parsonage (1)A federal court of appeals has rejected an atheist group’s lawsuit seeking to strike down a 60-year-old tax provision protecting ministers, notes the Becket Fund. The ruling allows ministers of all faiths to continue receiving housing allowances. “This is a great victory for separation of church and state,” said Luke Goodrich, Deputy General Counsel of the Becket Fund of Religious Liberty. “When a group of atheists tries to cajole the IRS into raising taxes on churches, it’s bound to raise some eyebrows. The court was right to send them packing.”

Aside from the question of constitutionality, the clergy exemption raises a question that many people — whether religious or not — are likely to be wondering: Why exactly do ministers receive a tax exemption for their housing allowance?

To answer the question we must first consider how taxation of church property, including clergy housing, has historically been considered.
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In a new video from The High Calling, Howard Butt, Jr. shares the story of David Magallenez, a garbage man who daily serves the people of San Antonio by removing their trash, and does so with a happy heart.

“If I’ve done my job well, people don’t even know I’m there,” David says.

As the narrator concludes: “Neither job title nor position earns a person true stature. But in any field, dedication in serving others exemplifies the high calling of our daily work.” (more…)

Denny's Offers Free Breakfast In Effort To Aggressively Promote SalesIf you’re blessed, your job is more than just a paycheck. It’s a structure for your life, it’s a place of friendship and camaraderie, and a sense of purpose. At least, it was for Stacy Osborn.

Osborn had been working at Tastes of Life, a Hillsdale, Michigan, restaurant that also supported a residential program, Life Challenge of Michigan. The restaurant was owned by Pastor Jack Mosley and his wife, Linda.

Mosley explained that, unlike a typical business that might fire a chef with a hot temper “who breaks dishes,” Tastes of Life managers were more long-suffering and wanted to help employees polish their life skills.

“Life has issues,” Mosley said. “This was a place to shore them up, and help them cope and get through.”

So why isn’t Osborn working there anymore? Because Tastes of Life couldn’t afford to stay open after the state of Michigan raised its minimum wage. Mosley said he figured he’d have to bring in 200 more customers a week in order to stay open. (more…)

Good art is more than just something pretty. It touches the soul; it brings something of the Divine to life in a new way. Artist John Dunne paints from this perspective. Dunne had already developed a substantial career when he felt called to explore more sacred themes, particularly with Eastern influence. He says when he paints, he is “listening to the work.” He says that meditation on the part of both the artist and the viewer is absolutely necessary.

Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, November 13, 2014
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What the Pope could do to defend religious freedom
John L. Allen Jr., Crux

Just by reading the news, one has the impression that religious freedom is under threat today. From the carnage unleashed by the self-declared Islamic State in Iraq and Syria to church/state tensions across the West, the picture seems to grow murkier and grimmer by the day.

Crime and Corruption Top Problems in Emerging and Developing Countries
Pew Research

A median of 83% of people across 34 emerging and developing economies say crime is a very big problem in their country, and 76% say the same about corrupt political leaders

Designing a Church for the Poor
Duncan G. Stroik, Crisis Magazine

We all know that the poor need food and clothing, decent education and good jobs. But what about their spiritual and cultural needs?

Charter schools in Texas are improving faster than public schools
Libby Nelson, Vox

Charter schools nationally are about as good as traditional public schools at educating students, at least when it comes to standardized test scores. But new research on Texas charter schools found that, over a decade, the charter schools got better at increasing student test scores, improving faster than traditional public schools.

A Note to Readers: The Acton Institute is presenting a special screening of the film Rockin’ the Wall on November 20 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The event features a talk by Larry Schweikart, who worked closely with the film’s producers and is featured prominently throughout the documentary. To register, click here.

Back in my college days, my friends and I debated the merits of military spending by the then-current administration. As this was the 1980s, featuring two terms of President Ronald Reagan, we took somewhat opposing views on whether the United States could outspend the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics until it – and its odious ideology – collapsed into the dustbin of history. This argument – believe it or not – was adopted by my friend Ron. My friend John – coincidentally named after the president on whose inaugural he was born, John Kennedy – argued that the revolution would come from within the Iron Curtain rather than without. Eastern Europe and the Soviet states wanted Calvin Klein jeans, jazz and rock and roll music, he asserted, and he was convinced that comrades of the Soviet states and its satellites would tear down oppressive regimes to attain artifacts of Western culture. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, November 12, 2014
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net-neutralityOn Monday, President Obama came out strongly for the concept of net neutrality, saying that “an open Internet is essential to the American economy, and increasingly to our very way of life.” What exactly is net neutrality? And why should Christians care?

What is net neutrality?

Net neutrality (short for “network neutrality”) refers to both a design principle and laws that attempt to regulate and enforce that principle. The net neutrality principle is the idea that a public information network should aspire to treat all content, sites, and platforms equally. At its simplest, network neutrality is the idea that all Internet traffic should be treated equally and that every website – from Google.com to Acton.org — should all be treated the same when it comes to giving users the bandwidth to reach the internet-connected services they prefer.

Net neutrality laws are legislation or regulation that prevents Internet service providers (ISPs) from discriminating or charging different prices based on such criteria as user, content, site, platform, application, or type of attached equipment.

What is the basic argument in favor of net neutrality regulation?
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Recently, Acton President and Co-founder Rev. Robert Sirico spoke with Joe Wooddell, professor of philosophy and vice president for academic affairs at Criswell College. They discuss the concept of classic liberalism, Lord Acton, the Institute, and what led to the creation of Acton’s largest event of the year, Acton University.

If you’re new to Acton or want to learn more about Acton University, this is certainly a helpful resource. Registration for Acton University 2015 opens on Monday, November 17.

Listen below:

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, November 12, 2014
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Wasn’t toil introduced into human labor as a punishment from God? Yes and no, says Dylan Pahman in this week’s Acton Commentary.

Our life is plagued by imperfection and the tragedy of our mortality, but nevertheless God says to Adam, “you shall eat,” that is, “you shall have the means to sustain your life.” Work ought not to be so toilsome — toil, in that sense, is a bad thing — but given that our lives are characterized by sin, sometimes we actually need toil. Sometimes the curse is also grace.

The full text of the essay can be found here. Subscribe to the free, weekly Acton News & Commentary and other publications here.

Untitled4“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.“ -John 1:1-3

In Episode 5 of For the Life of the World, Evan Koons wonders about the purpose of knowledge. “Is it about power?” he asks. “Man’s conquest of nature? …a means for securing a healthy nest egg for retirement?”

As he eventually discovers, knowledge is about far more than what it can do for us. “Knowledge is a gift,” Evan concludes, “and like all gifts in God’s oikonomia, it points us outside of ourselves. Certainly knowledge helps us to do more, but more importantly, it helps us to be more.”

As Stephen Grabill puts it elsewhere in the episode, “knowledge sees beyond scarcity and reveals abundance,” because, at its most basic level, it’s really about uncovering the source of all abundance — better seeing, knowing, and understanding our Creator — and sowing seeds of light and life in the world around us. (Some economists are beginning to notice this at a broader level.) (more…)