Show some humanity
Regarding the news story “The state goofed on her disability checks. Now this 74-year-old amputee owes North Carolina $19,000.” (Sept. 18):
This state of affairs is Darwinian. Here are people in the autumn of their lives – unable to go back to work because of declining health and age discrimination. Moreover, just about every extra penny they received – due to the mistakes of the state – went back into the economy, for sheer survival.
Legislators need to show their humanity by putting an immediate freeze on garnishing and adopting a sliding scale on payback. If the recipient is in poverty – no repayment, then have a progressive scale that takes into account income, disability, age, and medical and health-care expenses.
Thanks to Ms. Shuford for letting her story be told. She shows commendable courage.
Protect Johnson Amendment
I joined more than 4,000 faith leaders in a letter that was delivered to Congress this August, urging lawmakers to reject efforts to repeal or weaken the Johnson Amendment.
Why, when there are so many issues at stake today did I choose to write about this one? It is because undermining this provision of the tax code would put the very credibility and integrity of our houses of worship at stake. And then all the other pressing issues will become subject to a partisan political climate masquerading as religious freedom. The Johnson Amendment protects us from this facade.
Named for Senator Lyndon Johnson, the Johnson Amendment, has been part of the tax code for six decades, prohibits all tax-exempt organizations, including houses of worship, from endorsing or opposing candidates. This makes sense: these institutions receive this special tax status so that they can more fully devote themselves their missional work for the common good. No pastor I know wants to use those tax-exempt dollars to take sides in divisive, partisan elections.
Churches and other houses of worship can still speak out on political and social issues they just can’t tell you who to vote for. Regularly, the N.C. Council of Churches take prophetic stances on issues that impact so many North Carolinians including immigration, mass incarceration, and the need for a livable wage to name just a few. Our goal in speaking to these issues is to spotlight current injustices as well as to shine a light on the necessary steps forward for lawmakers to take so that justice might be a reality in North Carolina. There are hundreds of churches that we work with who trust us because we are non-partisan. If the Johnson Amendment were weakened or repealed, then that trust could very well be eviscerated. The Johnson Amendment protects us and allows us to speak and act freely.
Weakening or repealing current law will fundamentally change the character of our institutions. Our churches will be viewed as conduits for political campaigns; our congregations will be divided along party lines; and our programs meant to provide necessary charity for people in need will be seen as Republican or Democratic, instead of as serving all who are in need.
I urge the president and Congress to keep the Johnson Amendment as is. As is clear from our letter, religious denominations and faith leaders oppose efforts to repeal or weaken it. We want to keep our sacred spaces sacred.
Jennifer E. Copeland
N.C. Council of Churches
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