Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, May 23, 2013

State Dept. urged to list key rel. liberty violators
Tom Strode, Baptist Press

The U.S. State Department disappointed religious freedom advocates by again failing to designate in its latest annual report the world’s worst violators of the human right.

Prager University Debunks Myths Surrounding Separation of Church and State Meme
Christian Toto,

The so-called “separation of Church and State” is invoked so often it might as well appear on the dollar bill.

Peter van Uhm: Why I chose a gun
Fr. Gregory, Koinonia

While recognising war as evil, the Church does not prohibit her children from participating in hostilities if at stake is the security of their neighbours and the restoration of trampled justice.

No More Church Evictions from Public Schools, Says New York City Council
Jeremy Weber, Christianity Today

Long-running legal standoff over churches renting Sunday worship space in schools has been on hold since last June.

What a sweet spectacle it is to observe Rome’s pastel-colored cityscape and glowing white marble churches from above St. Peter’s Basilica just before sunset. But this is not what one Italian entrepreneur had in mind late Monday evening and years since experiencing any kind of dolce vita in his native land.

According to local press reports, around 6:00 pm on May 20, Vatican police and tourists discovered a businessman from Trieste, Marcello Finizio, atop the massive dome of St. Peter’s, the one famously redesigned by Michelangelo to awe the millions of visitors to Rome each year.

Clinging to an upper window ledge and support cable, he unfurled a white banner with Italian and English words of protest and plea:

Alejandro Chafuen, board member of the Acton Institute and a contributor to, has recently written an op/ed asking, “Will think tanks become the universities of the 21st century?” He says that “think tanks and the academy in all likelihood, were united at birth.” and that “Massive Online Open Courses, or MOOCs, are affecting universities as few other developments in the history of education. [He] would not be surprised if taking advantage of this technology some of the major think tanks, especially those with outstanding scholars on their staff, will soon develop into small boutique universities.” Chafuen also lists several U.S. think tanks that are working on university type programs, including Acton University:

  • The Ludwig von Mises Institute, in Auburn, Alabama, has been hosting their Mises University since 1986.  The one week course focuses on Austrian economics.
  • Cato Institute has its Cato University, usually taking place at the end of July.
  • A recent entrant to this market, the Acton University, organized by the Acton Institute, Grand Rapids, Michigan.  Last year it attracted close to 800 students and professors from approximately 80 countries.   It is the most international free society educational program in history.
  • The Atlas Network hosts a Think Tank MBA course for talented intellectual entrepreneurs, as well as a “leadership academy”  as an online course to help enhance think tank talent.

He concludes with this thought:

The new global scene and the new technologies are changing the optimum size of educational institutions.   The lessons from Plato’s Academy, which took place in a garden grove near Athens, had an enormous impact on civilization.  The evolving scene in higher education and the growth of think tanks will lead to new educational offerings that will have a major impact on the quality and quantity of policy studies and public policy education.

Unfortunately registration for Acton University is closed, but you can check out AU Online.  The foundational courses are free!

Even before America became a republic, Americans have opened public meetings with prayer. The Supreme Court even acknowledged this fact thirty years ago in the case of Marsh v. Chambers. Writing for the majority, Chief Justice Burger said, “From colonial times through the founding of the Republic and ever since, the practice of legislative prayer has coexisted with the principles of disestablishment and religious freedom.”

But the “ever since” may soon be coming to an end.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the federal government’s “food stamp” program, is symptomatic of America’s current view of the role of government, says Elise Hilton. It is there to take care of our every need. Hilton notes that the government is actively recruiting people for SNAP, in a heady mix of money, entitlement, and big government. The full text of her essay follows. Subscribe to the free, weekly Acton News & Commentary and other publications here.


The plight of Syrian Christians is well-documented, and includes the kidnapping of two Syrian bishops. In an address to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland this week, Dr. Mary Mikhael of the National Evangelical Synod of Syria, said Syrian Christians are “exhausted” from the strain of life in that nation.

She said there was no Arab Spring for the people of Syria but ‘only a stormy dark winter’. In particular, she expressed concern that there would soon be no Christian presence in the country. ‘The tragedy is getting bigger day by day … Now the big question is about our future.’

Dr Bernard Sabella, executive secretary of the Middle East Council of Churches reminded those at the synod that Christians were not the only religious group facing persecution, and expressed concern that religious groups would flee the area all together.

Read “Syrian churches are ‘exhausted’ ” at Christian Today.

Blog author: sstanley
Wednesday, May 22, 2013

2013-03-15T151625Z_1_CBRE92E16FW00_RTROPTP_3_USREPORT-US-USA-AGRICULTURE-MERRIGAN_JPG_475x310_q85Tim Burrack, vice chairman and board member of Truth About Trade & Technology, recently wrote a commentary for the Washington Times about the agriculture industry in the U.S. and how it is becoming more and more European. He says there is fear of a “growing bureaucracy that is smothering freedom and innovation.” Burrack goes on to explain that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has taken

an unfortunate step toward Europeanization when it delayed the approval of two crops that will help farmers control weeds and produce more food. The decision didn’t receive much immediate attention outside the agricultural press, but it sent a troubling signal about the future of farm technology that should concern all Americans.

Scientists have developed  crops that can resist two common herbicides, dicamba and 2,4-D. These herbicides have been in use in American farms since the 1950s. This advancement means weeds will be killed, but the desired plants will survive.  Despite the fact that innovations like this are making food cheaper and more abundant, some argue “that the introduction of these crops will lead to the overuse of the two herbicides.” Burrack goes on:

Farmers lose either way. The Agriculture Department’s bad decision means that these new crops won’t go on the market and be available to me and other farmers next year as planned. We will have to wait until 2015 at the earliest. This postponement may not sound like much, but it contributes to a disturbing trend. In the United States, it’s becoming harder and harder to introduce agricultural technologies.

America has led the world in boosting crop yields. Food is safer, more abundant and more affordable than ever before. Rather than cheering on our ingenuity, however, bureaucrats increasingly want to hold it back.

We need sensible, science-based regulations — not shifting sands and unpredictable decrees from bureaucrats who seem unmoved by the needs of farmers and consumers.

Europe already has traveled far down this fateful path. Its embrace of the “precautionary principle” has made it all but impossible to approve agricultural innovations, stifling the Continent’s biotech industry. European farmers envy Americans, who can plant genetically modified crops. The Agriculture Department’s decision on herbicide-resistant plants suggests that they may not be so envious in the future.

Burrack concludes with this:

Samuel Gregg this year published Becoming Europe, a book on economic and cultural trends in the United States. He urged Americans to reject Europeanization and embrace their freedom-loving heritage. He also quotes Alexis de Tocqueville, the 19th-century Frenchman who studied our country: ‘The greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults.’

So here is a message for the Agriculture Department’s bureaucrats: Waste no time in repairing your crop-protection fault.

Read Tim Burrack’s commentary,  Sowing the Seeds of Farm Failure.