corporations_are_people_too_by_biotwist-d4hnskt[Note: “Argument Outline” is a new occasional series that provides summaries of religious, economic, and public policy arguments presented in the public square.]

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) states that government shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability, except in certain conflicts with a compelling governmental interest. That seems straightforward enough, but what does this law mean when it refers to a “person”? For instance, can a corporation like Hobby Lobby be a person under this Act?

Even some people who are sympathetic to Hobby Lobby’s fight to avoid being forced to violate their conscience may wonder if it makes sense to give such broad-based religious liberty protections to corporate entities. But in a recent article in the Harvard Law Review, Alan Meese and Nate Oman make the case that the most natural reading of the term ‘person’ in RFRA includes for-profit corporations, and why they should be afforded the same religious freedoms as individuals.

The following is a summary outline of the argument they present in this law review article:
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A couple of interviews to bring you up to speed on from that last couple of days:

First of all, here’s Acton Director of Research Samuel Gregg on the GRN Alive morning show on the Guadalupe Radio Network this morning to discuss current efforts to raise the federal minimum wage, giving his analysis on the likely impact of such a move on the economy and the job market.

And from yesterday, here’s Acton co-founder and President Rev. Robert A. Sirico with host Mike Rosen on The Mike Rosen Show on 850 KOA in Denver, Colorado, to discuss Pope Francis’ recent comments to United Nations officials, which included remarks on “legitimate redistribution of economic benefits by the State.” Rosen and Sirico speak extensively about Catholic teaching on economics, and about the misleading nature of the term “trickle-down economics.”

President Lyndon Johnson, Kentucky, 1964

President Lyndon Johnson, Kentucky, 1964

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Lyndon B. Johnson’s “War on Poverty.” Nicholas Eberstadt, an economist at the American Enterprise Institute, has published a monograph entitled, The Great Society: The Triumph and The Tragedy at Fifty. Eberstadt calls Johnson’s vision for the war on poverty “the most ambitious call to date” in American political history. At the time of Johnson’s speech unveiling this “Great Society,” the United States had only one nation-wide social program, Social Security. Johnson wanted more:

The Great Society proposed to reach even further: to bring about wholesale renewal of our cities, beautification of our natural surroundings, vitalization of our educational system. All this, and much more—and the solutions to the many questions encountered in this great endeavor, we were told, would assuredly be found, since this undertaking would “assemble the best thought and the broadest knowledge from all over the world to find those answers for America.

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Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, May 22, 2014
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Mixing Religion and Economic Disciplines
Cecil Bohanon, Indiana Policy Review

So what role does religion have in a state-run university? What can or should a course outside a religious studies class say about religion? There are two extremes that I think are misguided.

Why Academic Freedom Matters (Now More Than Ever)
Robert George, Intercollegiate Review

From Rutgers to Stanford, opponents of academic freedom are growing bolder by the day. Yet important questions remain unanswered: what is the meaning of academic freedom? Why it is important? How it is achieved?

Work is Good
Owen Strachan, Kern Pastors Network

My life changed in 2005. Why? Was it a major epiphany? Did someone give me a massive sum of money? Did I go on an overseas trip? No, it was a then-unknown show called The Office, and its razor-sharp, low-key-but-hilarious writing.

Look Who’s Defending Washington Cronyism
Genevieve Wood, The Foundry

Supporters of one of Washington’s prime examples of cronyism, the Export-Import Bank, are rolling out the dollars and surveys to make the case that the bank is the “good kind” of corporate welfare (Is there such a thing?). But the sugar-coated rhetoric and selective numbers don’t make a convincing case.

Henry Parsons Crowell

Henry Parsons Crowell

Over at the Kern Pastors Network, Owen Strachan uses the example of Quaker Oats founder Henry Parsons Crowell to demonstrate the level of stewardship Christians are called to.

Bringing his ingenuity and a variety of innovations to his company and the market at large, Crowell delivered value to his shareholders, employees, and customers. “But he didn’t stop there,” as Strachan notes, using the wealth he created not just to re-invest in material prosperity, but continuing to tithe around 70 percent of his earnings and invest in Christian education and missions.

Crowell “defied the way of the world,” Strachan argues, and in doing so, he illustrated how Christians ought not be bound either by poverty theologies or prosperity gospels, convenient though either may be:

Henry Parsons Crowell made a lot of money, but he didn’t make it for himself. He genuinely believed that he could serve God by using his entrepreneurial gifts to advance the gospel of Christ’s kingdom. There was a marvelous synergy in his life, in other words. His brilliant marketing wasn’t separate from his simple piety.

I want to be frank: some Christians might have a problem with all this talk about huge amounts of money. They might fundamentally distrust all money-making and embrace what’s sometimes called “poverty theology.” It’s certainly good to be on the alert about the temptation of riches. The love of money really does stimulate all kinds of evil desires and actions (1 Timothy 6:10). And the Bible condemns lusting after poverty or riches (Proverbs 30:8). It’s notable to us that Judas sold out Jesus not for fame and glory, but for a bag of money. What could be more evocative of the temptation of riches than that? (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, May 21, 2014
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A new study focusing on the demographic effects of abortion in the United States brings to light what one scientist calls truly astounding findings. The demographic changes will even affect America’s economy. “There is no such thing as economic growth going hand-in-hand with declining human capital,” says Elise Hilton in the second of this week’s Acton Commentary.

The United States is facing a very difficult economic, educational, and sociopolitical outlook. We will have fewer workers, fewer small businesses and more dying small towns. There will be fewer teachers, fewer students, and more closed schools. We’ll have smaller families and more children not knowing what it means to have siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles. A smaller population is not a good thing; it means the loss of many cherished American ideals. Our way of life is at stake. That is not a dramatic over-statement; it is a simple fact.

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

When it comes to environmental science, we can’t avoid tough science and policy questions by simply arguing from Scripture or Tradition, says Rev. Gregory Jensen in the first of this week’s Acton Commentary.

Yes theology and science “have different points of departure and different goals, tasks and methodologies” but they “can come in touch and overlap.” For this convergence to be fruitful we must resist “the temptation to view science as a realm completely independent of moral principles.” Science can, and often does, serve as “a natural instrument for building life on earth” (Basis of the Social Concept of the Russian Orthodox ChurchXIV.1). However when we limit ourselves merely to the findings of the natural, social and human sciences, we risk confusing expediency with prudence and diluting the Church’s witness.

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