Blog author: jcarter
Friday, January 3, 2014
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A Flurry of Lawsuits Involving School Choice
Mary C. Tillotson, Reason

Nothing sparks court challenges like trying to expand education options.

The Normal, Drama-Free, Totally-Healthy Christian Homeschool Movement
Ruth Moon, Christianity Today

In a culture that loves shock value, typical evangelicalism rarely makes news

United Nations too Christian, claims report
The Guardian

Study calls for greater religious tolerance with Hinduism and Buddhism under-represented and funding a major issue

Report On Freedom of Religion or Belief Prisoners Issued
Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

Nine countries hold prisoners on blasphemy or defamation of religion charges. The countries with the most freedom of religion or belief prisoners are China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea and South Korea.

andy crouchCan we boil down the idea of “common good” to just 7 words? Andy Crouch is willing to try. As executive editor of Christianity Today, and author of Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power, Crouch is all about culture, human flourishing and humanity’s common good. Crouch told Acton’s Manager of Programs Mike Cook a bit of what he plans to discuss at this year’s ActonU:

‘The common good’ provides a basis for personal choices, shared effort, and social policy deeply rooted in fundamental Christian convictions. It also defies easy partisan categories. We’ll explore a seven-word summary that helps make the common-good tradition widely accessible and concretely practical: ‘the flourishing of the vulnerable in community.'”

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One of the key words at Bill de Blasio’s inauguration as New York City’s mayor was “inequality.” The politics of income inequality were pervasive in the remarks of former President Bill Clinton, who swore de Blasio into office, as well as the prayer of the Rev. Fred Lucas, a Sanitation Department chaplain, who prayed during the invocation for New Yorkers to be emancipated from ‘the plantation called New York City.’

Income inequality as evidence of an unjust society may the be new platform position of the Democrats. Across the country it appears the party is moving away from the more centrist ideology of the Clintons to the more 1912 Progressive commitments of New York’s new mayor. Nevertheless, de Blasio continues to signal a new era of politics of the Big Apple,

Here are a few highlights from his inaugural address outlining his plan to improve New York City:
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SickoAs of Jan. 1, 2014, Obamacare – or the Affordable Health Care Act – is now law. Harking back to Nancy Pelosi’s now infamous remark, “But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it away from the fog of the controversy,” we’ll now find out how it will work.

Given the incredibly rocky start, things don’t look good for the Health Care Act. One sign: documentary filmmaker Michael Moore (who usually loves all things Democratic) has said “Obamacare is awful.” In an op-ed in today’s New York Times, Moore gripes that Obamacare suffered from “clueless planning” and that it’s not affordable for many folks after all. (more…)

Blog author: jballor
Thursday, January 2, 2014
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I certainly like where Dr. Calder ends up, but I’m not quite so sure about the argumentation he uses to get there. This short video is worth checking out: “Breaking the Power of Money” (HT: ESN blog).

Breaking the Power of Money – Dr. Lendol Calder from InterVarsity twentyonehundred on Vimeo.

Is it because students have unconsciously divinized money that they can’t bring themselves to tear a dollar bill in half? Or is there an implicit bias against the seemingly purposeless destruction of value? Perhaps they need some convincing that destroying dollar bills is an exercise in good stewardship.

Money is something powerful, that’s for sure. And the love of it is the source of all kinds of evil. So the challenge is to keep our loves for temporal goods, including money, ordinate. As Calder puts it, we do that not by destroying money, but by putting it to responsible use. Maybe that’s “profaning” money in the sense that we are taking away the purported and idolatrous divinity we ascribe to it. But maybe that’s also by “redeeming” money for godly use.

contraceptive-mandateAs 2013 was coming to a close, federal courts issued rulings on three injunctions sought by religious non-profits challenging the Affordable Care Act contraceptive coverage mandate rules:

• Preliminary injunctions had been awarded in 18 of the 20 similar cases, but the 10th Circuit denied relief to the Little Sisters of the Poor, a group of Catholic nuns from Colorado. However, late in the evening on December 31, Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor issued a temporary injunction blocking enforcement, and ordered a response by the federal government by 10:00 am on Friday. Justice Sotomayor’s order applies to the nuns, the Little Sisters of the Poor, and other Catholic nonprofit groups that use the same health plan, known as the Christian Brothers Employee Benefit Trust.

• Earlier in December an Indiana federal district court rejected Notre Dame’s claim in University of Notre Dame v. Sebelius that its rights under Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the 1st Amendment are infringed by applying the accommodation in the final rules to its self-insured employee plan and its health insurance policies offered to students. On December 31, the 7th Circuit denied Notre Dame’s emergency motion for an injunction pending appeal, but ordered expedited briefing and oral argument.

• In Priests for Life v. U.S. Department of Heath and Human Services, the D.C. federal district ruled on December 19th that no substantial burden was placed on a pro-life group’s free exercise by requiring it to complete the self-certification form to opt into the accommodation for religious non-profits. But on December 31 the D.C. Circuit granted emergency motions for injunctions pending appeal filed by Priests for Life and by the various plaintiffs in the Catholic Archbishop of Washington case. The court also ordered the two cases consolidated for appeal.

Writing in The Detroit News, Rev. Robert A. Sirico looks at Pope Francis’ recent Apostolic Exhortation, the “much talked about, but little-read” document titled “The Joy of the Gospel” with a special emphasis on how the pontiff understands the problem of poverty. The president and co-founder of the Acton Institute notes how Francis “speaks boldly through effective and moving gestures.” Excerpt:

It is no surprise that the man who took as his model and name the model of il poverello of Assisi would place the poor as a central concern of his pontificate: their dignity, their rights and their sustenance. Yet, the spontaneous gestures and the impromptu manner in which they are displayed ought not to beguile us into thinking this pope is offering a superficial dichotomy between left and right; between capitalism and socialism. To think that any pope, but especially this pope, is animated in his concern for the poor and vulnerable by a particular political ideology is to miss him completely.

While renouncing the notion that the market alone is sufficient to meet all human needs, Francis is also prepared to denounce a “welfare mentality” that creates a dependency on the part of the poor and reduces the Church to the role of being just another bureaucratic NGO. The complexity of his thought surprises some, on both the Right (some of whom worry, needlessly, that he is a liberation theologian) and the Left (who are already using his words to foment a political “Francis Revolution” in his name). Such tendencies reveal a rather anemic understanding of this man but also of Catholicism, which has historically been comfortable balancing the tensions of apparent paradoxes (Divine/human; Virgin/Mother; etc.). It is too facile a temptation to collapse 2,000 years of tradition, commentary and lived experience into four or five politically-correct hot button sound bites that are the priority, not of the Church, but of propagandists with an agenda.

Read “Pope Francis, without the politics” by Rev. Robert A. Sirico in The Detroit News.