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Acton Institute Founder wants a Tax Holiday for businesses, while an Acton writer tells the Governor that golf courses should stay open

April 5, 2020

For years we have been writing about the positions of the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty. Over the years we have pointed out that the Acton Institute believes that Capitalism and Christianity are perfect bedfellows. In fact, Acton’s defense of Capitalism is central to their work.

In addition to their role as apologists for Capitalism, the Acton Institute has repeatedly taken the position that labor unions are bad, that government should not regulate commerce, that education should be privatized and that the poor are poor, because they provide an opportunity for the rich to practice charity. Amidst Acton’s contempt for those experiencing poverty, the organization promotes xenophobia, racism and Islamophobia. The Grand Rapids-based Think Tank also promotes homophobia and has downplayed the urgency of Climate Change, even taking Exxon-Mobil money to push the far right notion that humans have not caused global warming

During the current COVID-19 pandemic, the Acton Institute has continued to push their free market mantra, with little interest in the actual harm that is being done to people, particularly those most vulnerable to contracting the virus

In the two video messages from Fr. Robert Sirico since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, his message has been reflective of his ideology. In his first video address (March 20) since the pandemic began, the Acton Institute’s founder about how important it is for the government to stop any and all intervention once the crisis was over. In his second video address (March 25), Fr. Sirico again talks about how the government needs to get over their “regulatory mentality” and that if government wants to do something good, maybe they should offer a tax holiday to businesses. What is instructive about both of these video messages is that they do not reflect deep concern for the well-being of people who are the most vulnerable to contracting the virus. The Acton Institute founder is not talking about concrete ways to provide substantial relief for millions of working class people or how poverty disproportionate affects communities of color. Fr. Siroco is not advocating for a rent freeze or a mortgage freeze or any other ways that the profit motive should take a back seat to the well being of humanity.

When you think that the smugness of the Acton Institute couldn’t get any worse, they demonstrate that they will stop at nothing to defend the Capitalist Class. On April 3rd, Acton Institute contributor, Jordon Ballor, wrote an opinion piece for the Detroit News entitled, Gov. Whitmer, allow Michigan golf courses to open

The opinion piece by Ballor begins by stating:

The status of golf courses under Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s coronavirus executive order was clarified by the government this week to exclude their operation.

While the original order left the status of courses ambiguous, the Golf Association of Michigan reports on an update that explicitly states golf courses cannot remain open during the governor’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order. This directive is a mistake and the governor ought to grant an exception for golf courses.

Ballor then argues that one golf course was allowing their greens to be open for people to walk about, where people could leave a donation in a drop box, with the funds going to a local charity. Ballor then goes on to argue that in Ohio, the golf courses are open, so why can’t they remain open in Michigan.

However, the most ridiculous argument that Ballor uses, is to reference St. Thomas Aquinas. “When some laws are unduly strict, says Thomas, the tendency for people is to rebel against all strictures. Thus a rebellious people, being unable to bear such precepts, would break out into yet greater evils.”

When I think of laws as being unduly strict, I think of laws like those that grant law enforcement agencies the ability to spy on the public or those laws that make it difficult to have any accountability for police when they shoot people of color or engage in any number of repression tactics that are allowed under the law. I also think about how ICE can arrest, detain and deport people because they are undocumented, all of which is currently legal. And what about when corporations, particularly those engaged in extraction of fossil fuels, can continue to exploit Indigenous land/people’s, with no real oversight, no accountability and no consequences for causing climate change? Are these not strict laws that go to far, thus causing people to rebel? Not only have the laws I just cited cause people to rebel, they have led to organized mass movements, such as Black Lives Matter, the Immigrant Justice movement, plus Standing Rock and Idol No More.

These are the laws that most people rebel against, not those that put limitations during a pandemic, resulting in the closure of fucking golf courses.

Ballor concludes his argument by saying:

A free people ought to respect and obey the appropriate and necessary measures to fight an outbreak like the coronavirus, but also will rightly question and even be inclined to subvert or ignore excessive and unnuanced restrictions.

Opening Michigan’s golf courses, with appropriate measures in place, is one small but important way for the government to fulfill its duties to protect and promote human welfare, including liberty, in a time of crisis.

It seems clear that the Acton Institute contributor, Jordan Ballor is equating human welfare and liberty with the opening up of Michigan’s golf courses. Not only is such a notion absurd, it demonstrates that the Acton Institute and its followers are only interested in the lives of those who are the primary beneficiaries of free market capitalism. The sentiment conveyed in Ballor’s article, also demonstrates a complete lack of empathy for those most affected by the consequences of Capitalism and those who will disproportionately die from the COVID-19 pandemic, communities of color, the poor, the homeless, migrant workers and service industry workers. The Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty, once again, demonstrates that their notion of religion and liberty are reserved for the privileged few.

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