Complicated Answers to Different Questions


The offices for the NC Council of Churches sit half a block from Hillsborough Street—the street that automatically conjures up images of NC State, as well it should since the campus looms large along Hillsborough for about 10 blocks. These weeks, as the media have consistently reminded us, are the days of orientation and the start of a new school year for colleges around the Triangle. But for the first time in nearly twenty years, my life is not marked by these events, except for the need to deliver my…

Tale of Two Chambers Amid Budget Conflict


North Carolina has two legislative bodies, the 120-member House of Representatives and the 50-member Senate. They’re set up to be equal in power, although it could be said that the larger House is designed to be more reflective of the public will. Senators typically have more room to operate. And operating in a smaller group, it’s easier for certain senators to gain power through political smarts, force of character or mastery of the issues. Perhaps that helps explain why, during these past couple of years of Republican dominance in both…

Protect Us from the ‘Protection Act’

Welcome to NC

With its misguided “Taxpayer Protection Act” scheme, the state Senate looks to put a crowning touch on its efforts to turn North Carolina into a veritable Promised Land for conservatives, where taxes are always low, the government is always small, and public services are always below average. Will enough members of the House muster the courage to stop the madness? Senate Bill 607,  given final Senate approval on Aug. 12, would cap the state’s individual income tax rate at 5 percent – well below where it’s been in recent decades….

Private School Vouchers, Lax Standards

school bus

The principle of judicial restraint is a wonderful thing. It helps keep judges – as they go about their business of determining whether laws are constitutional – from horning in on the role of legislators, whose task is to make policy choices and then to enact laws reflecting those choices. Proper restraint makes judges’ rulings more credible, gives legislators a healthy leeway and shores up our democratic system of checks and balances. But what happens when judicial restraint becomes judicial paralysis? Then, a runaway legislature can get away with pretty…

Priorities and the Jet that Ate the Budget

Photo by Flickr user Skakerman

A recent article in Raleigh’s News and Observer focused on the F-35 jet. The American Friends Service Committee calls this weapon system the “plane that ate the budget” and puts the lifetime cost at $1.5 trillion. Over the same period of years that Lockheed Martin has encouraged Congress to continue funding the most expensive weapon system ever, we have cut many needed domestic programs that feed our hungry and educate our children. This system isn’t yet working and is way behind schedule. Sen. John McCain said “The (F-35) Joint Strike…

Undocugraduation: Hope to Replace Fear

HS Graduation -- cropped

By Wayde Marsh, Duke Divinity School Intern On my way to work one day last week, I listened to WUNC as I usually do. I heard a lot about the state legislature during my drive to Raleigh – about how the Senate budget will cut up to 8,500 teaching assistants jobs and the stories of TAs lobbying Senators to rethink the plan, about how the House plan is much different, but both will leave the state with millions of unused funds, and about Moral Monday protesters naming the injustices of…

Revenue Boosts and Tax-cut Boasts


The rooster crowed. The sun came up. The rooster puffed his feathered chest as he beheld his magnificent handiwork. Phil Berger led the state Senate in cutting taxes. Revenues nudged up, putting the state on course to finish its budget year in the black. Berger proclaimed that the tax cuts had done the trick. One might even say that he crowed. “Two years ago, when the Republican legislature passed the largest tax cut in state history, Chicken Littles on the left loudly cried North Carolina would lose so much tax…

Justice Advocates Convene for the Cause


The Council of Churches’ Legislative Seminar – its top-profile public event of the year – is meant to inform, and it’s meant to inspire. We’re not too bashful to say that this year’s version, held on April 14 at Greenwood Forest Baptist Church in Cary, succeeded on both counts. With the General Assembly moving into the heart of its biennial “long session” – and with conservative legislators seemingly bent on deepening many of the ill-advised holes they’ve been digging for themselves and the state – the seminar focused on a…

Universities Take a Hit with Loss of Ross

Photo by Dan Sears, UNC-Chapel Hill

Photo by Dan Sears, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill The University of North Carolina system’s Board of Governors, in telling system President Tom Ross in January that he could serve one more year but no more, offered no specific reason other than, well, it was time to start planning for a change. By next Jan. 3, when his tenure will end after five years, Ross will have turned 65 – the age at which previous system heads have retired. Ross, however, was hoping to stay on the job….

Council Puts Hot Topics on the Table


The mission of the NC Council of Churches extends into many areas that highlight the links between faith and public policies. And of the various events and activities sponsored by the Council, none is more closely focused on those links than the Legislative Seminar – giving it a special prominence on the Council calendar. No, it’s not a seminar of the sort familiar on college campuses – a small gathering around a cozy table. This is bigger and broader. It’s meant to be a multifaceted learning experience and strategy session,…

Coming to the Seminar? Bring a Friend!


The Council’s 2015 Legislative Seminar is about a month away, and we have an exciting program of preachers, workshops, and presenters planned. If you’ve already registered to be with us, thank you and we look forward to seeing you on April 14. If you haven’t registered, please do so by April 7 in order to guarantee lunch. Either way, we hope you’ll help us get the word out to other progressive people of faith. You can find a color flyer here or a program and registration form here to print…

Register for 2015 Legislative Seminar — Updated with Workshops and Presenters


Join us on April 14 at Greenwood Forest Baptist Church in Cary for the Council’s 2015 Legislative Seminar. Held every two years, the Seminar equips people of faith with the information they need to be advocates on issues before the NC General Assembly. Registration with workshop options is below. Please scroll through the registration section for a full list of topics and presenters. The cost is $15 for students, $25 for all others, and that includes a light breakfast underwritten by Partners in Health and Wholeness, and a boxed lunch prepared by the Interfaith…

Doomed UNC Centers Sang the Wrong Songs

Poverty level line graph

It’s easy to imagine what the conservative Republicans who rule North Carolina’s legislative roost were thinking: “Here we’ve gone to all the trouble to take control of the General Assembly. We appoint the University of North Carolina system’s Board of Governors. We set the system’s budget. “So why should we have to put up with the jibes of an impudent Democrat law professor who uses his university job to accuse us of ignoring poverty? What do he and his liberal pals know about putting more money in poor people’s pockets?…

Time to Uphold UNC’s Anti-Poverty Mission

Photo from the Office of Governor Patrick

One can say this about UNC-Chapel Hill’s Gene Nichol without fear of contradiction: He doesn’t seem to know when to keep his mouth shut or his keyboard quiet. Good for him! Throughout his years in North Carolina, Nichol from his law professor’s perch has been a pugnacious crusader on behalf of the state’s social and economic underdogs. And when it comes to criticizing the governmental chiefs whose conservative policies have hurt those underdogs’ interests, Nichol hasn’t been shy about calling them out – even when it became obvious that the…

Gene Nichol Won’t Let Us Ignore Poverty


Gene Nichol was the recipient of the Council’s 2013 Faith Active in Public Life Award. (To see his keynote address at our 2013 Legislative Seminar, “It’s Better Not to Be Poor in North Carolina,” click here.) Gene’s upbringing and education in Catholic circles have led him to a special concern for the most vulnerable people in our midst. Gene is a law professor, former UNC Law dean, and the director of the Center for Poverty, Work, and Opportunity, an important part of the work of the UNC Law School. His…