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…

Open Enrollment Ends March 31

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As the end of open enrollment on March 31 approaches, little time remains to take advantage of advanced premium tax credits and cost-sharing subsidies on Healthcare.gov. You have 10 days left to purchase health insurance that is both more affordable and comprehensive while also avoiding the penalty for not having health insurance. Remember, ACA-compliant health plans cannot turn you away for a pre-existing condition, and they must cover 10 essential health benefits, including doctor’s visits and outpatient care, emergency services, maternity care, mental health care, habilitative services, preventive care, prescription…

Faithful Activism — Part 2

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In an earlier blog, I noted a congregation’s questions about becoming a partner with HKonJ. If you haven’t seen that blog, please click here. It contains information that will be relevant to what follows and addresses the question of whether such participation would threaten a non-profit’s tax status. In addition to the question about tax-exempt status raised within the congregation, a second question was about the separation of church and state. This broader church-state question may be harder to explain than the tax-exempt question, but it is equally clear. The…

Faithful Activism — Part 1

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I had two conversations recently with members of a congregation which was voting on whether or not to join the HKonJ Coalition. Those conversations have reminded me that it’s helpful from time to time to review the concept of the separation of church and state and to discuss the tax status of churches. Those are two separate issues, and I will deal with them in two separate blogs. For any of you not familiar with HKonJ, let me give you some background. First, “HKonJ” is shorthand for “Historic Thousands [K]…

A Time to Mend: A Social Justice Study for Lent

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Economic circumstances too often define us. How much we do or do not earn can put us on a path that either buffers our failures or tempers our successes. The people who make the least amount of money have the fewest opportunities to succeed, no matter how much they work or how hard they study.

For Christians, the biblical calls to justice and to providing for the least of these are foundations of our faith. At the same time, we as a nation mark this year the 50th anniversary of the war on poverty. Under different circumstances we might celebrate the milestone, but there is still too much to be done.

Becoming a More Peaceful Nation

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Bipartisanship between North Carolina’s Senators Burr and Hagan does occasionally show through — but why and for what?  The willingness of our NC Senators and others in Washington to come together in support of war with Iran, and maintaining a budget with more than 50% of discretionary funds spent on the Pentagon is not what we would hope for. Meanwhile the protracted disagreement over funding much-needed domestic programs, such as extending unemployment benefits, shows how we fall short as a peaceful nation. As John Heuer, Director of NC Peace Action, notes…

Photos from HKonJ 2014

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p1010651 ◄ Back Next ► Picture 1 of 79 The Council helped organize a Service of Repentance and Consecration in front of the General Assembly Building prior to the Moral March and HKonJ People’s Assembly held earlier this month in Raleigh. The photos above were taken throughout the day as Council friends, volunteers and staff came together with people from throughout North Carolina and the nation.

The Stakes with Teachers’ Pay

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Whether anecdotal or empirical, the evidence is clear: North Carolina has done a poor job of furnishing its public school teachers with adequate salaries. By “adequate,” we should mean pay that’s good enough to attract competent, motivated people into the teaching profession, to convince them to work in our school districts – even districts in less well-off, rural counties – and to stick with their career choice through the inevitable rough patches. Sadly, the trends these days point in the wrong direction. A shortage of qualified, committed teachers threatens the…

HKonJ 2014 — Moral March and People’s Assembly

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A cross-section of North Carolinians and progressives from other states flooded downtown Raleigh on Saturday as part of HKonJ 2014. Longtime activists from across the state walked with college students, parents pushed young children in strollers, old friends renewed acquaintances, and new relationships were forged. The day began with an interfaith Service of Repentance and Consecration, organized by the Council for lay leaders and clergy. About 50 people gathered in front of the General Assembly Building before heading to Shaw University to take part in Shabbat services conducted by area Jewish leaders and…

Seeking Smooth Elections

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The election law changes approved last year by North Carolina’s General Assembly face court challenges on grounds of voter suppression and racial discrimination. However the courts rule, it’s hard not to conclude that the changes will have the biggest impact on groups tending to favor Democratic candidates – racial minorities, the elderly, the young, the poor. Which is why the new rules were so popular at the Republican-controlled legislature. Although the changes are sweeping, the centerpiece is a new requirement, taking effect in 2016, that in-person voters show a government-issued…

Pray with Us on Friday, March with Us on Saturday

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Join the NC NAACP, the North Carolina Council of Churches, and coalition partners for this weekend’s Moral March on Raleigh and HKonJ People’s Assembly. Events include: A Mass Meeting and Worship Service Friday, February 7, 7 p.m. Abundant Life Christian Center 4400 Old Poole Road, Raleigh Keynote speaker is Bishop W. Darin Moore, Presiding Prelate of the Western Episcopal District and the NC Conference of the Eastern North Carolina Episcopal District, with NC NAACP President Rev. Dr. William J. Barber presiding. The service is open to people of all faiths…

Boosts for Voters, Protestors

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By the time last year’s edition of the NC General Assembly finished its work, it was as though the laws and policies by which this state is governed had been run through a conservative wringer. Taxes and budgeting. Health care. Unemployment benefits. Public schools. Environmental protection. In these key areas and others, the Republican-controlled legislature put its stamp, in accord with the conservative belief that when it comes to government, less is better. Smaller government, though, can lead to the neglect of what should be public responsibilities to look out…

King’s Voice for Voters

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Our country’s annual salute to the memory of Martin Luther King Jr. honors him as the foremost crusader in the grand civil rights movement of the mid-20th century – the movement that finally broke the shackles of legally imposed racial segregation. What King and his countless allies sought was simple enough, at least in principle. They wanted equality of opportunity, giving black Americans – and by extension all minorities on the receiving end of prejudice – a fair shot at sharing in our national blessings. They wanted a society in…

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2014 Critical Issues Seminar on Public Education Register Here