If inalienable rights are, as many people seem to believe, rights which the government cannot take away, does it follow that government can then take away rights that are alienable?

As James Rogers explains, it is no less wrong for the government to take away an “alienable” right than it is for the government to take away an “inalienable” right. The difference between the two isn’t that one can be taken away while the other cannot but that an inalienable right cannot be given away by the person who has it:

The Declaration borrows the word from property law. An “alienable” right over property means that the property can be sold or given away by the owner. Property that is “inalienable” cannot be transferred by the owner. The dramatic backdrop in several of Jane Austen’s novels, notably including Pride and Prejudice, comes from property that is inalienable. The estate in the story has been “entailed” to the first-born male of each generation. While Mr. Bennett has use of the property during his lifetime, because he has no son, the property will go automatically to Mr. Collins on his death. Mr. Bennett cannot sell the land permanently (although he can rent the land out during his lifetime), and he cannot give it away to his wife, daughters, or to anyone else. Ownership of the estate in inalienable; this inalienability limits what Mr. Bennett can do with the estate.

Rogers goes on to make the important point that there are certain rights that individuals aren’t free to give away because, according to Jesus and John Locke, we are owned by God and not self-owned beings. Read the rest of Rogers excellent essay here.

Professor Hunter Baker recently appeared on the Research on Religion podcast to discuss, among other things, his latest book, The End of Secularism. Baker’s book, like much of the podcast’s discussion, centers on the treatment of religious matters within the public square. In doing so, the podcast covers a broad range of relevant topics and is worth a listen.

Baker is an associate professor of political science and the associate dean of Arts & Sciences at Union University. In recognition of his work there and his authorship of The End of Secularism, Baker was named the 2011 recipient of The Acton Institute’s Novak Award for new and outstanding scholarship relating to Acton’s mission.

Blog author: Mindy Hirst
Monday, June 4, 2012
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Elizabeth Knox is passionate about supporting women in their faith and their work, especially when the two overlap. She regularly interacts with women on this topic through her Women of the World Bible study she began over two years ago. Her book also called Women in the World is due to come out early 2013 Follow her blog to learn more about her passion for women in faith and work as well as the writing process. You can also follow her on twitter @eknox_online.

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What happens if a Catholic college doesn’t require students to attend Mass, doesn’t engage in “indoctrination” or “proselytizing”, and hires non-Catholic faculty? As John Garvey, president of the Catholic University of America, says, the government will likely determine the school is not “Catholic” enough for religious liberty protections:

There is a pattern to these cases. The government has been eager to regulate the behavior of churches in ways more to its liking. It does this by defining religion down, so that only the most rigid and separatist groups are exempt. The rest are, for constitutional purposes, no different from the Jaycees or the Elks Club. We might say that the wall of separation is intact, but the government has made it so small that it encloses nothing more than a flower bed.

How distressed Roger Williams would have been.

Read more . . .


In The Daily Caller, Rev. Robert A. Sirico is interviewed by Ginni Thomas about a graphic in the March/April edition of the radical magazine Adbusters mocks people who throw off all moral restraint in the pursuit of wealth.

Adbusters is an anti-capitalist magazine founded by Marxist Kalle Lasn and was instrumental in fueling the similarly anti-capitalist Occupy Wall Street movement.

“You notice that they are precisely the ones who don’t tell us what personal responsibilities we have,” Rev. Sirico said. “They make abstract all of our obligations: It’s the obligation of the people, the obligation of the state, the obligation of some general mass of something-or-other.”

Read “Rev. Robert Sirico on the cultural left’s lack of ethics” in The Daily Caller. To see the extended 27-minute version of the video, go here.

Get your copy of Rev. Sirico’s new book Defending the Free Market: The Moral Case for a Free Economy today. (more…)

The Acton Institute recently hosted a conference in California with David Bahnsen and the Center for Cultural Leadership. Conference audio is now available online via YouTube. You can learn more about the event here.

Listen to Rev. Sirico’s talk, “Can We Be Free Without Economic Freedom,” below.

Other speakers included:

Defending the Free Market by Rev. Robert SiricoActon Institute has crafted a website for Rev. Robert Sirico’s new book, Defending the Free Market. With this you can give the defendingthefreemarket.com  web address to your friends for an easy-to-remember access point to the book. Other notable things about the site include:

What are you waiting for? Find out more about Defending the Free Market at defendingthefreemarket.com.

Blog author: jcarter
Friday, June 1, 2012
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“It is a common belief that capitalism ‘delivers the goods’ and creates prosperity,” says Isaac Morehouse, but does so only at the cost of our souls, our dignity and our humanity.”

Many people doubt capitalism not because they fail to see its wealth-generating capacity, but because they believe it to be immoral. I wish to contest the idea that capitalism is immoral and present evidence to the contrary. Not only do I believe capitalism passes the minimum test by failing to violate basic moral standards; I believe it actively promotes a robust sense of morality in a way far superior to any other system.

Before I present my arguments, I would like to define what I mean by the word “capitalism.” I mean only a system where individuals are free to keep, trade, use or give away property that was peacefully acquired. This is merely a negation of the use of force in the use and exchange of goods. I do not mean a system that is pro-capitalist, or pro-business or pro anything but freedom for the individual.

Read more . . .

The Holy Monastery of the God-trodden Mount Sinai, Saint Catherine’s Monastery

The Egypt Independent has a fascinating account of the process underway now to digitize the first-millennium manuscripts housed at St. Catherine’s Monastery on the Sinai Peninsula. Writer James Purtill interviewed the librarian, a native Texan named Father Justin, about the task of preserving thousands of priceless books and the new library under construction, which he hopes to write about on the monastery blog when it opens.

Every morning [Fr. Justin] attends the 4:30 am service — which has not changed its liturgy since AD 550 — and then climbs six flights of stairs to his office in the east wing of the three-story administrative building forming the back wall of St. Catherine’s Monastery. He powers up the G5 and passes the morning making digital photographs of scripture written on papyrus, written on animal hide and written with ink made from oak tree galls. “It’s amazing, the juxtaposition,” is how he puts it.

A page that may have taken a bent-backed monk weeks to illuminate is clamped under the bellows of the 48MP CCD camera. Snap. Next page. It takes three or four days to do a whole book. There are about 3,300 manuscripts. (more…)

I recently finished the advanced copy of Os Guinness’s A Free People’s Suicide: Sustainable Freedom and the American Future. I posted a previous excerpt on the topic of virtue in a free republic a couple of weeks ago.

In recent writing and speaking about President Calvin Coolidge, it is encouraging to study a leader who saw himself as a civic educator rather than an imperial president. We need a cultural change before we can ever expect reasonable change in the direction of our government. And let’s be honest, we need American people ready to think deeply about the direction of this country.

Guinness makes the case in his forthcoming book that the stakes are very high and self-government and sustainable freedom are at a precipice. Below is an excerpt from a A Free People’s Suicide on separation of powers and spheres of influence:

In short, the founders’ commitment to a separation of powers is more vital than ever today, and its current applications must go beyond a worn-out litany of clichés such as “limited government” and “get the government off our backs.” The rampant imperialism of the spheres must be reined in, and the citizens’ responsibility for the wider common good must be reinforced. Each sphere—business, law, education, entertainment and so on—must be reordered to serve the wider public good, and principles such as individual self-reliance, local self-government and state government must once again be given their proper roles. Not only must the latter be able to balance the dominance of federal government and provide a bulwark against the encroachments of bureaucratic overregulation, they must must also carry the robust human and ethical values that can prevent humanity being turned into a global supermarket where even souls are up for sale and profit is the measure of all things.

Unless America succeeds in such a reordering of the spheres, the present imperial hubris of the spheres will continue their runaway inflation, the tutelary state will expand its paternalistic smothering of individual freedom and and a politically and economically bloated America will resemble in its star-spangled obesity the enemies of freedom it has resisted so long and so heroically.