to strip some private colleges and universities of an exemption that protects them from lawsuits and allows them to function as faith-based organizations. The effort, spearheaded by the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, includes signatures from 145 religious leaders.

Here is the full text of the statement along with a list of leaders who have signed the statement. You can also add your name to the document here.

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dncplatformEarlier this week, I talked about the religious and economic implications of the RNC platform. As the DNC wraps up, it is time to examine the relevant points of the Democratic platform.

Innovation & Entrepreneurship

We need an economy that prioritizes long-term investment over short-term profit-seeking, rewards the common interest over self-interest, and promotes innovation and entrepreneurship.

Minimum Wage

Democrats believe that the current minimum wage is a starvation wage and must be increased to a living wage. No one who works full time should have to raise a family in poverty. We believe that Americans should earn at least $15 an hour and have the right to form or join a union. We applaud the approaches taken by states like New York and California. We should raise and index the minimum wage, give all Americans the ability to join a union regardless of where they work, and create new ways for workers to have power in the economy. We also support creating one fair wage for all workers by ending the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers and people with disabilities.

Democrats support a model employer executive order or some other vehicle to leverage federal dollars to support employers who provide their workers with a living wage, good benefits, and the opportunity to form a union. The $1 trillion spent annually by the government on contracts, loans, and grants should be used to support good jobs that rebuild the middle class.

Poverty

We believe that today’s extreme level of income and wealth inequality—where the majority of the economic gains go to the top one percent and the richest 20 people in our country own more wealth than the bottom 150 million—makes our economy weaker, our communities poorer, and our politics poisonous.

We reaffirm our commitment to eliminate poverty. Democrats will develop a national strategy to combat poverty, coordinated across all levels of government. We will direct more federal resources to lifting up communities that have been left out and left behind, such as the 10-20-30 model, which directs 10 percent of program funds to communities where at least 20 percent of the population has been living below the poverty line for 30 years or more. We will also focus on communities that suffer from persistent poverty, including empowerment zones and areas that targeted government data indicate are in persistent poverty.

Democrats will protect proven programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)—our nation’s most important anti-hunger program—that help struggling families put food on the table. We will also help people grow their skills through jobs and skills training opportunities.

Religious Liberty

Opposes attempts to impose a religious test to bar immigrants or refugees from entering the United States.

Supports a “progressive vision of religious freedom that respects pluralism and rejects the misuse of religion to discriminate.”

Supports protecting both Muslims and religious minorities and the “fundamental right of freedom of religion” in the Middle East. (Read more here)

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In the wake of last week’s Republican National Convention, and in the midst of the Democratic National Convention, it is more important than ever for voters to be thoroughly educated on each party’s platform going into the general election season. In two recent posts on the Republican Party platform, (part one, part two) Joe Carter provides a comprehensive summary of the Republican Party’s main stances (we’ll look at some of the Democratic Party’s platform issues in a later post). Some of the highlights of the platform include: (more…)

img-church-stained-glass.tmb-16x9largeWhy is political speech in churches back in the news?

During his speech at the recent Republican National Convention, Donald Trump said, “An amendment, pushed by Lyndon Johnson many years ago, threatens religious institutions with a loss of their tax-exempt status if they openly advocate their political views.”

The new GOP platform also says the “federal government, specifically the IRS, is constitutionally prohibited from policing or censoring speech based on religious convictions or beliefs” and urges the repeal of the so-called “Johnson Amendment.”

What is the Johnson Amendment?

In 1954, Senator Lyndon Johnson was running for reelection in his home state of Texas and faced a primary challenge from a millionaire rancher-oilman. A non-profit conservative political group published material recommending voting for Johnson’s challenger. To get back at this group, Johnson subsequently introduced an amendment to Section 501(c)(3) that would prohibit tax-exempt organizations from attempting to influence political campaigns. The present ban is codified in Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.

What does the law say?
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One and Indivisible is a new collection of essays on the connection between religious and economic liberty. Those who regard freedom as essential should uphold the importance of both religious and economic liberty; these essays dig deeper in search of an essential connection or natural interplay between the two.

Now on sale in the Acton Book Shop

Now on sale in the Acton Book Shop

One and Indivisible connects both freedoms as complimentary and symbiotic. Richards discovers a “virtuous cycle” between religious and economic freedom. Michael Novak traces the foundations of each through the American natural rights tradition, finding that economic liberty is both a product of and a supporter of religious freedom.

The book successfully connects the foundations of economic and religious freedom with the challenges society faces today, in the United States and abroad. Especially timely are Jay Richards’ examination of the threat to religious freedom posed by the loss of economic liberty in the Affordable Care Act and Cardinal Joseph Zen’s exploration of the paradox of high economic freedom and low religious freedom in China.

Later in the collection, a case is made for the strength of the symbiosis of religious and economic freedom in combating poverty and restoring an anthropological understanding of private property. A key thought echoed by each essayist is the ability of Christian anthropology to undergird poverty alleviation, natural law, and conclusively economic development. At the end of her essay, “Faith and Freedom and the Escape from Poverty,” Anielka Münkel Olson wraps the ideas of economic flourishing and religion together by quoting St. John Paul II in his address to the United Nations: (more…)