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…

Which Christmas Will We Embrace in NC?

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Now that Epiphany is over, we are looking back on Advent and Christmas, and remembering our celebrations — special time with family, special foods or gifts.  An article in the Presbyterian Hunger Program’s winter newsletter entitled “For Which Christmas Are You Preparing” by Rev. Ellie Stock, Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy, St. Louis, Missouri, led me to reflect on my warm-fuzzy memories in relation to questions she raises. In terms of the real celebration God wants for Christmas, have I missed the boat?  Rev. Stock describes our three Christmas celebrations: The first is…

So Long, 2014: It Wasn’t all Pretty!

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Of the many decisions and activities that unfold in the arena of public affairs, the ones that tend to show up on the NC Council of Churches’ radar are those affecting the quality of social justice in our state. The Council stands for policies and their associated programs that offer support, relief and prospects for a brighter future to our vulnerable neighbors and fellow residents. That doesn’t mean reckless handouts. It means reasonable public efforts to keep the working poor, children, the income-strapped elderly, immigrants, people with disabilities and those…

2014 Advent Guide

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The Council’s 2014 Advent Devotional Guide is now available as a free download. Each year, Council staff take a social justice theme as a focus for these guides to be used during the season of Advent or Lent. For this Advent season, that focus is the care and well-being of children. As we say in the introduction: As we enter Advent, that time of excited, exquisite anticipation, may we never lose sight of that season’s reality. Jesus, the one we await, was the poor, paperless child of immigrant parents, specifically an unwed, teenage…

Conservatives, Riding High, Can Heed Cooler Heads

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There’s no getting around the fact that when North Carolinians went to the polls on Nov. 5, they gave a thumbs-up to the conservatives who’ve been in charge at the General Assembly for the last four years – doing damage that calls to mind the proverbial elephant in a china shop. Republican victories might not all have been overwhelming (putting aside those districts rendered virtually immune from competition by GOP gerrymandering), and in a handful of cases Democratic challengers emerged on top. But when the dust settled, the rightward tilt…

Council Post-Election Road Shows to Charlotte and Asheville

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What do Tuesday’s elections mean for North Carolina? How can people of faith in the state continue to affect positive change? Join the staff of the North Carolina Council of Churches as we visit Charlotte and Asheville to discuss ways our programs are providing a progressive, faithful voice for issues facing NC residents and how you can be involved. We hope you’ll join us: Monday, November 17, Noon-2 p.m. Park Road Baptist Church 3900 Park Road, Charlotte Bring a bag lunch and join us at 11:30 a.m. for fellowship. We…

Two Former NCCC Presidents Among Faith Leaders Meeting with US Labor Secretary

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On September 16, two former NC Council of Churches President were among a select group of 13 religious leaders who met with US Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez to discuss how faith groups and the administration can work together to protect workers and provide greater economic opportunity for all. Stan Kimer, the Council’s Immediate Past President, represented the NCCC, and the Rev. Sékinah Hamlin, Council President from 2007-2009, was there on behalf of her current organization, the Ecumenical Poverty Initiative.  Read Stan’s recently published blog for details and photos.

American Eating Habits

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A 12-year study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health found that Americans improved their eating habits slightly over the years, but that was not the case for America’s poor. Harvard assigned individuals different scores based on their food choices, creating a healthy diet index. A perfect score was 110 and reflected a higher consumption of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats. U.S. adults who took part in the study averaged about 40 points from 1999-2000, improving their score by 7 points from 2009-10. However, the scores…

Observing the Labor Sabbath This Weekend

Immigrant farmworkers picking sweet potato

As Labor Day weekend quickly approaches, many people are thinking about beaches and barbeques. Amy Laura Hall, however, wants people to be thinking about something different: labor unions. Hall, a professor at Duke Divinity School, is calling for congregations to observe a Labor Sabbath this Friday, Saturday or Sunday prior to Labor Day, during which time the words “labor union” are to be mentioned in a sermon, song or prayer. The effort stems from a similar endeavor by Interfaith Worker Justice in Chicago, which invited clergy to speak about unions from the pulpit….

NC’s Plan to Improve Health in Rural Communities

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I had the pleasure of serving on the North Carolina Institute of Medicine’s (NCIOM) Task Force on Rural Health, which was charged with creating a roadmap for better health in rural parts of our state. This plan includes strategies that do not require additional funding to support, but rather stronger partnerships across different sectors, such as health care, education and economic development. People of faith who live in rural areas are encouraged to review the North Carolina Rural Health Action Plan, which is now available for free download from the…

Power Surge Hits Streams, Constitution

Photo by Flickr member yashmori

The N.C. General Assembly during its 2014 session – a session so rife with disputes among the majority Republicans that it smoldered on and on – has left many sour tastes in many mouths. There was, of course, the updated and unpalatable state budget, short of revenue because of rash tax-cutting. In order to give public school teachers a long-overdue raise, education programs across the board had to be cannibalized. For that matter, veteran teachers whose “raises” amount to chicken feed might well suspect legislators were trying to tell them…

Workers and Justice — A Call to All People of Faith

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“There is nothing but a lack of social vision to prevent us from paying an adequate wage to every American whether he [or she] is a hospital worker, laundry worker, maid, or day laborer.” – Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Labor Day Sunday this year is August 31 — a day to remember all who labor with special thoughts for those who labor for less than living wages. These include fast food workers, farmworkers, hotel industry workers, caregiving workers in homes, hospitals, and nursing homes, associates  and clerks in our stores,…

2014 Faith & Health Summit – Register Now!

2014 Faith & Health Summit

Please join the North Carolina Council of Churches at the 2014 Faith and Health Summit, which will be held on Friday, October 10, 2014 at Ardmore Baptist Church in Winston-Salem (501 Miller Street). Special thanks to Wake Forest University’s Food, Faith and Religious Leadership Initiative for co-sponsoring the event! The program will run from 9:30am to 3:30pm, with registration starting at 8:30. Arrival snacks and coffee will be provided. The conference theme is “We’re Better Together” and the focus text is Ecclesiastes 4:9-10a. REGISTRATION IS NOW CLOSED. If you have already registered…

Revenue-starved Budget Rattles and Rolls

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The debate is familiar: State government is too big. No, it’s too small. People in the too-big camp typically think government – the state agencies and institutions that North Carolinians support with their taxes — is too expensive. That it tries to do too much in the way of regulating business. That it saps individual initiative with aid to folks who should be working harder to help themselves and makes everyone else pay. Across the philosophical fence are those who view robust regulation, robust social programs – including public education…

Warning Signs in Budget ‘Deal’

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UPDATE: After this blog was posted, the final budget was unveiled and passed by the House and Senate. The large reductions in Medicaid reimbursement rates mentioned in the blog below did not materialize. The approach of an agreement to keep North Carolina state government operating with a balanced budget, as required under the state constitution, usually brings at least a sigh of relief. Budgets seldom are approved without plenty of give and take — honest disagreements over spending priorities and how to raise the money. Settling such conflicts in line…

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