Voter Suppression Highlighted From on High

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When thorny constitutional issues are being hashed out in the courts, it’s a fact of life that the show isn’t necessarily over until SCOTUS sings, or declines to sing. The acronym refers of course to the Supreme Court of the United States, which on Oct. 8 had the last word as to the rules for North Carolina’s upcoming election. The high court, in its wisdom, allowed a state law enacted in 2013 to continue in full force and effect. That was despite a strong challenge mounted by civil rights and…

Early Voting Map Helps Locate Sites

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Our friends at the NC Conservation Network have created a useful (and nifty) interactive map of North Carolina that will point you quickly to your closest early voting site. Click here to view it and use it. Just type in your address in the Search box at the top right, then click Return, NOT the little icon in the Search box. (Check to be sure it has given you a site in your county.)  It will tell you where the site is, show it to you on a map, give…

Judges Give ‘The Full Bill’ Thumbs-Down

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October 9, 2014 Update: On October 8, the US Supreme Court handed down the final word about voting for this fall’s elections in North Carolina. It upheld the District Court’s decision not to put any of our new voting laws on hold and overturned the Circuit Court’s decision which would have allowed same-day registration during early voting and out-of-precinct provisional voting on Election Day. So we are back to where we started with the voter suppression provisions of H 589 adopted by the General Assembly and signed by the Governor…

Where to Go for Voting Info

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Perhaps the N.C. chapter of Americans for Prosperity was just trying to be helpful when it mailed out a bunch of “official application forms” to prospective voters. Thanks a lot, guys. The State Board of Elections tells news organizations it has been hammered with queries and complaints about the forms, which include confusing misstatements about the voter registration process. If being helpful was its real intent, Americans for Prosperity would have done better simply to direct folks to the state board’s website. The board offers accurate, clear instructions for registering…

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?

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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…