Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty

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The Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty is a free-market think tank which promotes laissez-faire economics and public policy within a Christian framework.


The Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty was founded in 1990 by Rev. Robert A. Sirico and Kris Alan Mauren. The institute takes its name from John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton (1834-1902), 1st Baron Acton of Aldenham, 'the magistrate of history', who concluded that "political liberty is the essential condition and guardian of religious liberty" [1]. The institute strives to "articulate a vision of society that is both free and virtuous" [2]. The institute promotes its views through educational programmes for religious and business leaders, such as the Acton University [3], and through its publications; Acton News & Commentary, Acton Notes, Religion & Liberty, and the Journal of Markets & Morality [4]. Through these seminars and publications the institute educates religious leaders to "embrace the principles of economics as analytic tools in the consideration of economic issues that arise in their ministry", and "exhort business executives and entrepreneurs, to integrate their faith more fully into their professional lives" [5].

The institute promotes limited government and a free market in its mission to secure a "free, virtuous, and humane society" [6].

Public Policy

The Acton Institute is interested in six policy areas:

  • Business & Society - Commerce is an essential component of any society, enabling individuals to freely serve the needs of one another through mutually beneficial exchange.
  • Educational Choice - Increased competition and parental involvement in educational decision making as a means for furthering the intellectual and moral formation of America's children.
  • Effective Compassion - Acton Institute envisions a revitalized civil society that is energetically involved in transforming the lives of the poor with a minimum of government intervention.
  • Environmental Stewardship - A strong, vibrant economy, and a vigorous commitment to property rights are essential to creating the necessary incentives for sound ecological stewardship practices.
  • International Trade - Commitment to the free exchange of goods and services between persons, and acknowledges the essential relationship between a free, open economy and a free and prosperous people.
  • Technology & Regulation - Acton Institute advocates a free economy and the notion that high technology plays a vital role in improving the lives of consumers through innovation; hence, creativity should not be hampered by governmental intrusion. [7].

Environmental Stewardship

The institute's religious outlook shapes the view that the world, and its resources, are under the stewardship of the people as they are "placed at the head of creation" (Sirico, 2000) [8]. According to the Cornwall Declaration (a statement written following the meeting of religious leaders - the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation - who had gathered to discuss climate change) there are three areas of "common misunderstanding" [9] in discussion of climate change and the environment:

  • The first is that humans are viewed as "consumers and polluters" instead of "producers and stewards".
  • Secondly, that the Earth should be left alone, untouched by human hands.
  • And finally, there is a confusion between 'real' and 'alleged' problems. [10].

These 'real' problems such as health problems resulting from poor sanitation, differ from 'alleged' problems such as global warming because, the alleged problems are:

  • speculative
  • cataclysmic
  • of concern only to environmentalists in wealthy nations
  • very low and largely hypothetical risk
  • solutions are unjustifiably costly and of dubious effect [11].

The institution believes that the best way around these issues is by instilling private property rights throughout the globe. Points 5 & 6 of the Declaration give a good overview of the institutions framework:

5. We aspire to a world in which the relationships between stewardship and private property are fully appreciated, allowing people's natural incentive to care for their own property to reduce the need for collective ownership and control of resources and enterprises, and in which collective action, when deemed necessary, takes place at the most local level possible.
6. We aspire to a world in which widespread economic freedom-which is integral to private, market economies-makes sound ecological stewardship available to ever greater numbers. [12].

MediaMouse describes the Cornwall Declaration as "a document that sought to provide a theoretical and religious justification for free-market environment policies under the guise of biblical support" [13].


The Institute receives part of its funding from various local foundations, such as the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation (which donated $25,000 in 2005) [14], and the Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation (donating $100,000 in 2005) [15], as well as through corporate funding from ExxonMobil (receiving $315,000 between 1998-2006) [16]. Revenue is also gained through the Institute's various educational programs and publications. The net assets of the Acton Institute in 2008 were $4,993,597 [17].


Board of Directors

Board of Advisors


"The best means of reducing poverty is to protect private property rights through the rule of law". [18]


  • 161 Ottawa Ave. NW, Suite 301, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
  • Phone: 616.454.3080


  1. History of Acton Institute accessed 26/04/10
  2. About the Acton Institute, accessed 25/04/10
  3. Acton University accessed 26/04/10
  4. Publications accessed 26/04/10
  5. About the Acton Institute, accessed 25/04/10
  6. History of Acton accessed 26/04/10
  7. Public Policy Outreach, accessed 25/04/10
  8. (Sirico, 2000) Environmental Stewardship in the Judeo-Christian Tradition: Jewish, Catholic, and Protestant Wisdom on the Environment, accessed 26/04/10
  9. Cornwall Declaration accessed 26/04/10
  10. Cornwall Declaration accessed 26/04/10
  11. Cornwall Declaration accessed 26/04/10
  12. Cornwall Declaration accessed 26/04/10
  13. MediaMouse, Grand Rapids Think-Tank Brings ExxonMobil Funded Global Warming Skeptic to Town accessed 26/04/10
  14. MediaMouse accessed 26/04/10
  15. MediaMouse accessed 26/04/10
  16. Exxon Secrets accessed 26/04/10
  17. Charity Navigator accssed 26/04/10
  18. Acton Institute Core Principles, Creation of Wealth, accessed 09/02/10