Category: Religious Liberty

The spring session of the 2016 Acton Lecture Series closed on May 17th with an address by Acton Institute President Rev. Robert A. Sirico entitled “Freedom Indivisible: Private Property as the Solid Ground for Religious Liberty,” which examined how private property provides an essential foundation for religious liberty in a free and virtuous society. We’re pleased to share the lecture with you via the video player below.

 

USCIRF-2016“By any measure, religious freedom abroad has been under serious and sustained assault since the release of our commission’s last Annual Report in 2015,” says the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). “From the plight of new and longstanding prisoners of conscience, to the dramatic rise in the numbers of refugees and internally displaced persons, to the continued acts of bigotry against Jews and Muslims in Europe, and to the other abuses detailed in this report, there was no shortage of attendant suffering worldwide.”

In the USIRF’s 2016 report, which the State Department released earlier today, the commission notes that the incarceration of prisoners of conscience “remains astonishingly widespread, occurring in country after country, and underscores the impact of the laws and policies that led to their imprisonment.”

The report highlights numerous examples of state-sponsored persecution of Christians, such as that occurring in the East African country of Eritrea:
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cpcIn 1998, the U.S. took an important step in promoting religious freedom as a foreign policy objective with the passage of the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 (IRF Act). Designed to “strengthen United States advocacy on behalf of, individuals persecuted in foreign countries on account of religion,” the law authorized “actions in response to violations of religious freedom in foreign countries.”

The act also requires that that Secretary of State identify “countries of particular concern,” a designation reserved for nation’s guilty of particularly severe violations of religious freedom. The classification is used for countries that have committed “particularly severe violations of religious freedom,” including violations such as:
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The Acton Institute issued a video statement to the international press today from its Rome office, introducing the main topics that to be addressed at its April 20th Rome conference “Freedom with Justice: Rerum Novarum and the New Things of Our Time” at the Roma-Trevi Conference Center.

Among the “new things” to be discussed for the 125th anniversary of Leo’s landmark social encyclical will be the Church and poverty, Europe’s faltering welfare states, globalization’s winners and losers, youth unemployment, our malfunctioning financial systems, the rise of economic populism, new forms of socialism, and, of course, Pope Francis’s economic thinking.

Lively discussion will take place at the conference as well as on social media via the hash tag #125onFreedom. More information can be found at acton.org/Rome2016.

Online viewing will be available on livestream from which viewers may propose questions for the conference speakers.

apple-icon-appleThe early church father Tertullian once asked, “What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?” by which he meant “What has Greek thought and philosophy to do with Christianity and its Biblical heritage?”

Today we might ask a similar question, “What has Apple to do with Hobby Lobby?” or “What does the conflict between Apple and the federal government over encryption have to do with Hobby Lobby’s struggle with the government over religious liberty?”

The answer is: More than you might think. As Chelsea Langston argues, the tech giant and the craft store share a defense of constitutional protections for institutions:
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As Americans face an increasing wave of pressure on religious liberty here at home, Christians around the world are enduring unprecedented levels of persecution.

According to We Stand With Them, a new group focused on “standing with those who stand with Jesus,” 100 million Christians were targeted for their faith in 2015, including a 136% increase over the previous year in believers who were killed for their faith. Last year was “the worst year for Christian persecution on record,” according to the group.

In a powerful new video, they aptly illustrate the situation:

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littlesisters2The Little Sisters of the Poor, an international congregation of Catholic women religious who serve the elderly poor in over 30 countries around the world, have been given a difficult choice: violate your conscience or pay $70 million a year in fines.

For the past few years the Obama administration has been attempting to force the Little Sisters — and other nonprofit religious organizations — to help provide their employees with free access to abortion-inducing drugs, sterilizations, and contraceptives. But on Wednesday, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments to determine whether the nuns will be given the right to continue with their ministry caring for the elderly poor and providing health benefits to their employees without having to violate their consciences.

In an op-ed for the New York Times, Constance Veit,  director of vocations for the Little Sisters of the Poor, explains why the requirement is a violation of their conscience:

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