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High Court’s Double-Take on Districts

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There’s certainly no guarantee that the U.S. Supreme Court, in sending North Carolina’s election district scheme back to the state Supreme Court for review, eventually will find that the General Assembly has engaged in unconstitutional racial gerrymandering. However, the high court in Washington could have gone the other way. It could have declined to consider a challenge to the redistricting plans brought by civil rights and social justice advocates. If that’s what had happened, the challenge would be dead. So, we can say that the justices’ April 20 decision wasn’t…

What Can We Say? An Invitation to Write to George

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George Reed’s retirement luncheon is set for Tuesday, June 2. This is a short five weeks from now.  Of course everyone will miss him in his role as Executive Director, but this gathering is a way to celebrate his work and to wish him well in the next part of his journey. There will certainly be a bounty of good friends, family, and respected colleagues attending this celebration. In the press of the crowd, you may not get an opportunity to speak to George that day. So you are invited to share…

Justice Advocates Convene for the Cause

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The Council of Churches’ Legislative Seminar – its top-profile public event of the year – is meant to inform, and it’s meant to inspire. We’re not too bashful to say that this year’s version, held on April 14 at Greenwood Forest Baptist Church in Cary, succeeded on both counts. With the General Assembly moving into the heart of its biennial “long session” – and with conservative legislators seemingly bent on deepening many of the ill-advised holes they’ve been digging for themselves and the state – the seminar focused on a…

Tax Cuts’ Costs Becoming Clear

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Since taking veto-proof control of the NC General Assembly in the elections of 2012, members of the Republican majority have labored diligently to fix what they’ve regarded as a broken tax system. Of course, whether it really was broken is a point many North Carolinians have been quick to dispute. The overall effect of the GOP’s tax-cut binge has been to make it harder for governments at all levels to carry out their public service missions and also to shift tax burdens toward people who are less able to afford…

Religious Freedom or Using Religion to Justify Discrimination?

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Discussions in recent days of so-called religious freedom bills in Indiana, Arkansas, and now North Carolina raise issues – both legal and pastoral – which the NC Council of Churches has been addressing for many years. The legal context The first words of the Bill of Rights are the religious liberty clauses: “Congress shall make no law regarding the establishment of religion nor prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The so-called Free Exercise Clause prohibits government from interfering in the practice of religion. But constitutional rights are not absolute. So, for…

North Carolina Redistricting on High Court’s Radar

Photo by Flickr user: dbking

“Racial gerrymandering strikes at the heart of our demo­cratic process, undermining the electorate’s confidence in its government as representative of a cohesive body politic in which all citizens are equal before the law.” Nicely put, Mr. Justice Scalia! Antonin Scalia is the US Supreme Court’s sharp-tongued scourge of all things perceived to be liberal. In a recent high-stakes redistricting case, he scoffed at gerrymandering complaints brought by Alabama civil rights advocates and Democrats. Scalia and three conservative colleagues wound up on the short end of a 5-4 decision whose ripples could…

Medicaid Message Packs a Punch

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Call it an exercise in futility? Well, no. There may not be a chance in the world that the General Assembly’s Republican chiefs will let the latest proposal to expand Medicaid come to a vote this year, or even receive a fair hearing in the committees they control. But by pressing the case, advocates continue to hammer home the benefits of expansion – and perhaps nudge Gov. Pat McCrory to find a way to untangle an impasse that has left many thousands of low-income North Carolinians struggling to get by…

Universities Take a Hit with Loss of Ross

Photo by Dan Sears, UNC-Chapel Hill

Photo by Dan Sears, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill The University of North Carolina system’s Board of Governors, in telling system President Tom Ross in January that he could serve one more year but no more, offered no specific reason other than, well, it was time to start planning for a change. By next Jan. 3, when his tenure will end after five years, Ross will have turned 65 – the age at which previous system heads have retired. Ross, however, was hoping to stay on the job….

Council Puts Hot Topics on the Table

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The mission of the NC Council of Churches extends into many areas that highlight the links between faith and public policies. And of the various events and activities sponsored by the Council, none is more closely focused on those links than the Legislative Seminar – giving it a special prominence on the Council calendar. No, it’s not a seminar of the sort familiar on college campuses – a small gathering around a cozy table. This is bigger and broader. It’s meant to be a multifaceted learning experience and strategy session,…

Coming to the Seminar? Bring a Friend!

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The Council’s 2015 Legislative Seminar is about a month away, and we have an exciting program of preachers, workshops, and presenters planned. If you’ve already registered to be with us, thank you and we look forward to seeing you on April 14. If you haven’t registered, please do so by April 7 in order to guarantee lunch. Either way, we hope you’ll help us get the word out to other progressive people of faith. You can find a color flyer here or a program and registration form here to print…

Register for 2015 Legislative Seminar — Updated with Workshops and Presenters

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Join us on April 14 at Greenwood Forest Baptist Church in Cary for the Council’s 2015 Legislative Seminar. Held every two years, the Seminar equips people of faith with the information they need to be advocates on issues before the NC General Assembly. Registration with workshop options is below. Please scroll through the registration section for a full list of topics and presenters. The cost is $15 for students, $25 for all others, and that includes a light breakfast underwritten by Partners in Health and Wholeness, and a boxed lunch prepared by the Interfaith…

Time to Uphold UNC’s Anti-Poverty Mission

Photo from the Office of Governor Patrick

One can say this about UNC-Chapel Hill’s Gene Nichol without fear of contradiction: He doesn’t seem to know when to keep his mouth shut or his keyboard quiet. Good for him! Throughout his years in North Carolina, Nichol from his law professor’s perch has been a pugnacious crusader on behalf of the state’s social and economic underdogs. And when it comes to criticizing the governmental chiefs whose conservative policies have hurt those underdogs’ interests, Nichol hasn’t been shy about calling them out – even when it became obvious that the…

Grading the Schools: The Poverty Link

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The scheme ordered up by the conservatives who hold power in the NC General Assembly to assign a single letter grade to each of the state’s public schools – ostensibly as a quality signal so simple that even a caveman could get it – has proved, well, unhelpful. Given the way the grades were figured, it’s hardly a surprise to find that schools where most of the students come from relatively well-off families scored on average pretty well. To find schools that rated A’s, just look in the upper-middle class…

Join us for HKonJ 2015

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In these challenging days in North Carolina, there is nothing more important for people of faith who support progressive and prophetic public policies to do than to take part in the annual Historic Thousands on Jones Street (HKonJ) march and People’s Assembly. It happens this coming Saturday, Valentine’s Day, in Raleigh.  Please do everything you can do to attend and bring others with you. People will gather near Memorial Auditorium (2 East South Street, for you GPS people) and Shaw University in downtown Raleigh at 9:00, with the march to…

Who Pays When It Comes to Taxes?

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People who are poor pay a greater percentage of their income in taxes than do those who are wealthy. The NC Council of Churches joined many allied organizations two years ago in opposing changes to the state’s tax structure that made it more regressive by, among other things, eliminating higher income tax brackets for wealthier people. Now there’s a report out confirming the impact of those changes. The following is from Alexandra Forter Sirota with the NC Budget and Tax Center, part of the NC Justice Center: The latest Who…