california-oil-drilling-pageEver-anxious to put another corporate head on a pike, religious proxy shareholders are boasting that their efforts landed them the big daddy of them all – ExxonMobil. Religious investor group As You Sow pats itself on the back that the energy company bowed to its pressure to reveal hydraulic fracturing (fracking) risks. According to the Wall Street Journal’s Daniel Gilbert:

Exxon Mobil Corp. agreed to publicly disclose more details on the risks of hydraulic fracturing of oil and gas wells, reversing a long-held resistance after negotiations with environmental groups and investors.

The Texas oil company’s decision is the latest evidence of a shift by Exxon’s top executives to address growing environmental worries about fracking, a contentious technique in some North American communities. (more…)

Selfsmall“Christian discipleship is nothing less than conformity to Christ—as individual believers and as local communities,” writes Charlie Self in Flourishing Churches and Communities, CLP’s Pentecostal primer on faith, work, and economics. “The very life of God is in us.”

Most of us have heard the Great Commandment and the Great Commission in their basic forms, but understanding the relationship between the two and living out that combined imperative can be difficult to wrap our minds around.

How do we love the Lord with all our heart, soul, and mind? How do we love our neighbor as ourselves? How do we love ourselves without descending into selfishness?

Self argues that “all of these ‘loves’ grow together,” and thus, we should be wary of drawing unhealthy divides, focusing on one area or group of areas to the detriment of the other(s). Fruitful stewardship depends on a healthy and holistic focus not just on who we ought to be serving, what we ought to be doing, and how we ought to be doing it, but first and foremost, from where such activities are sourced and directed.  (more…)

gr cityMichigan Capitol Confidential (CapCon) is reporting today that the city of Grand Rapids, Mich., is selectively releasing what should be public information regarding Acton Institute’s tax status in an on-going dispute between Acton and the city.

Grand Rapids city officials gave detailed information about a tax dispute involving the Acton Institute to a select reporter, but not to the nonprofit fighting to prove it is a charitable organization, according to documents received through a Freedom of Information Act request.

In fact, an Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty official complained that the organization was struggling to get information about the appeal of its rejection of an application for tax exemption just two business days before a scheduled hearing.

City attorney Catherine Mish, while not communicating with the Acton Institute, has been exchanging emails with an MLive reporter regarding this dispute. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Second Circuit Rules Against Religious Freedom of NYC Churches
Sarah Torre and Andrew Kloster, The Foundry

In the latest episode of a nearly 20-year legal battle for religious freedom in New York City, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday upheld the Board of Education of the City of New York’s refusal to provide permits to use public school space for worship services after hours and on the weekends.

Republican Senator: ‘GOP First Must End Cronyism in Our Own Ranks’
Daniel Halper, The Weekly Standard

Republican senator Mike Lee has an op-ed decrying cronyism. But first, he says, the Republicans must purge the unseemly activity from within its “own ranks.”

The Lottery And Big Government’s Gambling Hypocrisy
Ben Domenech, The Federalist

March Madness is a time when Americans of all backgrounds, faiths, and ethnicities come together for some good, clean, and likely illegal (depending on where you live) fun: gambling on college basketball.

The Case of Brendan Eich
Ross Douthat, New York Times

This mix of stringency in requirements and expansiveness in application obviously raises certain issues for any social conservative currently employed in a high-ranking position, or interested in ascending the career ladder, in many elite professions.

article-photo-Elaine“This ruling is more in the spirit of Nero Caesar than in the spirit of Thomas Jefferson,” said Russell D. Moore. “This is damaging not only to the conscience rights of Christians, but to all citizens.”

Moore, the president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, was responding to the U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal to rule on a case involving Elane Photography and its owners Jonathan and Elaine Huguenin. According to the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), Elaine received an email in 2006 asking her to photograph a “commitment ceremony” between Vanessa Willock and her same-sex partner. Willock asked if Elaine would be “open to helping us celebrate our day . . . .” Elaine politely declined to use her artistic talents to express a celebratory message at odds with her deep convictions. (Elaine had previously declined requests from others for things such as nude maternity photos.)

Willock, a licensed attorney who has served in various paid “diversity” positions, filed a complaint with the New Mexico Human Rights Commission. After a one-day administrative trial in 2008, the commission ruled against the Huguenins and ordered them to pay $6,637.94 in attorneys’ fees. The case made its way through the state court system, with the New Mexico Supreme Court ultimately affirming the commission’s coercive decision. In an ominous concurring opinion, one justice wrote that the Huguenins “now are compelled by law to compromise the very religious beliefs that inspire their lives,” adding “it is the price of citizenship.”

ADF attorneys representing the Huguenins are presenting only one claim to the U.S. Supreme Court—that the punishment of Elane Photography violates the constitutionally protected freedom “not to speak,” known as the compelled speech doctrine.

(more…)

On March 28th, the Acton Institute hosted an important event for our local community. Hidden No More: Exposing Human Trafficking in West Michigan brought together representatives from Michigan’s state government and local community activists to shine a light on the very real and growing problem of human trafficking in West Michigan (and beyond). The event was organized by Acton’s own Elise Hilton (who as written extensively on the subject of human trafficking here on the PowerBog), and featured a panel consisting of Chief Deputy Attorney General Carol Isaacs, who worked with Attorney General Bill Schuette to produce Michigan’s recent report on the subject; State Senator Judy Emmons, the Michigan Legislature’s leading voice on Human Trafficking; human trafficking survivor and founder of Sacred Beginnings Leslie King; Andy Soper of the Manassah Project at Wedgewood Christian Services; and Becky McDonald of Women At Risk International. You can view a short highlight reel from the event below; the full presentation is available here.

Radio Free ActonWhat is the end – the goal – of business anyway? Is it to merely maximize a profit or to do good, or some balance between the two? And what exactly does it mean for a business to “do good”? And if I happen to be a person of deep religious faith, do I have to check my faith at the boardroom door? What influence should my faith have on the exchanges I engage in day to day, and what are the practical implications of ethics on how I conduct myself in business relationships? Andrew Abela is the 2009 recipient of Acton’s Novak Award. He has just co-authored a very important book on the subject of the intersection of ethics and morality with business: A Catechism for Business: Tough Ethical Questions & Insights From Catholic Teaching (The Catholic University of America Press). He speaks with Acton’s Paul Edwards on this edition of Radio Free Acton.

piggybanksBy Presidential Proclamation, today is “Equal Pay Day,” a day meant to draw attention to the “fact” that women still aren’t getting paid the same as men. No matter how hard we try, we just can’t seem to catch up. 77 cents on the dollar – that’s where we ladies are sitting and stagnating.

Except it’s a myth. In today’s Wall Street Journal, and

The Bureau of Labor Statistics seems to uphold the idea that women still aren’t getting paid enough.

In its annual report, “Highlights of Women’s Earnings in 2012,” the Bureau of Labor Statistics states that “In 2012, women who were full-time wage and salary workers had median usual weekly earnings of $691. On average in 2012, women made about 81% of the median earnings of male full-time wage and salary workers ($854).”

(more…)

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Where Is the Virtue?
Anthony Esolen, Public Discourse

Our culture has become soft. We suppose that sex is too trivial to require virtue, yet we also believe it is so significant that to suggest any restraint upon its consensual exercise is an affront to the most important fount of human dignity.

St. John Fisher, Marriage, and Moral Absolutes
Samuel Gregg, Crisis Magazine

In his October 2013 article on the question of communion for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics, Cardinal Gerhard Müller underscored that the Catholic Church had risked much to uphold Christ’s teaching regarding true marriage’s indissolubility.

How To Understand True And Faux Liberalism
David Corbin and Matt Parks, The Federalist

Who are the true heirs of Madison and Jefferson?

How the Protestant Work Ethic Became the Atheist Work Ethic
Hugh Whelchel, Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics

A new study published in the Journal of Institutional Economics, shows an inverse relationship between the religiosity of a state’s population and its “productive entrepreneurship.” In other words, the less religious a state’s population, the more likely it is to have a healthy economy.

downloadOprah Winfrey recently announced her first-ever cross-country tour, “The Life You Want,” which will feature Oprah “like you’ve never seen,” in addition to talks from a series of “hand-picked” gurus, including Iyanla Vanzant, Deepak Chopra, Elizabeth Gilbert, and former pastor Rob Bell.

“It’s about living the life you want,” Oprah explains, “because a great percentage of the population is living a life that their mother wanted, that their husband wanted, that they thought or heard they wanted…Start embracing the life that is calling you and use your life to serve the world.”

Today, over at The Federalist, I offer a lengthy critique of the spectacle, arguing that behind all the glory and grandeur, much of this amounts to plain old cultural consumerism:

This is cultural consumerism at both its highest and lowest — humanistic in its instincts, privileged in its priorities, and carefully glazed with all the right marketing to deceive itself that justice is at hand and Neighbor Love has the wheel. It’s as if human desire has grown so weary of natural constraints and so content with its own appetite that it would prefer to label self-indulgence as “self-help” and be done with it.

It’s faux-self-empowerment for the self-centered, heart-religion as a mantle for hedonism.

As it relates to the areas of vocation, calling, and whole-life discipleship, getting first things first is fundamental to all that we do. Service and sacrifice must come before self-empowerment, and obedience to God before that: (more…)