On this edition of Radio Free Acton, we talk with Ryan T. Anderson, William E. Simon Fellow in Religion and a Free Society at the Heritage Foundation, about what exactly we mean when we say “religious liberty.” Is it simply the freedom to worship and order one’s private beliefs, or does it entail something more robust than that? We also discuss Religious Freedom Restoration Act legislation in Indiana and elsewhere, and the media’s open animus toward supporters of such legislation. You can listen to the podcast in the audio player below; the editorials and columns referenced in the podcast are linked after the jump.
Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia recently gave a speech at a seminary. That – an archbishop addressing his seminarians – is in itself hardly noteworthy. However, Chaput had some profound and substantial things to say regarding freedom and faith.
Our public discourse never gets down to what’s true and what isn’t, because it can’t. Our most important debates boil out to who can deploy the best words in the best way to get power. Words like “justice” have emotional throw weight, so people use them as weapons. And it can’t be otherwise, because the religious vision and convictions that once animated American life are no longer welcome at the table. After all, what can “human rights” mean if science sees nothing transcendent in the human species? Or if science imagines a trans-humanist future? Or if science doubts that a uniquely human “nature” even exists? If there’s no inherent human nature, there can be no inherent natural rights – and then the grounding of our whole political system is a group of empty syllables. (more…)
One of the core principles of the Acton Institute is the importance of the rule of law: “The government’s primary responsibility is to promote the common good, that is, to maintain the rule of law, and to preserve basic duties and rights.”
While most conservatives would agree with this sentiment, there has recently been a lot of confusion about what defending the rule of law requires and entails. The most troubling mistake is the confusion of the rule of law with judicial supremacy, the view that the Supreme Court gets to have the “final say” on the meaning of the Constitution and that the other branches of government may not contradict it.
As Carson Holloway says, conservatives should defend the Constitution and the rule of law, but they should not defend judicial supremacy. The Constitution—not the Supreme Court—is our country’s highest authority:
The Acton Institute was privileged to host William B. Allen earlier this week as he delivered a lecture as part of the 2014 Acton Lecture Series. His address, entitled “American National Character and the Future of Liberty,” was a powerful examination of America’s national character, beginning with George Washington’s declaration in 1783 that “we have a national character to establish,” to Frederick Jackson Turner’s work 110 years later on “The Significance of the Frontier in American History,” to the progressive project to shape and shift our national character throughout the 20th century up until today. Allen’s lecture is truly a university-level class on American history and political philosophy, and bears repeated watching in order to fully grasp the depth of his presentation.
William B. Allen is Emeritus Professor of Political Philosophy in the Department of Political Science and Emeritus Dean, James Madison College, at Michigan State University. He served previously on the United States National Council for the Humanities and as Chairman and Member of the United States Commission on Civil Rights. Additionally, he serves as Veritas Fund Senior Fellow in the Matthew J. Ryan Center for the Study of Free Institutions and the Public Good at Villanova University and also as Visiting Professor, Ashland University, Ashbrook Center, Master’s in History and American Government.
On Tuesday, the Acton Institute, along with our friends from the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, welcomed F.H. Buckley, Foundation Professor at George Mason University School of Law and author of The Once and Future King: The Rise of Crown Goverment in America, for a lecture presentation in the Acton Building’s Mark Murray Auditorium. Buckley addressed the topic of his book, describing the increase in presidential that has occurred since the time of the founders, and which has reached its fullest flowering in the Obama Administration. You can watch the video below; if you haven’t listened already, you might be interested in the latest edition of Radio Free Acton which features an interview with Buckley.
We’ve developed a bit of a backlog of audio to release over the course of the summer and fall, so today we begin the process of shortening that list by sharing some recent lectures from the 2014 Acton Lecture Series with you.
On August 26, Acton was pleased to welcome Ron Blue to Grand Rapids for an address entitled “Persistent Generosity.” Ron has spent almost 50 years in the financial services world and the last 35 working almost exclusively with Christian couples. What he has observed is that those who are long term consistent in their generosity exhibit three characteristics that have nothing to do with money: they are content, confident, and able to communicate with each other, their children, and advisors if they use them. In this address, Ron shares his personal experience and impressions drawn from 50 years in the financial sector, gives unique financial advice from a faith-based perspective, and shares the two questions that must be answered and one decision that must be made in order to exhibit the characteristics of persistently generous people.
On October 2, we welcomed Gerard Lameiro to the Mark Murray Auditorium to address an audience on the topic of “Renewing America and Its Heritage of Freedom: What Freedom-Loving Americans Can Do to Help.” In his address, Lameiro commented on what freedom is and what it is not, and then walked through a substantial, solid, and moral case for freedom, acknowledging that God is the author of all liberty and that truth, human dignity, and morality are inextricably linked to freedom. You can find more information on Lameiro and pick up a copy of his latest book (which shares the title of his lecture) at his website, and you can listen to him on the Radio Free Acton podcast right here.
It’s interesting to debate and share idea like freedom of speech, religious liberty or entrepreneurship. Helping folks in the developing world create and sustain businesses if exciting. Watching women who’ve been victimized by human trafficking or their own culture find ways to support themselves and their families is wonderful. But none of this happens without rule of law.
Rule of law is not “sexy.” It doesn’t get the press of a brilliantly successful NGO. There are no great photo ops of folks picketing in front of the Supreme Court with signs touting rule of law. But virtually nothing can happen without it. (more…)
In today’s Wall Street Journal, Senator Ted Cruz (R.- Texas) discusses the presidency of Barack Obama, on the heels of the president’s State of the Union address last night. Cruz takes the current president to task on a simple theme: the rule of law.
Rule of law doesn’t simply mean that society has laws; dictatorships are often characterized by an abundance of laws. Rather, rule of law means that we are a nation ruled by laws, not men. That no one—and especially not the president—is above the law. For that reason, the U.S. Constitution imposes on every president the express duty to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.”
Yet rather than honor this duty, President Obama has openly defied it by repeatedly suspending, delaying and waiving portions of the laws he is charged to enforce.
On Tuesday, in his first cabinet meeting of the year, President Obama indicated he is prepared to use executive actions more frequently to advance administration goals. “We are not just going to be waiting for legislation in order to make sure that we are providing Americans the kind of help that they need. I’ve got a pen and I’ve got a phone,” Obama told his Cabinet.
Over at First Things, Robert George, Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University, provides a blistering reply to the President’s “I’ve got a pen . . . ” remark:
Drawing on some themes I explore about the role of the church in providing material assistance in Get Your Hands Dirty, today at Political Theology Today I look at the first parliamentary speech of the new Dutch King Willem-Alexander.
In “The Dutch King’s Speech,” I argue that the largely ceremonial and even constitutionally-limited monarchy has something to offer modern democratic polities, in that it provides a forum for public leadership that is not directly dependent on popular electoral support. In the Dutch case, the king broached the largely unpopular subject of fundamentally reforming the social democratic welfare state.
This is in rather sharp contrast to the social witness of the mainline of Dutch church leaders, at least over the last few decades. But the churches, too, have a role in acting as makeweights against democratic majoritarian tyranny.