Leithart gives lecture on “Immigration after Obergefell,” Oct. 8.

“Immigration After Obergefell”

Where: Washington Hall, Morthland College, 202 East Oak Street, West Frankfort, IL
When: Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, 7 p.m.

The lecture is free and open to the public.

Peter LeithartThe Founders Institute on Public Policy is pleased to welcome Dr. Peter J. Leithart, president of the Theopolis Institute, Birmingham, AL, for an evening lecture on “Immigration after Obergefell,” Thursday, 7 p.m., Oct. 8, at Washington Hall on the Morthland College campus.

For more information, see Events.

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Biblical reflections on governing authorities

Goran-Skopje2015By Dr. Goran Rafajlovski
Former Macedonian Ambassador to Germany, and Professor at Ss. Cyril & Methodius University, Skopje, Macedonia, and Nehemiah Gateway University, Pogradec, Albania 

 

If we consider that every authority that exists is here according to God’s will, we should respect the rules of governance.

Consider Romans 13:1-7:

“Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities.

For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.  Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.

For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same.  For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.

Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake.

For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing.

Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.”

and 1 Peter 2:13-17:

“Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good.

For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men¾ as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God.

Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.”

We know that every government consists of ordinary people who are not perfect. What happens when an imperfect official (or many of them) come(s) to power with the opportunity to make wrong decisions that lead to a bad future. Are we allowed to judge him? No.

Consider Matthew 5, which I appreciate in this context  very much:

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled and

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

To summarize my simple thoughts: Never stop thinking, never give up, and never stop personally contributing to public policy! Not every Ruler will enter the kingdom of heaven.

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Thoughts on Christian Principles of Public Policy

Bob Stacey 2By Dr. Robert Stacey
Provost, The Saint Constantine School,
Houston, TX, USA

Christians in America face a new set of challenges for the foreseeable future. For most of the history of the republic, Christianity has simply been a part of America’s shared culture—the atmosphere we all breathed. For some time now however, we have been witnessing the supplanting of Christianity from its central position in the culture. The Christian faith is seen by many as a private affair, something to be observed and maintained away from the public eye. Some scholars have aptly termed it postChristian America. But today, I think even post- Christian America is no longer accurate. What are beginning to experience today is the outright rejection of Christianity as an acceptable belief system, either public or private. Future scholars might one day call it anti-Christian America.

Nevertheless, what is new for America is not new for the Christian faith. The Church has been persecuted and mocked in many different times and places. And yet Christianity continues; not much has changed in this regard. Likewise, the task of the Christian statesman has not changed. The same basic Christian principles that guided Boethius and influenced Constantine can and should guide the contemporary Christian policy-maker in America.

In short, there are two primary sources of knowledge and truth for the Christian statesman to draw upon, the special revelation of Scripture, God’s holy and inspired Word, and general revelation, God’s will and character as revealed in the Creation itself. These two sources, while at times perhaps difficult to fathom, supply us with all we need to organize and govern ourselves justly and efficiently. So in one very clear sense, the Christian statesman, whether in today’s America, or medieval Europe, or second century Rome, need look no further than God’s Word and Creation for His guide and inspiration toward good public policy. It is just that simple and just that complicated.

Policy-makers should also recall always that God did indeed delegate some meaningful authority to the institutions we call government, but He did not delegate all authority to that sphere. Government’s role is vitally important, but it is also limited. Other spheres of delegated authority exist as well, including especially the Church and the family. Sometimes the authority of those respective spheres may even overlap to some degree, but the scope of public policy should always be limited to those aspects of human life that God has delegated to the sphere of government and no more. The great English jurist William Blackstone, for example, cautioned that laws and policy can in many cases rightly constrain illicit action, but they cannot know the heart and the mind. Good public policy, he urges, is always constructed with such distinctions in view.

Finally, we would do well to recall perhaps the greatest Christian thinker of all time, St. Augustine of Hippo, who frequently reminds us that we live in a fallen world. Real justice, real peace will remain elusive during our earthly pilgrimage. We can and should aim for the true mark, but where there is sin, there will always be error and misunderstanding. Good public policy is possible—though even that will often prove problematic—but perfect public policy is not to be found in a fallen world. There is no Heaven on Earth and thus no perfect policy, not at least until Christ returns.

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Understanding the Principles of Good Government (Part I of V)

 


By Stephen M. King, Ph.D.

Professor, Taylor University, Upland, IN, USA

Stephen King Ph.D.Welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor men like him,
because he almost died for the work of Christ, risking his life
to make up for the help you could not give me.

Philippians 2:29-30

(Part one of a series of five articles)

 

Introduction

On September 11, 2001 nearly 400 of New York City’s finest public safety and emergency personnel, and an additional 2,500 individuals, lost their lives. It is a day no one will forget. Lives were changed forever. It forced each of us to reconsider the consequences of freedom and life, two of the most precious rights Americans have. In addition, it unleashed a wave of religious renewal.

Even before the attacks, research suggested that nearly eight in 10 Americans saw religion and religious values gaining influence in their lives, the highest level since the late 1950s.[i] After the attack, scores flocked to churches, parishes, and synagogues, all with the intention of seeking spiritual solace in a time of fear and uncertainty. For nearly two months there was a spike of church attendance and Bible reading. However, within two months the statistics tell another story.

By November 2001, the levels of religious observance and church attendance were back to pre-9-11 levels. Women, the elderly, Catholics, and atheists were the four groups of people most likely to attend religious services two months after the attacks. [ii]

According to experts, six other measures of religious behavior were at identical levels recorded in August 2001, including Bible reading, church volunteerism, prayer, adult Sunday school class attendance, participation in small groups other than Sunday school class, and private devotion time.[iii]

Even numbers for evangelical Christians went unchanged. George Barna found no significant change in the number of people who were identified as evangelical and born again. Additionally, people showed no marked change along various theological claims, such as those who contend the Bible is completely accurate. And 68 percent of adults “strongly affirmed the centrality of their faith,” a number that did not change from pre-9-11 levels.[iv]

So what do these numbers tell us? And what should be our concern as evangelical Christians? First, even though recent surveys claim that more Americans are losing faith and trust in institutional religion, including and especially the so-called “Millennials,” religion and the observance of religious and spiritual values are still important, and perhaps even slightly more important since 9-11, to the average American. [v] Second, religion is becoming more important in the development of public policy.[vi] For example, white evangelicals as opposed to white mainline Protestants are far more likely to support faith-based organizations and the distribution of social services through churches and para-church ministries than through government sources.[vii]

What is disconcerting, though, is that talk often does not equal action. Many observers contend that events like 9-11 and President Bush’s faith-based initiative proposal opened the door for greater community action and social involvement, but that evangelical churches and church leaders, especially, did not respond in kind. Why is this case? A brief review of the biblical role of civil government and governmental authority will establish the foundation for developing several guiding principles of civil government.

Biblical view of government and authority

The authority of God is supreme. All rulers have power, because God granted it to them (Prov. 21:1) and with this authority comes the responsibility to rule justly (Prov. 16:12). As Jesus stood before Pilate in the judgment hall, Pilate was afraid of the angry Jewish mob screaming, “Crucify him.” He was perplexed at Jesus’ calmness and sense of personal authority. After inquiring from where Jesus came and receiving no answer, he uttered his infamous statement, “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?” Jesus responded, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above” (John 19:10-11). He knew that Pilate’s authority originated from God—regardless of whether or not Pilate affirmed this truth. Further, he knew that Pilate had the responsibility to rule justly and wisely. Pilate failed on both accounts. He failed to recognize the proper origin of his political power, and instead of judiciously ruling that Jesus be released; Pilate abdicated his executive authority and condemned a just man to die.

In Matthew 22, Jesus encounters disciples of the Pharisees and Herodians. Their intention was to “entangle him in his talk,” but what they encountered was a shrewd and careful strategist. They asked him if it was lawful to give tax money to Caesar. Understanding that their intention was wrapped in deceit, he turned to them and asked to see a coin. He asked, “Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?” After responding it was Caesar’s he authoritatively and confidently replied, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s” (22:21).

One obvious interpretation is that there are indeed separate jurisdictions of authority for church and state, however, Jesus admonished his detractors, and chastised them through his knowledge and application of Scripture by showing them that both Caesar and God had legitimate authority in their respective spheres of influence and jurisdiction. This separation of jurisdiction of church and state as institutions did not negate the existence of the influence that God has upon government or even upon public morality, i.e. should the state legally sanction actions or behavior that God has deemed immoral? If biblical Christians, though, assume less of a role in influencing government and public policymaking, the public square will be naked, as Catholic philosopher Richard John Neuhaus prophetically declared.[viii]

It is the responsibility of all biblical Christians, then, to be influence (salt) and revelation (light) to the world they live and work in. For we know that, “When the righteous thrive, the people rejoice; when the wicked rule, the people groan” (Prov. 29:2).” Several years ago Charles Colson argued “that historic Christianity may be on the verge of a great breakthrough” with “the process of secularization (having) begun in the Enlightenment” coming to a halt.[ix] Yet with several setbacks, including and most damning, as the recent Supreme Court ruling legitimizing same-sex marriage, Christians are in danger of losing significant ground gained over the last four decades. It is critical, then, that Christians understand how and why to engage the political and policy world, advocating and fighting for religious freedom and just accommodation.

The four remaining essays will describe and explain seven fundamental biblically-inspired principles of government and policy: 1) establishment of self-determination, 2) proper jurisdiction between institutions and powers; 3) written constitution to guide political actions; 4) sovereignty balanced with freedom to rule; 5) application of both justice (i.e. restoration) and judgment (i.e. retribution); 6) protection of inalienable rights of equality, liberty, life and property; and 7) formation of cohesive relationships at lowest level of governance. However, before we examine the various principles we will establish the need for self-government, which is de facto the foundation for each of the several principles.

__________________________

Endnotes

[i] The Pew Research Center, “Post 9-11 Attitudes: Religion More Prominent, Muslim-Americans More Accepted,” December 6, 2001 report (www.people-press.org/120601rpt.htm).

[ii] “How America’s Faith Has Changed Since 9-11,” Barna Research Online (26 November 2001).

[iii] Ibid.

[iv] Ibid.

[v] See Alfred Lubrano, “Surveys show more Americans are losing their religion,” The Virginian-Pilot (13 April 2002), p. E2.

[vi] “American Views on Religion, Politics, and Public Policy,” The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life (April 2001 report), pp. 25-28.

[vii] Ibid.

[viii] The Naked Public Square: Religion and Democracy in the America (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1984).

[ix] Colson, How Now Shall We Live (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale Publishers, 1999), p. x.

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The Francis Effect can’t turn Post-Christian America Trend

Rod Dreher writes in the American Conservative that all the enthusiasm for Pope Francis’ visit to the US cannot mask or undo the post-Christian drift of our nation.  All the good-feel-vibes from the Pope’s visit can’t halt the long-term decline of the Christian faith’s genuine and guiding influence on our nation’s political and cultural elites.  Thoughtful “glass half-empty” essay worth reading.

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Happy Constitution Day

The Founders Institute wishes you all a happy Constitution Day.

Constitution_Pg1of4_AC

September 17 is the day that delegates to the constitutional convention signed the nation’s new governing document in 1787. From that point the document was sent to the states for ratification. The approval of nine of the original 13 states was required to make it the law of the land. That occurred on June 21, 1788.

Bill_of_Rights_Pg1of1_AC
U.S. Bill of Rights (The first 10 Amendments to the U.S. Constitution)

This date of the Constitution’s signing was made a national day of remembrance in 2004.

Below is a link to the U.S. Constitution in both transcript form and original document form.  If you haven’t read the Constitution and its amendments, please do: it is remarkable reading, both from an historical perspective and from a contemporary public affairs perspective. In light of the recent controversial U.S. Supreme Court decisions, it is all the more important that citizens of our Republic know and understand what the Constitution says–and what it doesn’t.  Enjoy, and happy Constitution Day.

Transcript of the U.S. Constitution

 

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National Poll Puts Illinois’ Legal Climate Near the Bottom

Illinois, which has placed consistently at or near the bottom in every measure of the reasonableness and fairness of its courts and legal system over the past 10 years, took another step downward, according to the national “2015 Lawsuit Climate Survey: Ranking the States,” conducted by the Harris Polling firm, released Sept. 10.

Of the states creating a “fair and reasonable litigation environment,” according to respondents, Illinois fell near the bottom, in 48th place overall out of the 50 states, declining in almost every category measured since the last survey in 2012. Illinois scored dead last nationally in the category of “having and enforcing meaningful venue requirements.” The state’s legal reputation was only slightly better than West Virginia’s (50) and Louisiana’s (49). The three states deemed to have the best legal environment were Delaware (1), Vermont (2), and Nebraska (3).

IL Legal Climate Among Nation's Worst
The 48th place showing for Illinois was the state’s worst ranking in the history of the survey and represented a 2-point decline overall since the last survey. The biggest changes in Illinois’ legal reputation since the last survey were in its handling of scientific and technical evidence and its judges’ competence. Its reputation for handling evidence dropped 10 spots nationally and the reputation of its judges for competence fell five points. Illinois judge impartiality also declined three points.

Survey respondents were asked to identify cities or counties with the worst reputations for handling contracts and tort litigation, and for reasonable litigation environments. Two of the five worst jurisdictions nationally are in Illinois. Chicago or Cook County was ranked the worst in the nation and Madison County (Edwardsville, county seat), immediately east of St. Louis, Mo., and home to the 12th, 13th, and 15th Congressional districts, tied for the third worst nationally. Other cities or counties to make the “worst jurisdictions” list were East Texas, Los Angeles, Calif., and New Orleans or Orleans Parish, La.

Three-quarters (75 percent) of those responding to the national survey indicated that a state’s legal climate was a significant factor in business decisions at their companies, such as where to locate or to do business. The importance of the business climate, indicated by the respondents, increased by 5 percentage points since the last survey in 2012, and by 8 percent since 2010. That increase is likely due, in part, to the increasingly competitive environment growing out of the prolonged economic recession.

The survey, the first since 2012 and the ninth update since first conducted in 2002 as the “State Liability Systems Survey,” interviewed 1,203 in-house general counsel, senior litigators or attorneys, and other senior executives, who said they were knowledgeable about litigation matters at companies with at least $100 million in annual revenues, and had recent litigation experience in each state. The poll, sponsored by the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, was conducted online and by telephone from March 9 to June 24.

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Mapping energy production in the USA

The link here is to an excellent article and interactive maps of energy production in the United States, identified by the source of energy, produced by the Washington Post. The interactivity of the graphics allows one to review each state’s energy production and also evaluate the extent of each energy source across the states. Highly recommended.

According to the Post article, the state of Illinois generates  its power from the following energy sources:

  • Nuclear:  39,316 GWh
  • Coal:  31,281 GWh
  • Wind:  4,892 GWh
  • Natural Gas: 3,721 GWh
  • Hydro: 48 GWh
  • Solar:  26 GWh
  • Oil:  22 GWh

 

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“Is Kim Davis Breaking the Law?”

Dr. Peter Leithart
Ph.D., University of Cambridge
Theopolis Institute, Birmingham, AL, USA

First Things Magazine

“Is Kim Davis Breaking the Law?” From First Things Magazine (Blog) Sept. 5, 2015

From both left and right, critics of Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis have criticized her as a law-breaker. Supporters of same-sex marriage say that her religious scruples don’t give her the right to pick and choose what responsibilities she’ll fulfill. Critics from the right have said her stance is a threat to law-and-order.

Eugene Volokh shows in the Washington Post that the issue is more complicated, more complicatedlegally. After all, religious scruples are often accommodated in the workplace. In fact, under Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act, they have to be. As Volokh summarizes, “both public and private employers have a duty to exempt religious employees from generally applicable work rules, so long as this won’t create an ‘undue hardship,’ meaning more than a modest cost, on the employer.”

So, nurses don’t have to be involved in abortions, Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t have to raise flags, Muslims don’t have to drive trucks containing alcohol.

Volokh isn’t sure this is the best way to guarantee religious freedom: “The government is barred by the Free Exercise Clause from discriminating based on religion, but the government has no constitutional duty to give religious objectors special exemptions from generally applicable rules. Maybe it (and private employers) shouldn’t have such a statutory duty, either.” Regardless, it is the way the Civil Rights Act has been applied “for over 40 years.” Reasonable as it may sound, the rule has not accepted the “you don’t like the job requirements, so quit the job” argument.

That’s not a slam-dunk for Kim Davis, though, since . . . [read more]

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