Acton Institute Director of Research Samuel Gregg joins hosts John Hall and Kathy Emmons on It’s The Ride Home on Pittsburgh’s 101.5 FM WORD to discuss President Obama’s scheduled visit this week in Rome with Pope Francis. Gregg notes the differences in worldview between Francis and Obama, and contrasts the likely relationship between the current pope and president with the more well-known relationship between an earlier pope and president, John Paul II and Reagan. You can listen to the interview using the audio player below.
On Tuesday at 10:00 a.m. ET, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius, both of which will have a profound impact on the future of religious liberty and freedom of conscience in America.
Thus, Hobby Lobby supporters across the country have been invited to offer their prayers in support of the company, and I encourage you to participate. You can help spread the word by changing the avatar on your social media accounts and posting with the hashtag #PrayForHobbyLobby. Although the Court will be hearing arguments tomorrow, I would encourage us to begin our intercession today.
The government is telling the Hobby Lobby owners, the Green family, that their free exercise rights aren’t relevant because they run a corporation. They’re telling these Anabaptist woodworkers and the Catholic Little Sisters of the Poor and ministries of all sorts all over the country that what’s at stake is just the signing of some papers, the payment of some money.
Our government has treated free exercise of religion as though it were a tattered house standing in the way of a government construction of a railroad; there to be bought off or plowed out of the way, in the name of progress … (more…)
Last week, Acton welcomed Lawrence Reed to the podium of the Mark Murray Auditorium for his Acton Lecture Series address, entitled American Presidents: The Best and the Worst. Reed, the President of the Foundation for Economic Education, tackled the subject with his usual grace and an evident (and praiseworthy) passion for the protection of the individual liberties of average citizens from the ever-expanding power of central government. Reed’s address is now available in full on YouTube, and is posted below. Additionally, we have a bonus edition of Radio Free Acton for you, as Paul Edwards took some time following the lecture to speak with Reed; you can listen via the audio player below the YouTube window.
In this edition of Radio Free Acton, Paul Edwards goes behind the scenes at the premiere of For the Life of the World: Letters to the Exiles, the new curriculum produced by the Acton Institute that examines God’s mission in the world and our place in it. Edwards looks at the curriculum itself, speaks with some of the folks who made it, and gauges audience reaction to the premiere. You can listen via the audio player below:
“It’s important to talk about liberty, but not in isolation,” says Samuel Gregg, Research Director for the Acton Institute. “Our language should reflect the truth that reason, justice, equality, and virtue make freedom possible.”
At some point, for instance, those in the business of promoting freedom need to engage more precisely what they mean by liberty. After all, modern liberals never stop talking about the subject. Moreover, if the default understanding of freedom in America is reduced to Justice Anthony Kennedy’s mystery clause (“At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life”), then liberty’s meaning will be very difficult to integrate with any substantive commitment to reason. That should worry freedom-lovers, because in the absence of reason we can have no principled objection—as opposed to mere emotional unease—to unjust suppressions of freedom by the sophistical, powerful, or ruthless.
In today’s Acton Commentary, “Everything Really is Awesome,” I make a connection between the LEGO movie and the latest film release by the Acton Institute, “For the Life of the World: Letters to the Exiles.” My point of departure is the ditty that appears in the LEGO movie, “Everything is Awesome.”
Another implication of this connection is that everyone is awesome, in the same way that we recognize with the Psalmist:
O LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
Out of the mouth of babies and infants,
you have established strength because of your foes,
to still the enemy and the avenger.
The 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.”
In today’s National Catholic Register, reporter Joan Frawley Desmond talks to John Kennedy, a Grand Rapids-based business owner of Autocam, a company that makes both precision auto parts and medical supplies. Kennedy (who is a board member of the Acton Institute) speaks candidly about his faith, his company’s future and the HHS mandate battle.
The Obama administration has sought to dismiss the merits of HHS lawsuits filed by business owners like Kennedy, arguing that free exercise and statutory religious-freedom protections only apply to individuals, not “corporations.”
While Kennedy and other HHS for-profit plaintiffs have gone to court to obtain a reprieve, Planned Parenthood has framed their legal fight as an effort to stop a threat to women’s reproductive rights. “The bosses want to deny your birth-control coverage,” announced one story on the Planned Parenthood’s website that has sparked editorials and commentary echoing its claim.
But Kennedy contends that his faith is integral to Autocam’s corporate culture and that the country actually needs more business leaders inspired by strong ethical and moral values and guided by Catholic social teaching that affirms the fundamental dignity and rights of every worker.
“I went into this with some trepidation, knowing how it was going to be painted,” he acknowledged.
“But I am more convinced now that we have absolutely done the right thing by standing up for religious freedom.”
Last year I wrote a series of blog posts about what Christians should know about Bitcoin. In response, one astute reader pointed out an odd juxtaposition: my conclusion seemed to imply that Christians should avoid Bitcoin “at all cost” and yet the Acton Institute accepts donations in Bitcoin. “I really want to know the rationale behind this,” he said.
Well, the rationale is easy enough to explain: Not everyone at Acton agrees with me. Like other nerds who have an interest in the intersection of economics, liberty, and technology, many of us at Acton disagree about the merits of Bitcoin. (I’d offer to place a gentleman’s wager on the future of the crypto-currency, but they’d want to bet using Bitcoin. Either way – whether it increased in value or went defunct – I’d end up the loser.)
Opinions are still divided, but the evidence that Bitcoin is doomed to failure piles up almost every day. Over the 8 month span from October 2010 to June 2011, the market value of Bitcoins skyrocketed 9667-fold from a value of $0.06 to $29. Later, when I wrote my series last April, a single Bitcoin was worth less than $100. Today, it is worth $660, and that’s after falling from a high of $1,100 in November 2013. A currency that can fluctuate from $0.06 to $1,110 in a three-year period is not a currency – it’s a speculative bubble.
Of course, we Bitcoin doomsayers have been waiting for the bubble to pop for some time now. We also tend to think that every new drop is a sign of it’s impending doom. Fellow naysayer Jonathan Last is sure, this time, that the end of Bitcoin is near:
Today the Acton Institute announced the 2014 Novak Award winner. Full release follows:
A rigorous researcher and sound contributor to various academic disciplines and initiatives, Finnish native Oskari Juurikkala has been selected as the recipient of the 2014 Novak Award by the Acton Institute in recognition of his early promise as a scholar.
Educated in both law (London School of Economics) and economics (Helsinki School of Economics), he earned a joint Ph.D. in law and economics from the University of Eastern Finland in 2012.
Before starting his doctoral thesis, Juurikkala was a researcher at the Institute of Economic Affairs in London. He has also worked as economic policy advisor as well as researcher at the Institute of International Economic Law at the University of Helsinki. Much of his time has been spent teaching various university-level courses, including law and economics, intermediate microeconomics, business ethics, and the economics and politics of European integration.
Juurikkala has published on a range of topics including regulation of financial derivatives, venture capital, philosophy of economics, the history of economic thought, and natural law jurisprudence. He has also written a monograph on pension reform, entitled Pensions, Population, and Prosperity (Acton Institute, 2007). He is currently pursuing post-graduate studies in dogmatic theology at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome. (more…)