Religion & Liberty Online

Worthwhile listening: Vladimir Putin, school choice, and Michael Card

As you relax or workout this week, you can take Acton’s issues – and even some of the people of Acton – with you. Two podcasts, produced on different sides of the Atlantic, would make ideal listening.

Podcast 1: The BBC discusses U.S. school choice

On Thursday, the BBC World Service program Outlook reported on the inspiring life story of Virginia Walden Ford in a segment titled, “A mother’s battle for her son’s education.” Ford is the subject of the forthcoming movie, Miss Virginia. (You can see the trailer here.)

Ford was raised in Little Rock, Arkansas, where her parents prayed with other families about how to give their children a better chance in life than the one offered by the city’s segregated public schools. She became one of the first generation of African-American students to attend Little Rock schools with white children. (A former professor of mine was among their number.)

In time, Ford moved to the nation’s capital, where she encountered another state-sponsored barrier to children’s education: the district’s failing public schools. She found the D.C. public school system so drug- and gang-dominated that her youngest son, William, became a juvenile delinquent with a growing rap sheet. When she turned to the school for help, officials told her to “give up” on her son.

But a neighbor saw his untapped potential and offered to pay half his tuition to a private school, where he flourished. Ford campaigned for school choice – and won. Her activism let children walk past the teachers unions and administrators the government stationed in the school door. She convinced Congress and President George W. Bush to institute the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. It has delivered exceptional results – and become a perennial political football in budget negotiations.

Listen to her inspirational story here:

You can download the program here.

Podcast 2: U.S. radio discusses Russian press freedom and European welfare states

On Thursday, I fulfilled a lifelong dream: I was the opening act for Michael Card.

Card, our generation’s finest interpreter of Scripture in song, discussed the Gospel of St. Luke in the second half of “Mornings with Carmen LaBerge” on the Faith Radio Network. The first half of the program featured my weekly discussion (every Thursday at 7:05 a.m. Eastern) with Carmen about the headlines of the day. This week, we discussed a new law signed by Vladimir Putin that allows the government to declare journalists “foreign agents.” Combined with Russia’s “fake news” law, this gives the state tremendous power to suppress disfavored viewpoints – something that should serve as a warning to us in the United States and throughout the transatlantic space. In our second segment, we discuss a study showing that increased social welfare spending makes the poor poorer, as well as a (very) brief overview of Elizabeth Warren’s proposed wealth tax.

Because our usual connection malfunctioned, this week’s segment lacks our typical audio clarity. However, that may have been providential: I feared my cat made a guest appearance, and I may be heard reacting at a few points in this week’s segment. However, the less sensitive microphone did not pick anything up.

May your weekend be as providentially blessed. You may listen to the program here:


If you prefer to listen to podcasts on the go, you can download the MP3 here.

Additional resource:

In the podcast, Michael Card tells the story of “Joseph’s Song,” based on the Nunc Dimittis. Enjoy the song and the story.

(Photo credit: This photo has been cropped and modified for size. CC BY 4.0.)

Rev. Ben Johnson

Rev. Ben Johnson (@therightswriter) is an Eastern Orthodox priest and served as Executive Editor of the Acton Institute (2016-2021), editing Religion & Liberty, the Powerblog, and its transatlantic website. He has extensively researched the Alt-Right. Previously, he worked for LifeSiteNews and, where he wrote three books including Party of Defeat (with David Horowitz, 2008). His work has appeared at, National Review, The American Spectator, The Guardian, Daily Caller, National Catholic Register, Spectator USA, FEE Online, RealClear Policy, The Blaze, The Stream, American Greatness, Aleteia, Providence Magazine, Charisma, Jewish World Review, Human Events, Intellectual Takeout,, Issues & Insights, The Conservative,, and The American Orthodox Institute. His personal websites are and His views are his own.