Posts tagged with: united states

As part of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) “Fortnight For Freedom” campaign, the USCCB has enumerated a number of threats to Americans’ religious liberty. Besides the on-going battle with the Obama Administration regarding the HHS mandate and the gutting of funding to Catholic programs that fight human trafficking, the bishops want us to be aware of these perils to religious liberty:church-state[1]

    • Catholic foster care and adoption services.  Boston, San Francisco, the District of Columbia, and the State of Illinois have driven local Catholic Charities out of the business of providing adoption or foster care services—by revoking their licenses, by ending their government contracts, or both—because those Charities refused to place children with same-sex couples or unmarried opposite-sex couples who cohabit.
    • State immigration laws.  Several states have recently passed laws that forbid what they deem as “harboring” of undocumented immigrants—and what the Church deems Christian charity and pastoral care to these immigrants.
    • Discrimination against small church congregations.  New York City adopted a policy that barred the Bronx Household of Faith and other churches from renting public schools on weekends for worship services, even though non-religious groups could rent the same schools for many other uses.  Litigation in this case continues.

    (more…)

    Private schools are for the privileged and those willing to pay high costs for education; everyone else attends public school or seeks alternate options: this is the accepted wisdom. In the United States, the vast majority of students at the primary and secondary level attend public school, funded by the government.

    When considering education in the developing world, we may hold fast to this thinking, believing that for those in severely impoverished areas, private education is an unrealistic and scarce option, leaving the poor with public school or no education at all.

    Indeed, this was the opinion held by James Tooley, a Professor of Education Policy at Newcastle University, until he experienced the landscape firsthand, traveling throughout the developing world, conducting research on educational systems in poor and prosperous areas, documenting numerous case studies, and reporting findings that prove the prevalence of low-cost private schools in poor areas.

    In an Education Next article, Tooley discusses his observations and unmasks two common myths associated with education for the poor.

    Myth #1: Private Education for the Poor Does Not Exist

    We sometimes treat “the poor” as if they were somehow uniquely incapable of rising out of poverty without our assistance. We often assume, if we don’t provide them with everything they need, including education, that no one will. Yet if we look closely (and with a bit more humility), we see indigenous solutions everywhere. (more…)

    This past weekend, I had the privilege to attend and present a paper at the 2013 Kuyper Center for Public Theology conference at Princeton Seminary. The conference was on the subject of “Church and Academy” and focused not only on the relationship between the institutions of the Church and the university, but also on questions such as whether theology still has a place in the academy and what place that might be. The discussion raised a number of important questions that I would like to reflect on briefly here.

    In the first place, I was impressed by Dr. Gordon Graham’s lecture on the idea of the Christian scholar. He began by exploring a distinction made by Abraham Kuyper in his work Wisdom & Wonder. Kuyper writes (in 1905),
    (more…)

    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.

    (March is Women’s History Month. Acton will be highlighting a number of women who have contributed significantly to the issue of liberty during this month.)

    Clare Booth Luce was a woman of the 20th century: a suffragette, well-educated, a career woman, intensely loyal to her country. She was known in the literary world as a playwright and journalist, but during World War II, she became very interested in politics and chose to run for a Congressional seat in Connecticut as a Republican. Her platform was, in part, based on her belief that America (under the leadership of Franklin Delano Roosevelt) was ill-prepared for World War II. She served on the Military Affairs Committee, and espoused some isolationist stances.

    Clare Booth Luce

    Clare Booth Luce

    Luce was a mother to one child, Ann, who was killed at the age of 19 in a car accident. The loss left Luce devastated, ill to the point where she was hospitalized for depression. Upon recovering, she began to write plays again, and eventually, found her way back into politics.

    Under the Eisenhower administration, she was appointed ambassador to Italy and then Brazil. Her stances on Communism and her ire for Democratic foes often left her in hot water, and at one point, she resigned her post in Brazil after a scathing remark about a Democratic opponent.

    She lived a rather quiet life following the death of her husband, but served as part of the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board under Nixon, Ford and Reagan. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Ronald Reagan; the medal is awarded for meritorious service to the United States and its security and national interests.

    Luce was savvy, chic, smart and intensely driven. She was also aware, as a woman of the 20th century, that her work ethic reflected on other women as well: “Because I am a woman, I must make unusual efforts to succeed. If I fail, no one will say, “She doesn’t have what it takes”; They will say, “Women don’t have what it takes”. By anyone’s standards, Luce had what it took.

    photo courtesy of Foreign Policy

    “We don’t just want the money to come to Haiti. Stop sending money. Let’s fix it. Let’s fix it,” declared Republic of Haiti President Michel Martelly three years after the 2010 earthquake. Martelly was referring to foreign aid, $9 billion of which has been pledged to the country since the disaster. But financial aid has of course not been the only item sent to Haiti; the country has experienced a vast influx of goods, including clothing, shoes, food, and in particular, rice. Haiti imports approximately 80% of its rice, making it the country’s most significant food import.

    Considering Haiti was self-sufficient in rice production in the 1970s, this should come as an alarming statistic. Along with rice, production of goods in around 200 companies enabled Haiti, at one time, to be a recognized exporter and experience moderate levels of prosperity. In her Foreign Policy article, “Subsidizing Starvation,” Maura R. O’Connor cites U.S. Ambassador to Haiti from 1981 to 1983, Ernest Preeg:

    “Haiti was just as far along as anyone else,” said Preeg. “People came to Port-au-Prince to get jobs because it was a burgeoning export economy.” Preeg wrote an article in 1984 in which he echoed the view of many others that Haiti could be the “Taiwan of the Caribbean.”

    But starting in the early 90s, these industries crumbled, as international trade embargos — prompted by a military coup against President Jean-Bertrand Aristide — were implemented and foreign imports began to flood the Haitian market. (more…)

    Is Christianity and the Christian worldview the path to a free society? Chinese bloggers are asking that question. Many believe the fascination with American politics and democracy is at an all time high in China. Technology and internet access is surely responsible for much of the trend. From one report,

    Obama’s inauguration was a top trending topic on Sina Weibo, China’s massive microblogging site, with over 25 million posts on Jan. 21. Of these, one comment by a Weibo user by the name Wugou1975 was forwarded over 2,000 times, garnering over 500 comments. The blogger posted a photo of Obama taking the presidential oath with Supreme Court Justice John Roberts:

    ‘Some Chinese find it unbelievable that this secular country’s democratically elected president was sworn in with his hand on a Bible, not the Constitution, and facing a court justice, not Congress. But actually, this is the secret of America’s constitutional democracy: It’s not just the Constitution or the government’s “separation of powers.” Above that is natural law, guarded by a grand justice. And below is a community of Christians, unified by their belief.’

    Undeniably, there has been and continues to be a systematic attack upon the Christian roots of the West and this nation. Marcello Pera, who teaches at the Pontifical Council in Rome, sums it up well:

    “With its words, liberal secularism preaches freedom, tolerance, and democracy, but with its deeds it attacks precisely that Christian religion which prevents freedom from deteriorating into license, tolerance into indifference, democracy into anarchy.”

    There is a level of irony in Chinese bloggers recognizing the significance of the religious foundations of democracy, while many Western scholars have abandoned or even attacked such notions. America’s religious heritage is vibrant and was a unifying factor promoting shared values and purpose throughout its history. The American framers knew religious vibrancy was required for ordered liberty and virtue to reign and prosper throughout society. Alexis de Tocqueville praised these characteristics and noted it was the foundations of America’s freedom and strength of its people. When it comes to the basis of our rights and foundations of government, Jefferson asked,

    “Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath?”

    Matthew Feeney, assistant editor at Reason Magazine’s 24/7 blog, today reviews Samuel Gregg’s new book, Becoming Europe: Economic Decline, Culture, and How America Can Avoid a European Future. In his article titled “Europe: America’s Crystal Ball?” Feeney notes the similarity between Gregg’s views and many in the tea party movement who worry that “the U.S. is adopting similar norms and institutions [to Europe's current economic culture,] thereby losing what Tocqueville called Americans’ “spirit of enterprise.”

    Feeney states that:

    It is frustrating to many Europeans that Americans refer to “Europeanization” or a “European culture.” Europe, after all, is a continent of many countries and hundreds of languages; any attempt to generalize its people or culture will inevitably fall short. Thankfully, Gregg doesn’t fall into this trap. While acknowledging those differences, he also explains what enables commentators to discuss a common European culture, from the presence of an established lingua franca (be it Latin, French, or English) to the centuries of trade between its different peoples to the ongoing influence of Christianity. And it surely makes sense to speak of a “European economic culture” given the existence of the European Union, whose bloated bureaucracies regulate 27 of the continent’s states.

    While Americans should be reassured that their political and economic culture is broadly pro-enterprise and pro-market, Gregg’s book is a healthy reminder that the United States has indeed been moving toward a more European economic culture. At the same time, Gregg makes sure to point out that the U.S. is not there yet. It remains to be seen how much Americans will push for free markets, transparency, and property rights in the years ahead. But thanks to Gregg’s book, they cannot claim to have not been warned.

    Read the full article here. Learn more about or purchase a copy of Becoming Europe here.

    New York Post illustration

    New York Post illustration

    In the New York Post, Acton Research Director Samuel Gregg looks at “the spread throughout America of economic expectations and arrangements directly at odds with our republic’s founding” and asks what the slow walk to “Europeanization” means for the long term. Gregg:

    Unfortunately there’s a great deal of evidence suggesting America is slouching down the path to Western Europe. In practical terms, that means social-democratic economic policies: the same policies that have turned many Western European nations into a byword for persistently high unemployment, rigid labor markets, low-to-zero economic growth, out-of-control debt and welfare states, absurdly high tax levels, growing numbers of well-paid government workers, a near-obsession with economic equality at any cost and, above all, a stubborn refusal to accept that things simply can’t go on like this.

    It’s very hard to deny similar trends are becoming part of America’s economic landscape. States like California are already there — just ask the thousands of Californians and businesses who have fled the land of Nancy Pelosi.

    Europeanization is also reflected in the refusal of so many Americans to take our nation’s debt crisis seriously. Likewise, virtually every index of economic freedom and competitiveness shows that, like most Western European nations, America’s position vis-à-vis other countries is in decline.

    Is there a way out, even as the “fiscal cliff” negotiations vividly illustrate the inability of Washington’s political elites to take spending and tax problems seriously? Gregg holds out hope: (more…)

    Solidarity designed by Thibault Geoffroy, from The Noun Project

    Solidarity designed by Thibault Geoffroy, from The Noun Project

    When I moved to west Michigan, one of the things that struck me the most were distinct cultural differences between the different sides of the state. While I was pursuing a master’s degree at Calvin Theological Seminary, I worked for a while in the receiving department at Bissell, Inc. I remember being surprised, nay, shocked, that a manufacturer like Bissell was not a union shop. (All those jobs are somewhere else now, in any case.)

    Before attending Michigan State as an undergrad, I had lived in Detroit, and although I never had a union job myself, the cultural expectations of organized labor were (and still are) deeply ingrained on the east side of the state. My dad is a longtime editor at a suburban newspaper, and one of the reasons he still has a job amid the economic downturn and the upheavals facing that industry is his membership in the guild.

    But things really are different on this side of the state. That’s one reason why the protests taking place today in Lansing, the centrally-located state capital, are symbolic of two sides of the state, in many ways divided by culture, economy, and politics. As to the latter, consider some statewide candidates for public office in recent memory that haven’t done so well when trying to move beyond west Michigan, including Pete Hoekstra, Dick DeVos, Dick Posthumus. The fight over Right to Work legislation in Michigan is, in this way, a tale of two Michigans.

    It is also a tale about two paths forward for Michigan, though. On the one side is the state’s historic identification with Big Labor and the Big Three. On the other side is a Michigan that embraces enterprising innovation and entrepreneurial competition.

    The Wall Street Journal editorialized yesterday on this topic (HT: Ross Emmett), and captures the essence of the choice facing Michigan: “Unions loathe right to work because they know that many workers would rather not join a union.”

    I think that the right to organize and therefore unions are fundamental to flourishing societies. But what concerns me is that the argument against Right to Work is not about this fundamental right to organize, but rather about protecting the entrenched and embedded political interests of a particular kind of union.

    There is a world of difference between voluntary union membership and mandatory, government-enforced, union membership. If the former is akin to something like the freedom of religion, then the latter is more like the government establishment of a particular religion or church. What we need is the separation of Union and State in the way that we have historically had free churches. We need to disestablish labor in the same way that we have disestablished religion in America, while simultaneously protecting the right to organize and join a union as well as the right to worship and express our religious convictions.
    (more…)