Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Thursday, March 27, 2014

Conscience as Sacred Property
Jeremiah G. Dys , Canon & Culture

Caesar has provided us with a lamentable choice. Today, it is not the coliseum, nor are Christians being driven to the catacombs under totalitarian persecution. The choice presented to us, however, is no less unjust.

A new crusade: Aid proposed to stop Christian persecution in the Middle East
Meredith Somers, Washington Times

The United States can help Christians being persecuted in the Middle East by using foreign aid to modify behaviors in countries where persecution is rampant, educating U.S. diplomats about the issue in their assigned regions and asking for help from Arab-Americans, a panel of religious freedom researchers said Monday.

Religious Freedom: What’s Changed and What Hasn’t
Ramesh Ponnuru, National Review Online

Conservatives have been divided over the best way to protect religious freedom: constitutional or statutory, legislative or judicial. Almost all conservatives have believed, at every point in the last few decades, that laws should avoid forcing religious believers into violating their consciences whenever possible.

The Quaker Exemption and Religious Liberty Today
Thomas Kidd, ERLC

As oral arguments begin in Hobby Lobby’s challenge to the HHS abortifacient mandate, we might ask what the Founders would think about this case?

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Many who reject capitalism in favor of some “third way” do so because they often mistake it for government-corporate cronyism, says Jonathan Witt in this week’s Acton Commentary. But in countries that have begun extending true economic freedom to the masses, capitalist activity has already lifted hundreds of millions of people out of extreme poverty.

Happily, a new piece in The Economist magazine offers some helpful medicine for the confusion, insisting on the distinction between cronyism and capitalism while also pointing to some hopeful signs that a rising middle class around the globe is gaining the clout to fight the power structures that still wall millions out of the wealth creation game. My reservation about the article is that it misreads America’s Progressive era, and in the process, leaves cronyism’s favorite trick unexposed.

According to the piece, crony capitalism in America “reached its apogee in the late 19th century, and a long and partially successful struggle against robber barons ensued. Antitrust rules broke monopolies such as John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil. The flow of bribes to senators shrank.” Later, it tells readers that while developing countries are making progress against cronyism, “governments need to be more assiduous in regulating monopolies.”

The full text of his essay can be found here. Subscribe to the free, weekly Acton News & Commentary and other publications here.

CVS-no-cigsThe CVS chain made an announcement a few weeks ago: they would no longer sell tobacco products at their stores. CVS President and CEO Larry Merlo said:

As the delivery of health care evolves with an emphasis on better health outcomes, reducing chronic disease and controlling costs, CVS Caremark is playing an expanded role through our 26,000 pharmacists and nurse practitioners. By removing tobacco products from our retail shelves, we will better serve our patients, clients and health care providers while positioning CVS Caremark for future growth as a health care company. Cigarettes and tobacco products have no place in a setting where health care is delivered. This is the right thing to do.

Merlo’s own father died of lung cancer, and Merlo felt that this was not only a business decision, but an ethical one. (more…)

The Locust Effect: Why the End of Poverty Requires the End of ViolenceOver at the Kern Pastors Network blog, Greg Forster uses The Locust Effect – Gary Haugen’s new book on violence, poverty, and human trafficking – as a springboard for discussing the reach and interconnectedness of various Christian commitments.

“The moral commitments that mobilize evangelicals to fight human trafficking have much broader application,” he writes, “and point to the possibility of a larger Christian vision for the public square.”

Yet, for whatever reason, we continue to stall when it comes to expanding, integrating, and applying things such a direction:

These days, trafficking is the only public issue evangelical leaders are comfortable identifying as a gospel imperative. As a result, our people are highly mobilized and accomplishing a lot. On every other public issue, however, we’re paralyzed by endless debates. There are no shared commitments, nothing we’re allowed to agree on; there is only division between the Right and the Left. So we produce a lot of heated rhetoric, and nothing gets done…

…This perpetual division over everything has to change if the gospel is going to speak to the culture, if Christians are going to have an impact in the public square, and if local churches are going to be forces for flourishing in their communities. The human trafficking issue proves there is a way out of this dilemma, because it shows that we do have shared moral commitments. “The Locust Effect” is a good example of how to apply those commitments beyond just trafficking. The Kern Pastors Network, the Oikonomia Network, and others who are working to integrate faith, work, and economics can carry these principles even further.

Forster proceeds accordingly, applying such commitments to the realms of work and economics. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Wednesday, March 26, 2014

dv1693021Modern rhetoric of income inequality is driven by covetous envy, says Russell Nieli. Caritas, humility, gratitude, and goodwill toward others are a healthy society’s answer to the ancient curses of envy and pride:

The problem of the chronically poor is that they are chronically poor, not that some people make a lot more money than other people and bring about “inequality.” The fact that some fail to earn enough to live at a decent level is a genuine social problem. The fact that those who are not poor are widely dispersed in terms of how much they earn is not.

Under the rhetoric of “inequality,” covetous envy—including that of the upper-middle-class for the truly affluent—has reared its ugly head. Mayor de Blasio’s proposal to fund universal pre-kindergarten education by an income tax increase solely on the income of the highest income earners making more than $500,000 a year, who already pay city income taxes at the highest graduated rate, is an iconic example of this newer tendency to combine genuine anti-poverty concerns with envy-driven, soak-the-rich taxation policies. It is perhaps no accident that New York’s upper middle class (those making between $100,000 and $200,000 annually) voted for de Blasio in greater proportion than many New Yorkers in lower income brackets.

Read more . . .

Pope Francis

Pope Francis

In today’s New York Post, Acton’s Michael Matheson Miller discusses Pope Francis’ views on poverty, in light of the pope’s upcoming meeting with President Obama. Miller reminds the reader that the pope is not an economist or a politician. Trying to view him through that type of lens is a mistake, says Miller.

Pope Francis is not an economist or technocrat laying out policy; nor does he see the government as the primary solution to all of our problems. He is a pastor exhorting us to take seriously the “joy of the Gospel” and to integrate it into every aspect of our lives, including economics.

I think it is fair to say that some of the pope’s words on economics lacked precision, yet his comments about the corrosive effects of consumerism and the exclusion of the poor are incisive.

Miller acknowledges that the  pope remains skeptical about free markets, which is problematic, given how much free markets have to offer the poor.

In La Cava, an impoverished neighborhood on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, I spoke with a pastor and a local city councilman. They explained that within La Cava there is no private property, and no rule of law. The police don’t even go inside, but only drive around the perimeter. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Desecration of Churches in Yabroud
Notes on Arab Orthodoxy

Although the gunmen are gone, their sectarian fingerprint on Yabrud remains. All you have to do is visit St. Mary’s Greek Catholic Church to see the destruction.

Antiochian Orthodox leader recalled as man with vision
Mark Zaborney, Toledo Blade

“As long as we are fragmented and known by Antiochians and Greeks and Serbians and Bulgarians and Russians, we will have no impact as a church on this country,” Metropolitan Philip told The Blade in 2003.

High Court Seems Divided Over Birth Control Rule
Mark Sherman, AP

The Supreme Court seemed divided Tuesday over whether employers’ religious beliefs can free them from a part of the new health care law that requires that they provide coverage of birth control for employees at no extra charge.

Why Hobby Lobby’s HHS Lawsuit Matters
The Editors, National Catholic Register

Now, more than ever, Catholics need to support efforts to bolster religious freedom and explain why our experiment in ordered liberty requires robust protections for churches and individual believers. But it’s also important to remember that the fight for the “first freedom” is not an end in itself and is linked to a deeper truth.

Acton On The AirActon 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.

wallet-lockWhen bank robber Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed banks, he is (mis)quoted as having said, “Because that’s where the money is.” Turns out that is also why there is more street crime in poorer neighborhoods: because that’s where the cash is. Or at least it’s where the case was.

It has been long recognized that cash plays a critical role in fueling street crime due to its liquidity and transactional anonymity. In poor neighborhoods — where street offenses are concentrated — a significant source of circulating cash stemmed from public assistance or welfare payments. But starting in the 1990s that changed, as the Federal government gradually phased out paper welfare checks in favor of electronic debit cards (the Electronic Benefit Transfer [EBT] program).

A team of researchers studied the effects of this change in Missouri and found that it was directly responsible for a hefty 10 percent drop in the overall crime rate:
(more…)

TVliesOver at The Federalist, Gabriel Malor runs down some interesting “illusions” (okay, he calls them lies) regarding the HHS mandate and the Supreme Court. Here’s a quick run-down:

      1. The HHS mandate is all about women’s rights. Nope: women don’t lose a thing if Hobby Lobby et al. win. What will happen if Hobby Lobby and others like them win their case is that women who do not wish to pay for others’ birth control and/or abortions will not be forced to do so.
      2. The HHS mandate is about gay rights. Admittedly, this one was new to me. However, there are some who are saying that if business owners don’t have to pay for birth control, they can turn away gay customers as well, or as Malor puts it, if the government loses, it will “unleash an apocalypse of discrimination heretofore avoided.” No; every time there is a possible violation of religious freedom, our court system must weigh each case individually.
      3. These contraception cases are all about for-profit companies. Big business, bad business, you know. These companies, who are already pocketing millions, are looking for special treatment. However, there is no mention of the corporate form in the First Amendment. It neither includes nor precludes it.
      4. Corporations cannot exercise freedom of religion. People can (hopefully) but businesses can’t. This would be news to every Catholic diocese in the United States, as they all operate under corporate form.
      5. We can’t allow dangerous new rights for corporations/businesses. Um, since when has the federal government been allowed to tell business owners what types of insurance they have to provide? Oh, yeah…now.
      6. Our government has a compelling interest in forcing businesses to provide birth control. Legally, that is what the government has to prove. Of course, this is “bunk,” according to Malor, especially since Kathleen Sebelius has already granted 190 million exemptions. How can the government prove then a compelling interest?

Read “Six Lies The Leftist Media Tells About The Contraception Mandate Cases” at The Federalist.