Fail-Debtors-Prison-Poor-TaxWhile payday loans can help some people out of a financial jam, they tend to prey on the poor and create a usury situation. Now that same predatory financial monster is moving into a new territory: bonds, courts fees and fines.

Take the case of Kevin Thompson, a 19-year-old who was fined for speeding and failure to renew his license. Although he had a job, he could not afford to pay the $810 fine the court handed down. What happens next sounds Kafka-esque: (more…)

7figuresEach year the International Bulletin of Missionary Research lays out in summary form an annual update of significant religious statistics. Here are seven sets of figures based on their latest report:

1. Global population by religion: Christians – 2.38 billion; Muslims – 1.7 billion; Hindu – 1 billion; atheists – 136 million; Jews – 14 million.

2. Membership by 6 ecclesiastical megablocs: Catholics – 1.2 billion; Protestants – 441 million; Independents – 407 million; Orthodox – 280 million; Anglicans – 92 million; Unaffiliated Christians – 110 million.

3. Number of Christians by 6 continents, 21 UN regions: Africa (5 regions) – 520 million; Asia (4 regions) – 368 million; Europe (including Russia; 4 regions) – 561 million; Latin America (3 regions) – 562 million; Northern America (1 region) – 229 million; Oceania (4 regions) – 25 million.

4. Christian organizations: Denominations – 45,000; Congregations – 4.7 million; Service agencies – 30,000; Foreign-mission sending agencies – 5,000.

5. Christian finance (in US$, per year): Personal income of church members – $35 trillion; Giving to Christian causes – $626 billion; Churches’ income – $249 billion; Parachurch and institutional income – $377 billion.

6. Scripture distribution (all sources, per year): Bibles – 80 million; Scriptures including gospels, selections – 5 billion; Bible density (copies in place) – 1.8 billion.

7. World evangelization: Unevangelized population – 2.1 billion; Unevangelized as % of world: 29.2 percent.

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, February 25, 2015
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Patricia Arquette’s passion is fabulous, says Elise Hilton in this week’s Acton Commentary, but she’s wrong on economics:

Ms. Arquette’s passion is fabulous, and I’m sure that’s what makes her a great actor. But she’s wrong on economics. The “women make 23 cents less than men” canard is far less accurate than Arquette thinks it is. Women are more likely to work part-time, to choose careers that pay less but offer more flexibility in scheduling (such as teaching) and often take time out of their paid career to care for children or other family members. Ms. Arquette: American women are okay. Really.

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

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, February 25, 2015
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Islamic State ‘abducts dozens of Christians in Syria’
BBC

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that at least 90 men, women and children were seized in a series of dawn raids near the town of Tal Tamr.

Getting a gun legally in Europe may be hard, but terrorists have little trouble
Griff Witte and Karla Adam, Washington Post

Europe, a continent long known for the rarity of gun violence, is confronting twin challenges that give the issue sudden urgency: a growing population of radicalized young men determined to strike targets close to home, and a black market awash in high-powered weapons.

How unemployment warps your personality over time
Danielle Paquette, Washington Post

Long periods of unemployment drain our bank accounts and weaken the economy. New research suggests extended joblessness could also dampen our personalities. And that can make it harder to find more work.

Supreme Court to hear religious freedom case
Ariane de Vogue, CNN

Samantha Elauf was apprehensive to interview for a sales job at retailer Abercrombie & Fitch in 2008 because the 17 year old wore a headscarf in accordance with her Muslim faith. But a friend of hers, who worked at the store, said he didn’t think it would be a problem as long as the headscarf wasn’t black because the store doesn’t sell black clothes.

One of the trailers used by Signal, International to house workers

One of the trailers used by Signal, International to house workers

While sex trafficking gets a lot of attention in the media, labor trafficking is actually more common. It largely affects middle-aged men, most of whom are looking for ways to support themselves and their families. Often faced with overwhelming poverty, these men make ill-informed and risky choices, hoping that what they are being told by potential employers is true.

In a landmark case, a Gulf Coast company, Signal International, has been ordered to pay $14 million in damages to men they had “hired” from India.

After more than four weeks of testimony and several days of deliberations, the jury found that marine construction company Signal International and its agents engaged in human trafficking, forced labor and racketeering, among other violations. (more…)

BronxRally120811Photo1New York City owns almost 1,200 public school buildings that sit empty on nights and weekends. To earn some extra income, the city rents out the empty schools to tens of thousands of community groups for any meetings that might be of interest to the community: Boy Scouts, drama clubs, labor unions senior citizen groups, etc. In 2011 alone, the NYC issued over 122,000 permits for using the schools.

But there is one group that is forbidden from using the facilities: churches.

According to the Becket Fund, “city bureaucrats decided that letting a church meet in an empty school would be unconstitutional. So it banned religious worship services—and only religious worship services—from its empty schools.”

The Bronx Household of Faith, an inner-city church serving one of the roughest neighborhoods in NYC, filed suit against this discrimination. That lawsuit, The Bronx Household of Faith v. Board of Education of the City of New York, has been ongoing for 20 years and has been to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals five times.

As Michael Stokes Paulsen argues, it’s time for the Supreme Court to settle the issue:
(more…)

broken-familyIn the 1970s, Paul Ehrlich tried to warn us: human beings were in trouble. We were reproducing so rapidly, Ehrlich opined, that millions of us would soon be starving.

Ehrlich got one thing right: we are in trouble. But he was completely wrong about overpopulation. Today, just the opposite is true. There aren’t enough of us human beings. And a lot of people are seriously disinterested in making more.

Nicholas Eberstadt calls this the “flight from family.” (more…)

religious-hostility-AMERICALiberty Institute, a legal organization in Plano, Texas, has released the report, “Undeniable: The Survey of Hostility to Religion in America, 2014 Edition,” featuring more than 1,300 cases of religious hostility, persecution and/or Constitutional violations of rights in the United States.

According to the report,

Hostility to religion in America is still growing. Because religion is so vital to a free and well-ordered society, our goal is to expose and document this growing hostility to help Americans confront and reverse it. The hostility is growing in the “Public Arena” of public places, government, and the workplace. it is growing in the “Schoolhouse” of education, from K-12 through higher academia. it is growing in the sector of “Churches and Ministries” where one might expect it to be safest. And it is growing in the areas of society that encompass the “Military,” which includes our veterans. The growth of hostility is undeniable and it is dangerous.

(more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, February 24, 2015
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The Puritans Were Like ISIS?
Mark Tooley, Juicy Ecumenism

This week Yale Divinity School’s Miroslav Volf, in an interview with Religion News Service’s Jonathan Merritt, seems to compare America’s founders with ISIS.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby left embarrassed by Canterbury Cathedral living wage blunder
Chris Pragnell, Kent Online

The Archbishop of Canterbury has admitted “embarrassment” over revelations that Canterbury Cathedral is offering jobs paying barely over the minimum wage. The Most Reverend Justin Welby waded into political debate last week by demanding a living wage for all workers of at least £7.85 per hour.

More Money Does Not Equal Better Public Schools
A. Barton Hinkle, Reason

The correlation between school spending and student achievement is far weaker than commonly thought.

Economic Freedom Is Not Enough for Human Flourishing
Elise Amyx, Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics

Economic freedom is only one component of human flourishing. We should think about it as a prerequisite, a necessary foundation to society that makes human flourishing possible. We need to ask ourselves, once we have economic freedom, what do we do with it?

Blog author: ehilton
Monday, February 23, 2015
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ukraine streetBohdan Solchanyk was not a materialistic young man. He did not seek worldly pleasures, but rather took delight in his studies, his fiancee, his faith. What Bohdan wanted -what they both wanted – was live in the Ukraine with dignity and freedom.

Bohdan’s dream died last week at a peaceful protest against the government, where he and 80 others were “brutally shot and killed by government snipers in the central square of the capital of Ukraine, as the world’s TV cameras showed the slaughter live.”

Borys Gudziak, writing at RealClear Religion, says Bohdan’s life meant something, despite the fact that he lived only 28 years. (more…)