Archived Posts January 2013 - Page 13 of 14 | Acton PowerBlog

Paul and Henry Griesedieck, owners of American Pulverizer Company of St. Louis and pro-life Christians, made a stand against the Health and Human Services Mandate and won, for now.  The HHS mandate requires employers and health insurers to provide employees with health insurance that includes coverage of contraceptives and abortifacient drugs which terminate early pregnancies. According to LifeNews, “[t]he U.S. District Court for Western Missouri issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting enforcement of the law.”

In their lawsuit, the Griesediecks contend that compliance with the Obamacare mandate would force them to violate their religious and moral beliefs.  In their lawsuit, the Griesediecks state that “it would be sinful for us to pay for services that have a significant risk of causing the death of embryonic lives.”

U.S. District Judge Richard Dorr ruled that the plaintiffs were likely to be able to prove that Obamacare “substantially  burdens their exercise of religion…Plaintiffs must either pay for a health plan that includes drugs and services to which they religiously object or incur fines.”

Judge Dorr noted that the federal government contends that the Griesedieck Companies are secular entities, and thus cannot “exercise religion.”  Judge Dorr responded by saying:  “There are many entities under which an individual can run a business…Does an individual’s choice to run his business as one of these entities strip that individual of his right to exercise his religious beliefs?”

In addition to concluding that under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act the mandate and its penalties would substantially burden plaintiffs’ free exercise rights, the court held that for 1st Amendment purposes, the mandate is not a neutral law of general applicability.

The court wrote: “Plaintiffs have shown to the court’s satisfaction for the purposes of these initial proceedings, that the [Affordable Care Act] mandate is not generally applicable because it does not apply to grandfathered health plans, religious employers, or employers with fewer than fifty employees.  Specifically, plaintiffs argue that the ACA mandate’s exemptions clearly prefer secular purposes over religious purposes and some religious purposes over other religious purposes.  Burdens cannot be selectively imposed only on conduct motivated by religious belief.”

Read the full article here.

Blog author: jcarter
Monday, January 7, 2013
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California’s Blue Utopia
Robert J. Cristiano, New Geography

The number 1 topic of conversation amongst the despised 1% in California today is when you are leaving California or whether you can leave.

Heirs of Mao’s Comrades Rise as New Capitalist Nobility
Bloomberg News

In three decades, they and their successors lifted more than 600 million people out of poverty and created a home-owning middle class as China rose to become the world’s second-biggest economy. Chinese on average now eat six times more meat than they did in 1976, and 100 million people have traded in their bicycles for automobiles.

State Contraceptive Mandates
Joseph Knippenberg, First Things

This patchwork of state insurance regulations will likely continue to pose a problem, even if the lawsuits against the Obama Administration’s contraceptive mandate succeed.

Next front in religious liberty fight: Military chaplains and “ceremonies”?
Tom Crowe, CatholicVote

The military chaplaincy, from the Catholic perspective, is one of the strangest amalgamations of duties, responsibilities, authorities, and chains of command.

A friend sent me a link to a Reuters story on Pope Benedict XVI’s New Year’s homily. The article carried this headline: “Pope hopes for 2013 of peace, slams unbridled capitalism.”

It is always a good rule of thumb with media reports like this to read the actual speech or document being cited, and not just go by the headline. From the Reuters report one gets the impression that the point of the statement and its theme is that the “Pope slams capitalism.”  When you read this in context you immediately see that Pope Benedict is actually calling for conversion. The operative phrase employed by the Holy Father in his homily is, “The prevalence of a selfish and individualistic mindset which also finds expression in an unregulated capitalism, various forms of terrorism and criminality.”

I say in Defending the Free Market: The Moral Case for the Free Economy that “global capitalism can’t of itself supply the cultural and moral formation worthy of the human person … our increasing interconnectedness holds great potential for offenses against human dignity. Advances in technology and communication can make it easier to sell pornography – or to traffic in human beings…” and so on.

In other words, I stand with the pope, that sin (what he calls in this case a “selfish and individualistic mindset”) can find expression in the context of human liberty lacking moral orientation, (what he calls in this instance, “global capitalism”).

Is the pope saying that capitalism is in and of itself “selfish and individualistic”? No. Can it express the vices (and for that matter the virtues) of people living in free economies? Yes.

That is why the Acton Institute exists — to promote virtuous free economies.

Remember last month when we discussed the “platinum coin option”? If you’ve forgotten already, it was the ridiculous idea that President Obama could have the U.S. Mint produce a pair of trillion-dollar platinum coins and deposit them with the Federal Reserve to pay off the national deficit. You probably thought it was such a goofy plan that no one in Washington, D.C. could possibly take it seriously, right? Well, think again:
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Blog author: dpahman
Friday, January 4, 2013
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800px-Programming_language_textbooksIn addition to my post in late November about the textbook bubble (spurred by this post from AEI’s Mark Perry), the Atlantic‘s Jordan Weissmann joins the discussion, asking, “Why Are College Textbooks So Absurdly Expensive?” (also the title of his article). It is a good question, and one that highlights the danger of disconnecting the determination of prices from the subjective valuing of consumer demand. There is no competition, no free market, where students are required to buy only certain books for their classes at artificially inflated prices. Weissmann provides a helpful summary of Kevin Carey’s related Slate article as follows:

Academic Publishers will tell you that creating modern textbooks is an expensive, labor-intensive process that demands charging high prices. But as Kevin Carey noted in a recent Slate piece, the industry also shares some of the dysfunctions that help drive up the cost of healthcare spending. Just as doctors prescribe prescription drugs they’ll never have to pay for, college professors often assign titles with little consideration of cost. Students, like patients worried about their health, don’t have much choice to pay up, lest they risk their grades. Meanwhile, Carey illustrates how publishers have done just about everything within their power to prop up their profits, from bundling textbooks with software that forces students to buy new editions instead of cheaper used copies, to suing a low-cost textbook start-ups [sic] over flimsy copyright claims. (more…)

When Christians are tempted to despair over our seeming inability to make significant cultural changes in America, there is one word that should give us reason to be optimistic: homeschooling. As The Economist notes:

Three decades ago home schooling was illegal in 30 states. It was considered a fringe phenomenon, pursued by cranks, and parents who tried it were often persecuted and sometimes jailed. Today it is legal everywhere, and is probably the fastest-growing form of education in America. According to a new book, “Home Schooling in America”, by Joseph Murphy, a professor at Vanderbilt University, in 1975 10,000-15,000 children were taught at home. Today around 2m are—about the same number as attend charter schools.

Although home schooling started on the counter-cultural left, the conservative right has done most to promote it, abandoning public schools for being too secular and providing no moral framework. Today the ranks of home-schoolers are overwhelmingly Christian, and 78% of parents attend church frequently. According to the National Household Education Survey in 2007, the main motivation for home schooling was for religious or moral instruction (36%), followed by school environment (21%) and the quality of instruction available (17%). After this comes concerns about special education, the distance of travel and even nut allergies.

Read more . . .

Blog author: jcarter
Friday, January 4, 2013
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The Courts Are Going To Decide Whether Corporations Have A Right To ‘Practice’ Religion
Erin Fuchs, Business Insider

While the Supreme Court refused to grant an emergency appeal, the court said the question of whether corporations have religious rights is unsettled and suggested the issue could eventually reach the high court, Lyle Denniston pointed out in the Constitution Daily.

Sotomayor’s Blow to Religious Liberty
Jonathan S. Tobin, Commentary

At stake in this battle is whether the Religous Freedom Restoration Act passed by Congress will prevent the government from compelling Catholics and others to violate the dictates of their faith.

Constitution Check: Do profit-making corporations have religious rights?
Lyle Denniston, Constitution Daily

Lyle Denniston looks at one company’s claim it has religious rights that exempt it from the Affordable Care Act’s requirement for free birth-control services.

Why adoption is a ‘pro-life’ policy for evangelicals
Adelle M. Banks, Washington Post

Russell Moore, dean of the School of Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, recently talked with Religion News Service about why adoption has become his personal cause and why more evangelicals should be joining him.

Following up a bit on last week’s discussions of population and prosperity, I thought this section (44) from Caritas in Veritate to be a good summary statement of the various dynamics at play:

Morally responsible openness to life represents a rich social and economic resource. Populous nations have been able to emerge from poverty thanks not least to the size of their population and the talents of their people. On the other hand, formerly prosperous nations are presently passing through a phase of uncertainty and in some cases decline, precisely because of their falling birth rates; this has become a crucial problem for highly affluent societies. The decline in births, falling at times beneath the so-called “replacement level”, also puts a strain on social welfare systems, increases their cost, eats into savings and hence the financial resources needed for investment, reduces the availability of qualified labourers, and narrows the “brain pool” upon which nations can draw for their needs. Furthermore, smaller and at times miniscule families run the risk of impoverishing social relations, and failing to ensure effective forms of solidarity. These situations are symptomatic of scant confidence in the future and moral weariness. It is thus becoming a social and even economic necessity once more to hold up to future generations the beauty of marriage and the family, and the fact that these institutions correspond to the deepest needs and dignity of the person. In view of this, States are called to enact policies promoting the centrality and the integrity of the family founded on marriage between a man and a woman, the primary vital cell of society, and to assume responsibility for its economic and fiscal needs, while respecting its essentially relational character.

We might wonder a bit about what it might look like for States to “assume responsibility” for the family’s economic and fiscal needs and the wisdom of various ways of accomplishing this. I should note again the distinction between policy solutions as such (coercive or otherwise) and the moral exhortation involved in holding up “to future generations the beauty of marriage and the family.” Moral exhortation or even social “pressure” and coercion are simply not identical.

But in any case the encyclical’s perspective on the human resources at the heart of any prospering society is illuminating: “Morally responsible openness to life represents a rich social and economic resource.” It is in this sense that, as Manfred Spieker has observed, Caritas in Veritate is not simply an encyclical about globalization, but rather a work that “demonstrates the decisive battle for human society is not made in the field of economics but in the field of bioethics. It is the encyclical that integrates bioethics into the social doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church.”

The human person is at the center of a creative and dynamic economy. As Michael Novak put it thirty years ago, “Practical insights are the primary source of wealth.” In addition, “Intelligence is also the primary form of capital.” As such, he concluded, “The cause of wealth lies more in the human spirit than in matter.”

The Pew Center on the States is reporting that ten states voted to raise the minimum wage for workers in 2013. Teens and low-skilled workers should be protesting in response. According to the report,

Nine states will adjust the wages to accommodate the rising costs of living, as required by state laws, while Rhode Island will implement a law signed by the governor in June that raises its minimum wage to $7.75 per hour. The wage hikes range between 10 cents and 35 cents per hour, adding between $190 and $510 to the average affected worker’s annual pay.

In Washington State the rate will rise to $9.19 per hour, the highest in the nation. While this may sound like good public policy these wage increases actually hurt the very same people they intended to help. Whenever lawmakers decide to arbitrarily determine the price of labor (wages) we need to stop and ask this simple question, “where are employers going to find the money to cover the wage increase?” It has to come from somewhere. Why is that not a natural “next question?”

As I have said before, minimum wage increases hurts teens and low-skilled minorities the most because minimum wage jobs are usually entry-level positions filled by employees with limited work experience and few job skills. When the government forces employers to pay their workers more than a job’s productivity demands, employers, in order to stay in business, generally respond by hiring fewer hours of low-skill labor. Low-skill workers become too expensive to employ, creating a new army of permanent part-timers.

Washington State, for example, with its 2011 $8.67 minimum wage also had one of the nation’s highest teen unemployment rates at 34.5% in that same year. The tragedy is that lawmakers seem incapable of connecting the wage increase/opportunity dots. In the meantime, teen and low-skilled workers continue to suffer the consequences of politicians meddling in the market place while business gets blamed for being greedy.

One hundred and fifty years have passed since President Abraham Lincoln issues one of the most extraordinary proclamations in our nation’s history. The Emancipation Proclamation declared:

That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.

Slavery in the United States did not end with the proclamation, but document nevertheless proved to be an important step toward ending one of history’s greatest evils.

On the 150th anniversary of the proclamation, Law and Liberty’s Liberty Forum has published several essays “evaluating the constitutional legitimacy of the document and the larger questions of liberty, power, and justice raised by it.”

• David Nichols, “The Emancipation Proclamation: Abraham Lincoln’s Constitutionally Modest Proposal”

• Marshall DeRosa, “So Much Power in So Few Hands: Reevaluating Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation”

• Allen Guelzo, “A Complicated and Constitutional Act of Liberty and Justice”