catholicschoolIn an important victory for religious liberty in Canada, the country’s Supreme Court ruled unanimously today that the government cannot force a private Catholic high school to teach a government-mandated ethics and religion course that includes teaching contrary to Catholic belief.

An attorney working with the Alliance Defending Freedom International filed a brief last year with the high court in defense of the school after the court granted them the right to intervene in defense of the school’s freedom of religion and conscience. Commenting on the decision, Alliance Defending Freedom notes:
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mandatory-votingWhile speaking in Cleveland yesterday President Obama came out in favor of making voting in elections compulsory:

In Australia and some other countries, there’s mandatory voting. It would be transformative if everybody voted — that would counteract money more than anything. If everybody voted, it would completely change the political map in this country. Because the people who tend not to vote are young, they’re lower income, they’re skewed more heavily towards immigrant groups and minority groups… So that may end up being a better strategy in the short term.

While there may be some benefits of mandatory voting, counteracting the amount of money in politics is not one of them. In fact, it would likely increase the amount of money spent on campaigning.

Currently, political campaigns spend a lot of money targeting likely voters and getting them to the polls. Mandatory voting would eliminate the need for spending on get-out-the-vote efforts, but it would make targeting voters even more essential. Political parties would have a need and an incentive to spend millions—perhaps even billions—more on campaigns since they would need to reach millions of additional, low-information voters.

But there are two other reasons why mandatory voting would be a terrible policy:
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che quevara tWouldn’t it be nice if we could all just get along? We could share all our stuff. You know, you could borrow my cashmere sweater that I saved up for, and I could borrow your Che Guevara t-shirt you got at in the dollar bin at the local flea market. Isn’t that what Christians are supposed to do?

John Zmirak thinks otherwise. At The Stream, Zmirak takes on those Christians who have a warm, fuzzy spot in their misguided hearts for what he calls “friendly fascism.” He reflects on Elizabeth Stoker-Bruenig’s latest piece in the New Republic, in which she scolds conservatives for “fighting” Pope Francis’ attempts to open the Church up to new economic ways of thinking.

She credits her discovery of Catholicism to the influence of a priest who called himself a “Christian socialist.” You remember socialism — the ideology that was denounced by Pope Leo XIII and Pope Pius XI even before its most orthodox forms claimed the lives of some 94 million people. It’s the system which still governs North Korea, Cuba and Venezuela, and in more diluted versions is slowly poisoning Western Europe.

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Trafficked workers striking against Signal International

Trafficked workers striking against Signal International

While sex trafficking gets a lot of media attention, labor trafficking is the larger problem globally. Recently, the largest court case ever involving labor trafficking was settled in Mississippi against Signal International. (You can read more about the case here.)

Labor trafficking is not a secret. However, we are just beginning to grasp the scope of the problem and the deep wounds it inflicts on its victims. In The Economist this week, the magazine goes so far as to say “its everywhere:”

Estimates of the number of workers trapped in modern slavery are, inevitably, sketchy. The International Labour Organisation (ILO), an arm of the UN, puts the global total at around 21m, with 5m in the sex trade and 9m having migrated for work, either within their own countries or across borders. Around half are thought to be in India, many working in brick kilns, quarries or the clothing trade. Bonded labour is also common in parts of China, Pakistan, Russia and Uzbekistan—and rife in Thailand’s seafood industry … A recent investigation by Verité, an NGO, found that a quarter of all workers in Malaysia’s electronics industry were in forced labour.

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Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, March 19, 2015
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Misguided UCLA debate over bias of believers
Adèle Keim, San Francisco Chronicle

“Given that you are a Jewish student and very active in the Jewish community, how do you see yourself being able to maintain an unbiased view?” That sentence, uttered last month by a UCLA undergraduate evaluating a Jewish student-government candidate, has ignited a firestorm.

Why Net Neutrality Regulations Should Concern You
Ed Feulner, The Daily Signal

There’s a reason the words “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help” are a punchline. Government involvement rarely helps. In many instances, in fact, it exacerbates the situation.

Lord of the Permanent Things
Jonathan Witt and Jay W. Richards, Intercollegiate Review

Scholars have spent decades debating the literary and theological significance of his novels. There’s been less careful treatment of Tolkien’s political and economic thought, even though, as Tolkien commentator Joseph Pearce has put it, the longer novel’s “political significance” is “second only to the religious in its importance.”

First they came for the women. Then they came for the Christians. Then they came for the nuns.
Dr. (Sr.) Ananda Amritmahal, Quartz

Shock. Horror. Outrage. Another church burnt, another place of worship desecrated. Another group of Christians attacked.

rubio-leeWhat is the Rubio-Lee Plan?

The plan—officially titled the “Economic Growth and Family Fairness Tax Plan”—is a white paper in which Senators Marco Rubio (R-Florida) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) lay out a tax reform proposal they believes will “resolve these major problems in the tax code.”

What’s in the plan?

The plan has two main sections, one “pro-growth” and one “pro-family.” The pro-growth side of the plan includes seven recommended changes:
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cogIn a recent piece for the Wall Street Journal, Rachel Feintzeig sets her sights on the latest trends in corporate “mission statements,” focusing on a variety of employer campaigns to “inject meaning into the daily grind, connecting profit-driven endeavors to grand consequences for mankind.”

Companies have long cited lofty mission statements as proof they have concerns beyond the bottom line, and in the past decade tech firms like Google Inc. attracted some of the economy’s brightest workers by inviting recruits to come and change the world by writing lines of code or managing projects.

Now, nearly every product or service from motorcycles to Big Macs seems capable of transforming humanity, at least according to some corporations. The words “mission,” “higher purpose,” “change the world” or “changing the world” were mentioned on earnings calls, in investor meetings and industry conferences 3,243 times in 2014, up from 2,318 five years ago, according to a Factiva search.

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Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, March 18, 2015
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Christians and College Debt
Samuel James, Patheos

This story poses an important moral dilemma for Christian collegians, many of whom find themselves in exactly the kind of financial straits described above.

Study: Americans are mostly OK with the government’s online snooping
Mike Murphy, Quartz

For the most part, Americans seem to have greeted the revelations about government snooping from former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden with a shrug.

Does the Minimum Wage Hurt the People It’s Trying to Help?
Anne Bradley, Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics

Ultimately, minimum wage laws disrupt the natural market process. They choose winners and losers, and the losers face increasingly restricted choices and higher prices.

NYC’s plan for prayer break in pre-K classes raises concerns
Associated Press

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s ambitious plan to expand public pre-kindergarten for all 4 year-olds depends in part on the participation of Jewish, Christian and Muslim schools, under a proposal that would permit religious instruction and prayers during midday breaks.

men-waiting-outside-soup-kitchenThe people of Seattle recently voted to put their poorest residents out of work by increasing the minimum wage to $15 over the next seven years. But wealthier residents may soon find out just how quickly it will affect them too. A number of area restaurants are already shutting down, and many others will soon closing their doors. As Anthony Anton, president and CEO of Washington Restaurant Association, says, “It’s not a political problem; it’s a math problem.”

[Anton] estimates that a common budget breakdown among sustaining Seattle restaurants so far has been the following: 36 percent of funds are devoted to labor, 30 percent to food costs and 30 percent go to everything else (all other operational costs). The remaining 4 percent has been the profit margin, and as a result, in a $700,000 restaurant, he estimates that the average restaurateur in Seattle has been making $28,000 a year.

With the minimum wage spike, however, he says that if restaurant owners made no changes, the labor cost in quick service restaurants would rise to 42 percent and in full service restaurants to 47 percent.

“Everyone is looking at the model right now, asking how do we do math?” he says. “Every operator I’m talking to is in panic mode, trying to figure out what the new world will look like.” Regarding amount of labor, at 14 employees, a Washington restaurant already averages three fewer workers than the national restaurant average (17 employees). Anton anticipates customers will definitely be tested with new menu prices and more. “Seattle is the first city in this thing and everyone’s watching, asking how is this going to change?”

You may have the smartest lawyers on retainer, the most-connected lobbyists on your payroll, and the most powerful politicians in your pocket, but it won’t help you change the law of unintended consequences. When you muck around and make changes to a complex system—such as labor pricing—you’re bound to create problems like the one’s Seattle’s restaurateurs will be facing. The law of unintended consequences always gets the final say.

If it were a matter of mere ignorance this new law might be excusable. If the supporters of the $15 minimum wage were able to honestly say, “We couldn’t have known raising the wage would put people out of work” we could let them off the hook. But they knew—or should have known—because it has been pointed out to them time and time again.
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R&L_25-1In the fall of 2014, business people, scholars, and theologians converged on the campus of Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, for the Symposium on Common Grace in Business. The event was conceived and co-sponsored by the Calvin business department and the Acton Institute as a way of highlighting Abraham Kuyper’s theological work on common grace – the grace God extends to everyone that enables him or her to do good – to the business world. The gathering was also a celebration of Acton’s translation and publication in English of volume one of Kuyper’s seminal three-volume work on common grace (De Gemeene Gratie).

We’re leading this Winter 2015 issue of Religion & Liberty with a roundtable discussion by three prominent business people who discuss how common grace has a direct, and transformative, application in their workaday lives.

Also in this issue, Ray Nothstine reviews Thomas C. Oden’s autobiography A Change of Heart: A Personal and Theological Memoir. The book chronicles how one of the twentieth century’s most celebrated liberals made a dramatic turn away from pacifism, ecumenism and psychotherapy toward the great minds of ancient Christianity.

Critics of the market economy often say it inevitably leads to Black Friday stampedes and gross materialism. We counter with an excerpt from Rev. Gregory Jensen’s forthcoming Acton monograph The Cure for Consumerism. (more…)