On Oct. 3, the Acton Institute held its annual luncheon and lecture in Houston at the Omni Houston Hotel.
Kris Alan Mauren, co-founder and executive director of the Acton Institute, emceed the event. The Rev. Martin Nicholas, pastor of Sugar Land First United Methodist Church, gave the invocation for the afternoon and the Hon. George W. Strake gave the introduction. Rev. Robert A. Sirico, president and co-founder of Acton, gave the keynote lecture for the afternoon: “Religious Liberty and Economic Liberty: Twin Guarantees for Human Freedom.”
Rev. Sirico began the lecture by giving a background of the Christian faith and religious liberty in the Roman Empire with the story of the emperor Constantine and the coming of the Edict of Milan in A.D. 313. This edict declared religious liberty and tolerance in the empire at the moment when Christianity was on the rise and established tolerance for all religions not just Christianity. It also restored properties to the church if they had been previously confiscated by the state.
Rev. Sirico mentioned that in our day there is the expression, “the right to the freedom of worship.” This is not what the Constitution speaks about. He said that it speaks about the right to the freedom of religion. The difference between the freedom of worship and the freedom of religion is that the freedom of religion includes the freedom of worship but it also includes the freedom to build institutions and that is what we have done since the founding of the United States.
Continuing with his talk, Rev. Sirico observed that it was through religious institutions that many other institutions were built in this nation such as hospitals and schools with private property. Today those property rights are being dictated by our government and others when that was never the intention of our founding fathers. Property rights are, in their essence, sacred and private property and the church go hand-in-hand.
Rev. Sirico referred to the abolitionist movement in the 19th century and the civil rights movement, headed by Martin Luther King Jr., which were societal movements deeply rooted in religious rights and doctrines:
If we were to eliminate religious discourse from our public conversation, as is repeatedly being not only advocated but institutionalized and legalized in our country, then we would have never had an abolitionist movement in this country. If we were to eliminate religious freedom of speech in public discourse about important social, moral and civic matters then we would have put Martin Luther King in jail. I suggest to you, for reasons other than he was put in jail and I suggest to you that if you listen to the great “I Have a Dream” speech, in today’s context, with secular ears, you would wonder if he was speaking hate crimes or trying to impose his religious views on a nation—indeed he was. And indeed, in many respects, he did, by converting the hearts and minds of men and women to the beautiful moral ideal that he articulated. But you could not understand that speech if you did not know the King James Bible because line after line was taken right from the pages of the Scriptures.
Rev. Sirico ended the afternoon lecture by emphatically calling for a new Edict of Milan for this country; for a new restoration for freedom of religion and a new restoration to the rights of our property.
A time of questions and answers with Rev. Sirico concluded the afternoon. Questions and topics tackled included:
What do you see as the counterpart today to the free land Lincoln gave to settlers in 1862 and how might we move in that direction?
Markets are great for cell phones and clothing but you can’t really put health care into a market. How do respond to that assertion?
The complete audio recording of the afternoon with Rev. Robert Sirico is available below.
Special thanks to our sponsors:
EnCap Investments, L.P.
Craig and Paige Moore
Wiley L. Mossy, Jr.
Joe and Marianne Quoyeser
Sugar Land First United Methodist Church