Warning Signs in Budget ‘Deal’

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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 with the public interest is what representative democracy is all about. This summer, however, with an overdue budget deal said to be just about wrapped up, the outcome might not offer much to…

What Would Radical Hospitality at the Border Look Like?

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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

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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…

Fracking and “Reform”: Senate’s Shaky Start

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The North Carolina Senate could have gotten its 2014 session under way with a show of resolve to repair some of the damage from last year’s debacle. Just as one friendly suggestion: Senators could have reversed course and moved at the outset to expand the state’s Medicaid program, utilizing the available federal funds, so that an estimated 319,000 lower-income residents would have a better chance to obtain health care when they need it without going to a hospital emergency room. But guess again. The Senate’s first significant items of business had…

Tax Cuts’ Sour Notes

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If a session of the NC General Assembly can be compared to an opera — comedy, farce or tragedy yet to be determined – then the governor’s recommended budget might amount to the overture. It introduces main themes and sets a mood. But there’s no guarantee that the governor and the legislators who are the opera’s singers will end up making music together. As the 2014 legislative session gets under way in Raleigh, the overture is finished and the curtain is rising to reveal a bevy of performers. As usual,…

Buckle Up – Here Comes the Legislature

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The motto of North Carolina’s General Assembly during the past few years could well have been something like “Never a dull moment!” That’s especially been the case as the economy has muddled through various slumps, none so damaging as the Great Recession from which the state and nation still feel aftershocks in the job market. Setting state budget priorities, which for the legislature amounts to Job No. 1, is never more difficult than when the economy tanks. A scandal here and there – a Democratic House speaker went to prison…

Education Events on Tap

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The turmoil in North Carolina’s public schools, caused by budget cuts and ill-advised policy choices, has gotten people’s attention. On Saturday, May 3, there’ll be an opportunity to take a closer look at where things stand and what the stakes are for all involved – which, when we’re talking about the schools, means everyone who wants to see young people succeed and the state prosper. The group Public Schools First NC will hold its first statewide forum May 3 at N.C. State University’s McKimmon Center. The forum, “Keeping NC Public…

Lutherans Sponsor Conference to Ponder Justice and Faith

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When the line to check in at a church-sponsored conference on a beautiful Saturday morning in April stretches out the door, it’s a sign that the event has generated an impressive level of buzz. For the North Carolina Lutherans, their faith partners and other friends who turned out in strength on April 12, those more predictable Saturday pursuits of grass-mowing, grocery shopping and golf would just have to wait. The event at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Raleigh had an ambitious theme: “Navigating Public Policy Issues Guided by a Moral…

Deadline for Voters — April 11

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There’s an election in the offing, and over the next few weeks candidates and their allies will be ramping up the rhetoric. North Carolinians settling in to watch some television might want to buckle their seat belts while they ride out the onslaught of campaign commercials. This year, though, there’s a catch. To vote in the May 6 primary, people who aren’t already registered with their county board of elections have to meet a deadline of Friday, April 11, to sign up. Otherwise, they’ll be out of luck – no…

Scrambling for the Bench

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Are judges politicians? And why – even in a state such as North Carolina, where judges are elected by the public – does the concept of judges who also function as politicians seem curious, if not troubling? Beyond honesty, intellect and knowledge of the law, perhaps a judge’s most important characteristic is a commitment to being impartial. Rulings must go where the law leads. They must not be geared to curry favor with voters, to advance a policy agenda or to please campaign contributors. The problem, of course, is that anyone…