Voting Rights Update for Pastors and Other Faith Leaders

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November 4 is Election Day. Because of changes in election laws, it is important that people in our pews know when and where they can vote. All of the following are important:  October 10 is the last day citizens can register to vote. To avoid any problems, your parishioners should be sure they are registered at their current address by October 10. Please consider announcing this from the pulpit on Sunday, October 5, and put it in your newsletter for that week. Or send it out by Facebook and Twitter…

Educating the Littlest and the Least

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Recently, several counties in North Carolina have begun passing resolutions discouraging undocumented children, including unaccompanied minors, from attending schools in these counties. These children, who often have no family in the United States and do not speak English, are the most vulnerable and the “least of these.” These counties are making it clear that unaccompanied minors are not welcome here and will receive no support. Even though the children are already here among us, such resolutions would put up additional barriers to make life impossible for them in this country….

Judges Ponder Rules to Vote By

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North Carolina’s upcoming general election – Election Day is Nov. 4 – will be the first held under a revamped set of rules making it less convenient for some citizens to vote. Or, conceivably, the old rules will apply after all. That’s because the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which has appellate jurisdiction in federal lawsuits arising from North Carolina and four other states, has agreed to hear arguments as to why the election law changes enacted last year should be put on hold. A three-judge panel of the…

Observing the Labor Sabbath This Weekend

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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…

Saving Our Souls

Suffer the Little Children

News about children at the border – what’s happening to them, what politicians believe or say about them, where they are going, what will happen to them — continues and the facts are becoming more sensationalized as politicians seek to push their partisan agendas. No single person, group or party has an answer to the growing problem; however, one article this week in particular really made me think.  Eusebio Elizondo, auxiliary bishop of Seattle and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration, wrote an article for “The…

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…

What Would Radical Hospitality at the Border Look Like?

Welcome to NC

This past week I have been focusing on the crisis of the thousands of refugee children at the border who are being held in detention centers. I have blogged about praying for these children and sending them letters, and distributed an e-bulletin about ways your congregation can support them. All of these suggestions are centered around showing hospitality to children who have crossed into the United States without their families. My suggestions have included donating money, clothes, writing letters and holding them up in prayer. But what if we were called to do…

National Priorities — What Would Jesus Say?

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“Inequality for All,” a documentary with former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, considers the priorities of the US over the last century and offers some interesting observations. When has our country prospered and created the most comfort for the most people? How have government regulations affected different people? Who has been helped by the rules and who has been hurt?  Although the film is not presented from a faith perspective, after viewing it three times, I find myself thinking about the sheep and goat story in Matthew 25 with my eyes…

Capital Clash over Education, Health

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North Carolina legislators faced with vexing conflicts over a new state budget spent a solid week pawing and snorting at each other without a lot of movement on the main sticking points. Another case of partisan gridlock? Well, one could say so – except this is a standoff between members of the same party. The stakes are so big, in terms of both policy and politics, that Gov. Pat McCrory has joined the fray, siding with one set of his fellow Republicans against the other. Here, then, are the contending…

David Gushee on “The State of Things” and in Raleigh — Tuesday

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Tune in to WUNC’s “The State of Things” on Tuesday, June 24, to hear David Gushee ahead of his evening presentation in Raleigh. “The State of Things” airs at noon, and Dr. Gushee is currently scheduled to be on from 12:20 until 12:40. If you live beyond the broadcast range of WUNC-FM, you can listen online by clicking on Listen Live at the very top of the page. The Council is pleased to be co-sponsoring Tuesday evening’s program featuring Dr. Gushee, a leading faith-based advocate for an end to torture by our…

Council Spotlights Education, Opportunity

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The NC Council of Churches aims to exert a positive influence on public policies that have implications for what is commonly known as social justice. What this often boils down to is spotlighting areas of decision-making in which the interests of ordinary residents – people hoping to live healthy, productive, fulfilling lives, sometimes against the odds – hang in the balance. At this moment in North Carolina’s history, could there be any such area more important than the state’s commitment to its public schools, its community colleges, its public universities?…

Full Program Available for Critical Issues Seminar on Public Education

Public School

The full program for the our 2014 Critical Issues Seminar on Public Education is now available on the website. It includes registration information, the schedule for the day, and a complete list of workshops and presenters. We are really excited about all the wonderful speakers and presenters who will be joining us to share their knowledge about public education in North Carolina. It should  be a great day full of interesting information. And after we’re done in Chapel Hill, all are encourage to attend Moral Monday in Raleigh. To register, please…

Health Crunch for the Vulnerable

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For most North Carolinians, the myriad choices that comprise the state budget may affect the quality of their children’s education, or whether their favorite state park is kept in good shape, or whether the DMV has enough employees to keep wait times to a minimum. Then there are our neighbors for whom budget decisions can bear directly on their personal well-being. Case in point: people who, if the state Senate has its way, would lose their health insurance coverage under Medicaid. And it’s not as if this group of people…

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