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Archive for the tag “catholic”

The Planned Dependent Community

This article is part of my posts on the economic system of distributism.  This is from practicaldistributism.blogspot.com which you can find here:

“”Walmart didn’t kill the once-vibrant cluster of shops next to a railroad and a creek in the faded old coal town of Kimball, W. Va. — the disappearance of the mines had pretty well taken care of that already. But now that Walmart’s leaving, too, as one of 154 U.S. stores the company closed in January, the town might be snuffed out for good.”

This quote is from a Washington Post article on the circumstances some small towns were facing when Walmart recently decided to close 269 stores and lay off more than 16,000 employees. This prompted one reader of ours to ask how we can reach these types of communities. How can we present the idea of distributism to the people living in these situations as solution to their economic problems?”

You can learn more about this issue here.

Owners vs. Workers: An Eternal Law of Nature?

This article is part of my posts on the economic system of distributism.  This is from practicaldistributism.blogspot.com which you can find here:

“A few years ago (November 2, 2013) The Economist magazine, that reliable organ of neo-liberalism that makes few bones about its idolization of material growth as the summum bonum of human existence and its consequent dismissal of anything, such as family life or cultural traditions, that might get in the way of such material growth, ran some articles about labor’s diminishing share of national income.

Over the past 30 years, the workers’ take from the [economic] pie has shrunk across the globe. In America, their wages used to make up almost 70% of GDP; now the figure is 64%, according to the OECD. Some of the biggest declines have been egalitarian societies such as Norway (where labour’s share has fallen from 64% in 1980 to 55% now) and Sweden (down from 74% in 1980 to 65% now). A drop has also occurred in many emerging markets, particularly in Asia.

Even these figures of 70% to 65% for the U.S. are misleading, for as the magazine notes in another article in the same issue, “among wage-earners the rich have done vastly better than the rest; the share of income earned by the top 1% of workers has increased since the 1990s even as the overall labour share has fallen.” So that, “the share of national income going to the bottom 99% of workers has fallen from 60% before the 1980s to 50%.” That is to say, the workers whose job title is CEO are gobbling up not just more money but a greater percentage of it.

All this is bad, opines The Economist, it’s politically dangerous “and it is producing a lot of predictably polarised debate.” Perhaps The Economist is concerned that such instability might derail the engine of wealth redistribution for the rich that doubtless is working well for so many of its readers. So what’s the cause and what can be done? The Economist calmly discusses certain explanations that have been offered – the “weakness of unions” for example – and rejects them, and suggests that “the likeliest culprit is technology” although “[s]ome economists also emphasize the role of globalization….” As for the remedy, well, let’s be sure that we “strengthen workers without ham-stringing firms. Growth, rather than employment protection is the priority.” Of course, “education and training” – that’s needed too. And don’t forget, a “cut in corporate tax rates” and “pension reform” [read: privatizing pensions and turning them over to the good people on Wall St.] and “more privatisation” generally. To its credit, The Economist does note that “income from capital…is often more heavily taxed” than labor income, and suggests that this difference be narrowed.

So here you have it, the world according to The Economist. What can a distributist say in response? In the first place, the fact that since about 1980 it’s been precisely the kind of neo-liberal policies which this magazine generally champions that have suspiciously coincided with the decline in labor’s share of income – this is never so much as suggested as a possible cause. Lower the corporate tax rate, lower taxes on the rich – these are still the neo-liberal catchwords and constitute nearly the entire economic program of many American politicians, despite the fact that doing so has produced exactly this kind of income inequality and been in part responsible for numerous broader social problems. Apparently it’s all because the rates haven’t been lowered enough. Eliminate corporate taxes, make the rich pay the same percentage of their income in taxation as the middle class – the flat tax – and, according to them, voilà, all our problems will be solved.

While no distributist I have ever heard of favors perfect equality of income or wealth, it is a fact that too great disparities of either not only lead to social problems, but are probable signs of injustice. The best way of eliminating such disparities is not via government transfer payments, necessary as those sometimes are, but through better access to well-paying jobs and the possibility of ownership of productive property.

Actually, for a distributist these two points, good jobs and property ownership, are not two separate issues, but the same thing – or at least should be. The defining note of capitalism is that some people will own the means of production and will hire others to work for them. (See Pius XI’s encyclical Quadragesimo Anno, no. 100.) Even if such a division can in theory be just, a distributist wants to ask, Why must this be so? Why must there be this divide between owners and workers? Why cannot workers and owners be the same persons, either individually or collectively?

Under the capitalist model labor is always an expense for the owner. Even if an owner has the best of intentions to pay just wages (and one can wonder how often this is the case), there is always subtle pressure to reduce labor costs. Especially in an economic downturn, this is often considered the obvious thing to do. But consider an alternative model. A firm that is owned cooperatively by its workers will naturally face the same difficulties in a recession that other firms face. But instead of looking upon its workers as a expense to be lessened, the workers are themselves the owners, the ones who will decide the fate of the company, which is also the fate of themselves, their families, their children’s futures, and their communities. Whatever hard choices such a firm must make will be made with an entirely different set of priorities from a firm in which workers are simply an expense to be eliminated as much as possible.

There is no eternal law written in the nature of things that mandates the structural opposition of owners and workers. There is absolutely no reason why policies cannot be devised to promote widely dispersed ownership of productive property. It is doubtless true that not everyone is capable of managing even a small business well, but surely everyone is capable of being part of a cooperatively-owned enterprise. Today’s laws often favor concentrations of ownership in corporate hands. But there is no reason why these laws cannot be changed to promote producer-owned cooperatives and other types of small businesses. The activity of the Mondragon cooperatives in Spain proves that there is no reason why large-scale and highly technical industrial operations cannot be worker owned. Can an economy in which cooperatives and small businesses predominate be achieved overnight? Certainly not, but over time there is no reason why such an economy cannot be created. The obstacles to distributism are neither theoretical nor practical – they rather consist in the stubborn conservatism of those afraid to risk any change or, even worse, in the vested opposition of those who stand to lose their opportunities to exploit both their employees and their customers for their own gain. These are the chief reasons why more progress has never been made toward an economically just society.

There is no better way of ending than by quoting Leo XIII in Rerum Novarum, “The law, therefore, should favor ownership, and its policy should be to induce as many people as possible to become owners” (no. 46).”

You can learn more about this issue here.

Court Enjoins Army From Requiring Special Testing of Sikh Officer

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

“In Singh v. Carter, (D DC, March 3, 2016), the D.C. federal district court, invoking RFRA, granted a preliminary injunction protecting religious rights of an Army officer.  The Army had ordered a decorated Sikh Army captain to undergo costly specialized testing with his helmet and protective mask to assure that his religiously required head covering, beard and uncut hair will not interfere with the functions of the helmet and mask. The court said:

At first blush, the challenged order appears to reflect a reasonably thorough and even benevolent decision by the Army to fulfill its duty of protecting the health and safety of this particular Sikh officer.

Yet, that is far from the complete picture. Thousands of other soldiers are permitted to wear long hair and beards for medical or other reasons, without being subjected to such specialized and costly expert testing of their helmets and gas masks. Moreover, other Sikh soldiers have been permitted to maintain their articles of faith without such specialized testing.

See prior related posting.”

You can learn more about this issue here.

Church Fails In RLUIPA Challenge To Village’s Zoning Ordinance

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

“In Truth Foundation Ministries, NFP v. Village of Romeoville, (ND IL, Feb. 26, 2016), an Illinois federal district court denied a preliminary injunction to a small congregation serving mainly African immigrants that found itself in violation of the village’s zoning code after it had spent over $50,000 expanding a building it was leasing for use as a church.  The court concluded that the church had failed to show a substantial likelihood of success in its claim that the town’s zoning requirements violate RLUIPA’s complete exclusion, unreasonable exclusion and equal terms provisions.”

You can learn more about this issue here.

Title IX Religious Organization Exemption Does Not Bar Retaliation Claim Against Catholic High School

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

“In Goodman v. Archbishop Curley High School, Inc., (D MD, Feb. 26, 2016), a Maryland federal district court refused to dismiss a former high school librarian’s Title IX retaliation claim against the Catholic high school from which she was fired.  Librarian Annette Goodman reported to the school’s administration evidence that another faculty member was having a sexual affair with one of the school’s students. The school fired Goodman claiming that she delayed too long reporting her concerns to the school. Goodman says the firing was an attempt to deflect attention from the school’s indifference to sexual abuse.  The court rejected the school’s claim that Title IX’s religious organizations exemption requires dismissal of Goodman’s lawsuit, saying in part:

The position of the Defendants … is that Title IX’s religious organizations exemption bars any employment discrimination or retaliation claim against them if they define their actions as tenets of their religion. There is a noticeable lack of case authority supporting such a broad application of the religious exemption.

The court also rejected defendants’ claims that their rights under the First Amendment and RFRA would be violated by allowing the suit to move forward. ”

You can learn more about this issue here.

Prayer At School Board Meetings Governed By School Prayer Criteria

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

In Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc. v. Chino Valley Unified School District Board of Education, (CD CA, Feb. 18, 2016), a California federal district court, in a 26-page opinion, held that invocations at school board meetings are governed by case law relating to school prayer, not by the line of cases on legislative prayer. Emphasizing that students regularly attend and make presentations at school board meetings, the court found the invocation policy unconstitutional, saying in part:

Because of the distinct risk of coercing students to participate in, or at least acquiesce to, religious exercises in the public school context, the Court finds the legislative exception does not apply to the policy and practice of prayer in Chino Valley School Board meetings.

The court also invalidated the Board’s practice of praying reading from the Bible and making religious statements at various points in school board meetings. (Court’s order).  FFRF issued a press release announcing the decision.

You can learn more about this issue here.

Former Employee’s Fraud Claim Against Diocese Dismissed

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

In Simon v. Finn, (MO Cir. Ct., Feb. 16, 2016), a Missouri state trial court dismissed a fraud claim against the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City- St. Joseph brought by Colleen Simon, formerly the director for social ministries of a local parish.  Simon was dismissed after a newspaper article disclosed that she was in a same-sex marriage.  While Simon claimed that she was falsely assured by the Diocese that her same-sex marriage would not impact her employment, the court said:

For the Court to inquire into the knowing falsity of the Diocesan agents’ … representations to Plaintiff about her sexual orientation relative to her position in the Diocese would impermissibly entangle the Court in matters and decisions purely canonical, since the Court must necessarily examine the religious views and practices of the Diocese in an attempt to perceive the reasonableness of Plaintiff’s reliance on the Diocese’s representations.

However the court permitted Simon to move ahead with her claim that the Diocese violated Missouri law requiring it to furnish any former employee requesting it a letter describing his or her service. It also permitted Simon to move ahead with her wage and hour claim. ADF issued a press release announcing the court’s decision.

UPDATE: Catholic Culture reported Feb. 23 that the Diocese and Simon have entered an undisclosed settlement of the wage and hour and the severance letter claims.

You can learn more about this issue here.

RFRA Excuses Amish Defendant From Being Photographed During Pre-Release Processing

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

“In United States v. Girod, (ED KY, Dec. 30, 2015), a Kentucky federal magistrate judge, accepting a federal RFRA claim, allowed an Amish criminal defendant to be processed for pre-trial release without his being required to pose for identification photographs by the U.S. Marshals Service.  Samuel Girod, charged with selling misbranded drugs in violation of federal law and with obstruction of justice, objected on religious grounds to knowing participation in photography.  Relying on Supreme Court precedent, the district court said in part:

[RFRA] requires that the Court not evaluate the general legitimacy of a stated governmental interest; rather, the Court must judge whether, as to Samuel Girod, the United States has proven a compelling interest servable only by the manner of USMS photography sought.

The court concluded that neither the interest in identifying a defendant if he were to flee nor the interest in pre-rial supervision were compelling as to this particular defendant because of his history of appearing when summoned and his ties to the community.  It added:

If this case centered on rational basis review, the Court likely would require that Girod submit to the Marshals’ processing like everyone else encountering a neutral, generally applied law or policy. Congress elected to revivify a more searching inquiry when a conflict exists between authentic religious exercise and governmental act. To prevent an exemption, the United States must prove, as to the potentially exempt objector, a compelling interest furtherable only by the offending means. The Government has failed in that burden in this particular case, at this particular stage…”

You can learn more about this issue here.

Zoning For “Houses of Worship” Does Not Include Homeless Services Site

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

“The Albany Times-Union reports that a New York state trial court judge last week overruled the Albany Board of Zoning Appeals decision that would have allowed the non-profit group Family Promise of the Capital Region to use a building in an area zoned to include “houses of worship” to provide services to homeless families.  The site– a parsonage of the Bethany Reformed Church– was used to provide daytime child care, access to computers, career and life counseling and a place to pick up mail and make phone calls.  The Board of Zoning Appeals held that the outreach services were part of Bethany’s religious mission.  However the court disagreed, saying that a “house of worship” is a place set aside for for some form of religious devotion, ritual or service showing reverence. Critics of the court’s decision say the ruling could create problems for all sorts of congregations that make their basements and meeting rooms available for social programs they deem part of their missions.  Family Promise can still apply for a zoning variance to allow it to continue its operations. ”

You can learn more about this issue here.

Denial of Permit For Muslim Cemetery Was Arbitrary and Capricious

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

“The Farmington (MN) Independent reported yesterday on a decision last month by a Dakota County, Minnesota trial court judge holding that the Castle Rock Township board of supervisors’ decision to deny a permit for a Muslim cemetery was arbitrary and capricious. The Al Maghfirah Cemetery Association sued after the township said the cemetery would cause a loss of tax revenue and expressed concern that the cemetery would not be maintained and would not be open to the public.  It is estimated that the 73-acre cemetery site will accommodate 35,000 burials– enough to serve the growing Minnesota Islamic community for 200 years. ”

You can learn more about this issue here.

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