Parti Québécois and Bernard Drainville, minister of the newly proposed charter, announced yesterday that a new plan would ban overt religious symbols to be worn by “judges, police, prosecutors, public daycare workers, teachers, school employees, hospital workers and municipal personnel.” These symbols would include large crosses or crucifixes, turbans, hijab, and kippas. Smaller jewelry (such as Star of David earrings) would be allowed.
In an open letter to all Americans, religious leaders as varied as Catholic Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore and Susan Taylor, the National Public Affairs Director of the Church of Scientology, have responded to the Obama administration’s “final” ruling regarding the HHS mandate that all employers carry health insurance that includes birth control, abortificients and abortion coverage. The letter, entitled “Standing Together For Religious Freedom”, acknowledges the signators have a wide range of beliefs and that many of the signators do not have a moral problem with birth control and/or abortion, but are concerned with the threat to religious freedom that the HHS mandate represents.
Many of the signatories on this letter do not hold doctrinal objections to the use of contraception. Yet we stand united in protest to this mandate, recognizing the encroachment on the conscience of our fellow citizens. Whether or not we agree with the particular conscientious objection is beside the point. HHS continues to deny many Americans the freedom to manifest their beliefs through practice and observance in their daily lives.
“I escaped physically, I haven’t escaped psychologically,” says Shin Dong-hyuk. His remarkable journey out of a deadly North Korean prison to freedom is chronicled in Escape from Camp 14 by Blaine Harden. Shin didn’t escape for freedom. He had little knowledge of such a concept. He had heard that outside the prison, and especially outside North Korea, meat was available to eat.
Shin was born at Camp 14 in 1982 and was strictly forbidden to leave because of the sins of his family line against the state. His crime? Long before his birth, some of his relatives defected to South Korea. He was constantly told he could repent of his sins for hard labor and hunger. “Enemies of class, whoever they are, their seed must be eliminated through three generations,” declared Supreme Leader Kim Il Sung in 1972. Before his escape, Hardin summed up Shin’s prison experience:
The Kermit Gosnell trial is about a form of live-birth murder known as infanticide, a crime that the overwhelming majority of Americans rightly oppose.
And that is what the case is about: Well formed babies that Dr. Gosnell is alleged to have removed from women by inducing delivery or “precipitating,” as he called it. Then, because they were alive and breathing, he or members of his staff would plunge scissors into the back of the neck and sever the spinal cord. He is charged with doing this seven times, but it is thought he may have done it to hundreds of infants.
The murder trial is also loaded with compelling, newsworthy moments. So why, asks documentary filmmaker Phelim McAleer, is the mainstream media largely ignoring it?
… all TV serial killers seem to collect mementos from their victims. In reality those who take trophies often take scarves, driver’s licenses, or pieces of jewelry.
But it seems that Dr. Kermit Gosnell collected babies’ hands and feet. And he kept them in jars in the kitchen of his clinic. And the jars were transparent. So when you reached up for the coffee as you heated up your panini during lunch, you would have to brush past around 20 jars with the tiny severed hands and feet stored there.
Ms Baldwin would ask Dr. Gosnell about the jars. He told her they were for research, but she never saw any researchers collect them.
I could go on and on and on. And I only spent a few days at the trial. Every minute seemed to throw up new horrors….
But the case also has a sense of unreality because there has been almost no media coverage of the evidence. There has been almost no analysis or comment regarding a man and his staff who may have taken part in one of the largest mass murders in American history. I find myself questioning my notes because there are almost no other reports verifying what I am now writing. It seems that if a mass murder occurs and no one reports on it it starts to appear as if it never really happened.
Ed Morrissey covers the debate over the media coverage and non-coverage here.
James Kim was sentenced to death by North Korea in 1998. He was accused of being an American spy for the CIA and spent 40 days in jail. His crime? He was arrested for taking food to children. Kim was tortured and ordered to write out his will to the government. “I love the North Korean people. I always have,” he wrote. Kim told the North Korean government that they could have his body and harvest it for research. He offered to donate all his organs to the regime. Amazingly, his actions moved upon the government to set him free and he regularly returns to North Korea today. The government apologized to him for his treatment while in prison. “Christ like patience and love is the only thing that can touch North Korea,” declared Kim.
More of Kim’s amazing story can be found here and here. His work and witness has allowed him to hold citizenship in South Korea, China, the United States, and North Korea. He was last night’s speaker at a C.S. Lewis Institute dinner.
He also addressed an economic matter saying the North Korean people love the U.S. currency. He noted the great thing about our system and money is that does not just hold material value, but the imprint of “In God We Trust” is influential and noticed around the world.
In the book The Impossible State: North Korea, Past and Future, Victor Cha notes,
North Korean school children learn grammatical conjugations of past, present, and future by reciting “We killed Americans,” “We are killing Americans,” “We will kill Americans.” They learn learn elementary school math with word problems that subtract or divide the number of dead American soldiers to get the solution.
North Korea’s past and present is one of horrific suffering for its people. In his 2002 State of the Union Address, President George W. Bush included the nation as one of the three amongst the axis of evil. Kim notes that through Christian suffering “peace comes at a price.” Last night, he showed that even in one of the world’s darkest, hostile, and most oppressive regimes, there is reason for hope.
Today at Ethika Politika, I critique David Bentley Hart’s recent (non-)response to the critics of his attack on natural law in public discourse last month, appearing in the most recent issue of First Things. My article, “Hart’s (Non-)Response to His Critics: Trying to Have It Both Ways?” is a response to Hart’s recent article, “Si Fueris Romae.”
While Hart’s most recent article may seem unrelated, it starts to sound remarkably similar to his article on natural law from last month about half way through. It is this convergence between the two that I examine and critique.
Ultimately, Hart seems to be trying to “have it both ways” when it comes to natural law. I find this to be particularly evident from his conclusion, in which he criticizes US policy toward China, writing,
Decade upon decade, we hear of the arrest, imprisonment, torture, and murder of China’s religious minorities (house-church Christians, Tibetan Buddhist monks, and so on), of the cruel measures taken to enforce the nation’s one-child policy, and of countless other chronic atrocities, but our response consists in little more than a sporadic susurrus of disapproval, just loud enough to flatter ourselves that we have principles but not so loud as to allow those principles to interfere with fiscal or trade policy. We try to shame the ruling party with pious panegyrics on “human rights,” as though the concept had any appreciable weight outside the cultural context that makes it intelligible, but we buy and borrow from the party, and profit from its policies, without hesitation or embarrassment. I think the government of the PRC might be pardoned for concluding that our actions, and not our words, indicate where our true values lie.
While at Ethika Politika I critique his reliance upon the concept of natural rights even while claiming that only our “cultural context … makes it intelligible,” there is another point to consider here. Putting aside the inconsistency of his principles, would his recommendation — more restricted “fiscal or trade policy” — really have the effect that he hopes? (more…)
Earlier this month I attended the First Kuyper Seminar, “Economics, Christianity & The Crisis: Towards a New Architectonic Critique,” in Amsterdam.
One of the papers presented was from Jan Jorrit Hasselaar, who discussed the inclusion of non-human entities into democratic deliberation in his talk, “Sustainable Development as a Social Question.” I got the impression (this is my analogy, not Hasselaar’s) that there was some need for a kind of tribune (for plants instead of plebeians), who would speak up for the interests of those who could not speak for themselves.
The framing of the issue of the dignity of animals, plants, and the natural environment more broadly connected the integration of these interests into our public discourse as analogous to the civil rights revolutions concerning race and sex in the West over the previous century. The following video makes an argument in similar terms:
Article: “Catholicism, Human Rights and the Public Sphere”
Christopher McCrudden, International Journal of Public Theology
This article suggests that the scope and meaning of human rights, and its relationship to religion, is anything but settled, and that this gives an opportunity to those who support a role for religion in public life to intervene. Such intervention should address four main issues. First, it should ensure that judges engage in attempting to understand religious issues from a cognitively internal viewpoint. Secondly, it should articulat a justification for freedom of religion that fully captures the core of the significance of religious belief, and the importance of the religious principles in the public sphere. Thirdly, it should ensure engagement and dialogue between the churches and others on the meaning of human dignity, given its centrality to religious and secular perspectives on rights. Lastly, the churches should consider more carefully what it means to give ‘public reasons’ in the political and cultural context, and how it can engage in the process of ‘public reasoning’ regarding human rights.
Article: “New Challenges for Catholic-Inspired NGOs in Light of Caritas in Veritate“
Jane Adolphe, Catholic Social Science Review
The non-governmental organization (NGO) is perceived not only as a disseminator of information, monitor of human rights, or provider of services, but also as a shaper of national, regional, and international policy. Many members of the lay faithful, working with others from various Christian denominations, have established NGOs to monitor and to promote the rights of the unborn, the natural family, and many other topics of common interest. These NGOs lobby at the national, regional, and international levels. This paper discusses the role of the Catholic-inspired NGO on the international level with reference to the thought of Pope Benedict XVI in his encyclical, Caritas in Veritate.
International Conference on “Governance and Sustainable Development: Building Commerce and Communities,” Coimbatore, India 10th-13th December, 2012. With increasing calls for greater accountability and efficient management of sustainable development, there are also greater demands for more effective governance in this area. The overarching aim of the conference is to provide a forum for stimulating debate and exchange of ideas by exploring the latest developments in the governance of sustainable development from a variety of perspectives including environmental sustainability, social enterprise, corporate governance, legal pluralism, and social investment. The conference will appeal to academics, professionals from both business and non-profit entities, and policy makers.
The Operations Editor would work with the JBIB editor to identify data bases and journal listings that the JBIB should be in, to assist with printing and other logistics, and to help guide the future of the JBIB in the fast-paced academic journal industry.
The Book and Media Editor would work with the editorial staff of the JBIB to manage media reviews for the journal. The Editor should understand the nature of media in the 21st century, be organized, be experienced in the classroom, and be of an inquiring mind.
The course I taught was a survey of some major themes in the Catholic social tradition, with readings from Augustine, Aquinas, Maritain, and the modern papal encyclicals and conciliar documents. Interested readers can see the syllabus here. Guest speakers Father Robert Dodaro, OSA and Father Stephen Brock brought their great expertise to bear on our discussions of Augustine and Aquinas, and I took the class on a side trip to the magnificent Augustinian mother church in Rome, the Basilica Sant’Agostino, which includes the tomb of St. Monica and a wonderful Caravaggio (Madonna di Loreto).
If inalienable rights are, as many people seem to believe, rights which the government cannot take away, does it follow that government can then take away rights that are alienable?
As James Rogers explains, it is no less wrong for the government to take away an “alienable” right than it is for the government to take away an “inalienable” right. The difference between the two isn’t that one can be taken away while the other cannot but that an inalienable right cannot be given away by the person who has it:
The Declaration borrows the word from property law. An “alienable” right over property means that the property can be sold or given away by the owner. Property that is “inalienable” cannot be transferred by the owner. The dramatic backdrop in several of Jane Austen’s novels, notably including Pride and Prejudice, comes from property that is inalienable. The estate in the story has been “entailed” to the first-born male of each generation. While Mr. Bennett has use of the property during his lifetime, because he has no son, the property will go automatically to Mr. Collins on his death. Mr. Bennett cannot sell the land permanently (although he can rent the land out during his lifetime), and he cannot give it away to his wife, daughters, or to anyone else. Ownership of the estate in inalienable; this inalienability limits what Mr. Bennett can do with the estate.
Rogers goes on to make the important point that there are certain rights that individuals aren’t free to give away because, according to Jesus and John Locke, we are owned by God and not self-owned beings. Read the rest of Rogers excellent essay here.
As I noted yesterday, I’m in Montreal for the next couple of weeks, and today I had the chance to see some of the student protests firsthand. These protests have been going on now for over three months, and have to do with the raising of tuition for college in Quebec.
I’m teaching at Farel Reformed Theological Seminary, which is located in the heart of downtown Montreal, and is adjacent to Concordia University. As I walked around earlier this week, I noticed the following on one of Concordia’s buildings:
The text is article 26 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which reads in part, “Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages.”
I think that the kinds of protests we are seeing in Quebec might be the inevitable end of the logic of the welfare state. The logic goes something like this:
Education is a right, and should be free, or the next best thing to it. In order for it to be “free,” it must be administered, or at least underwritten, by the state, because we know that the only way to make something appear to be free is to requisition the necessary funds via taxation. This is, in fact, precisely the rationale for the existence of the modern welfare state, in which in the context of the Netherlands, for instance, it is understood to be “the task of the state to promote the general welfare and to secure the basic needs of people in society.”
Education is a right (per the UN Declaration), is constitutive of the general welfare, and a basic need. Thus it must be “fully guaranteed by the government” (to quote Noordegraaf from the Dutch context regarding social security, mutatis mutandis).
This means that the flawed logic of the welfare state will have to be critically reexamined, no small task for a developed world that has steadily built infrastructure according to logic for much of the past seventy years.
For Quebec this does not bode well, as Cardus’ Peter Stockland puts it, “This is a province in the grip of reactionary progressives afflicted with severe intellectual and institutional sclerosis. Their malaise prevents any proposals for change from being given fair hearing, much less a chance of being put into play. Real change, not merely revolutionary play-acting, is anathema in this province.”