Private School Vouchers, Lax Standards

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The principle of judicial restraint is a wonderful thing. It helps keep judges – as they go about their business of determining whether laws are constitutional – from horning in on the role of legislators, whose task is to make policy choices and then to enact laws reflecting those choices. Proper restraint makes judges’ rulings more credible, gives legislators a healthy leeway and shores up our democratic system of checks and balances. But what happens when judicial restraint becomes judicial paralysis? Then, a runaway legislature can get away with pretty…

Voting Rights Trial Winding Down

Blog Pic - Vote Button

National attention has been focused on North Carolina during the federal voting rights trial going on in Winston-Salem. Closing arguments began today. For those who may have missed it, Council Executive Director Jennifer Copeland offered a powerful statement during a pre-trial press conference on why people of faith care about voting rights. And this week, “The New York Times Magazine” offered an extensive article about the persistent attack on minority voting rights that has endured in this country since Reconstruction. Of the ruling that will come from this summer’s trial, the magazine…

Vocation, Profession, and Divestment

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By Wayde Marsh, Duke Divinity School Intern Being a student in a divinity school with graduates heading to careers in parishes, academia, nonprofits, and many other fields, I hear a lot of talk about finding my “vocation.” Being a student of a professional school within a large research university, I also hear a lot of talk about developing my “profession.” As people of faith, we understand that our vocation is God’s calling on our lives to live and act in particular ways for God’s glory. Discovering one’s vocation is a…

Priorities and the Jet that Ate the Budget

Photo by Flickr user Skakerman

A recent article in Raleigh’s News and Observer focused on the F-35 jet. The American Friends Service Committee calls this weapon system the “plane that ate the budget” and puts the lifetime cost at $1.5 trillion. Over the same period of years that Lockheed Martin has encouraged Congress to continue funding the most expensive weapon system ever, we have cut many needed domestic programs that feed our hungry and educate our children. This system isn’t yet working and is way behind schedule. Sen. John McCain said “The (F-35) Joint Strike…

Tax Cuts, Tax Shifts, Budget Battles

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Don’t be surprised if, during the General Assembly’s closed-door negotiations to craft a new state budget, enterprising reporters manage to pry loose some of the juicy (or gory) details. Keeping tight security on a process that involves 114 legislators – fully two-thirds of the combined House and Senate roster – won’t be easy. Not to mention that the Republicans who are running the show have actually included a few Democrats! Perhaps even more to the point, the mega-sized conference committee begins its work with members far apart on many key…

Calling for Freedom

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A few weeks ago, I, along with the rest of the nation, celebrated our nation’s independence. Last week I, along with thousands of North Carolinians, also attended the Mass Moral Monday March for Voting Rights in Winston-Salem. At the rally there was also much talk about freedom, especially the freedom to vote,​ as the trial of North Carolina’s voting laws begins. “[The passage of HB 589] was a racist attack on our sacred right to vote, a right that was won with blood and the lives and souls of martyrs…

Courtroom March for Voting Rights

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Republican legislators can hardly get around the fact that their 2013 overhaul of North Carolina election laws is likely to inconvenience some groups of voters more than others. For example: People working two jobs to make ends meet will tend to feel the impact of a shorter early voting period more than will retirees with flexible schedules who can count on being able to vote on Election Day. Of course, those legislators don’t want to see it that way. As they defend the changes in a federal court trial that…

A New Heaven

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“Joy, can you still dance. Now that I just heard about the Charleston shooting, can you dance a prayer as well as dancing to demonstrate that we offer our whole bodies to God?” This was Nurya, the minister-in-residence during this week long food and faith intensive sponsored by the Wake Forest University Divinity School in Asheville. She had just sat down at the table where two teenagers, a Partners in Health and Wholeness volunteer, and I were having breakfast. I hadn’t heard about the shooting before she mentioned it. She…

Conflicts over Policies, Power, Pride

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Regarding the state of affairs within the N.C. General Assembly these days, one little set of numbers tells a big story: 112-0. That was the margin by which the House on June 23 rejected the Senate’s version of the annual budget bill. No, not exactly a cliff-hanger. House members – majority Republicans as well as minority Democrats – not only disagreed with the Senate’s more conservative spending approach. They also resented Senate tactics that some would surely have described as bullying and an abuse of the legislative process. Unfortunately, that…

An Encyclical for Summer Reading

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Summertime has always been considered the best season for reading and this year we are blessed with what arguably could be considered some of the best reading material ever written! The Vatican has officially released the encyclical: Laudato Si’ of the Holy Father Francis On Care for Our Common Home.  It is a 184-page document intended to be read in entirety and received holistically. As eloquently stated by one Catholic leader, “the Laudato Si’ is something you take on retreat, it is not a policy doc. The final chapter is gorgeously mystical,…

Voting Rights Sense, in a New Light

Blog Pic - Vote Button

Over and over, we heard North Carolina’s stringent voter identification law, enacted by the Republican-controlled legislature in 2013 over the protests of voting rights advocates, described as simply a “commonsense” measure to deter ballot fraud. We were supposed to ignore the fact that the kind of fraud by impersonation that a voter ID law might prevent has not been a problem in this state, with only a minuscule number of cases coming to light. We were supposed to ignore the difficulty that many residents – elderly, disabled, living in remote…

The Rt. Rev. Michael Curry Elected Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church

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Photo credit: Episcopal News Service We join with our Episcopal brothers and sisters in celebrating the election of the Rt. Rev. Michael Curry as their 27th Presiding Bishop. Those of us in North Carolina have benefited from Michael’s deep faith, his leadership, and his extraordinary skills as a preacher and advocate in his role as Bishop of the Diocese of North Carolina.  We can only imagine all that he will accomplish for the larger church and will enjoy watching the rest of the world discover what we have come to know. Blessings…

Statement on the Supreme Court’s Same-Gender Marriage Decision

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We celebrate today’s Supreme Court ruling with our gay brothers and sisters who wish to marry and have their marriages recognized nationwide, with denominations and congregations that have authorized and now are affirmed in continuing to perform same-gender marriages, and with the clergy who have sought to officiate these weddings as a matter of faith. At the same time, we recognize that this continues to be a difficult and complex issue for many people of faith. So we would reiterate that this ruling does not force people to change their…

The Leadership of Pope Francis

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By Wayde Marsh, Duke Divinity School Intern “[Pope] Francis almost makes me want to convert to Catholicism.” This is the sentiment generally expressed by many of my colleagues at Duke Divinity School. Many of us who are not Catholic find refreshing a Pope who is faithfully in touch with so many social justice concerns in such a visible way. He was almost from the outset a popular leader for all Christians in many ways because of his concern for the poor, the marginalized, and those without a voice (including our…

Standin’ in the Need of Prayer

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Raleigh’s Martin Street Baptist Church (historically African-American) and Pullen Memorial Baptist Church (historically white) have a partnership that has extended over more than two decades. It grew out of the personal friendship of former pastors David Forbes and Mahan Siler. Both of them, by the way, have been leaders in the Council over the years, with David preaching at this year’s Legislative Seminar. A call went out on Saturday from Nancy Petty, Pullen’s current pastor, for Pullen folk to go to services at Martin Street on Sunday as a way “to stand in…