Message from Senator Reginald Thomas

Friends,

Several weeks ago I participated in a survey sent by Senator Reginald Thomas. I was impressed that he made the effort to survey his constituency prior to the legislative session, which began this week. I received another email yesterday giving the results of that survey. He has given me permission to share his email with you. (below)

Today I attended a press conference on expungement sponsored by the KY Chamber of Commerce. I have posted pictures and a video on our social media sites - check them out.  Peace, Peggy

From Senator Thomas:

Dear Friend,

Today marks the first day of the 2016 Legislative Session and I have already hit the ground running. I anticipate this will be a lively session. Work is underway on one of the most important duties of legislators – passing a two-year budget for the commonwealth. I anticipate this 150th regular session will be quite interesting as we also address many other pressing issues that will require much thought and debate.

I have already asked for your input on some of the topics that we will look at this session in my end-of-the-year questionnaire. Thank you for your responses. I was pleased to hear back from so many of you. For me, that signifies that you are engaged in the process and are committed to seeing Kentucky move forward. Your input is very important and I am very grateful that you took the time to share your thoughts with me.

This questionnaire indicates there is overwhelming support for such actions as capping payday lending interest rates, implementing a statewide smoking ban and legalizing medical marijuana. There were mixed responses on a local option sales tax and taxation of services.

The Legislative Research Commission compiled a report that will allow me to reference your responses on these topics anytime there is discussion or a possible vote in a committee hearing or on the Senate floor. As I have told you before, it is very helpful to me to have your input as we determine public policy.

During the session, I will keep you informed on the progress of these issues. I would also like to share with you the results of my questionnaire (below).

Questionnaire Results

1.      Would you support legislation that would prevent schools from starting classes earlier than the Monday closest to August 26 if it included a waiver for districts missing large amounts of days because of inclement weather? Yes – 41% No – 31 % Unsure -- 27% No answer 1 %

  1. Do you support legislation that would allow a school board to include a high school student on superintendent screening committees? Yes -- 66%   No -- 20%   Unsure -- 13%   No Answer -- 1%
  2. With the growing trend of ziplines, should the Department of Agriculture be required to establish requirements and standards for the operation of commercial recreational ziplines in the state? Yes -- 81%   No -- 7%   Unsure -- 11%   No Answer -- 1%
  3. Should the General Assembly enact legislation amending the Kentucky Constitution to allow local governments to impose a local option sales tax? Yes -- 39%   No -- 35%   Unsure -- 24%   No Answer -- 2%.
  4. Despite many changes in our revenue needs and the fundamentals of our economy, our current tax system has been mostly unchanged since the 1950s.  Would you support reforms to modernize our tax code if it also generated additional revenue? Yes -- 81%    No -- 7%   Unsure -- 9%   No Answer -- 3%

6.      Do you support raising the state minimum wage? Yes -- 76%    No -- 15%   Unsure -- 7%   No Answer -- 2%

7.      Do you support requiring school resource or school security officers to have basic training provided by the Department of Criminal Justice Training? Yes -- 81%    No -- 5%   Unsure -- 10%   No Answer -- 4%

8.      Do you support exempting persons, officials, and institutions with religious objections to same-sex marriage from any requirement to solemnize or to issue or record licenses for such marriages? Yes -- 23%    No -- 71%   Unsure -- 5%   No Answer -- 1%

9.      Kentucky is one of two southern states that opted to expand Medicaid and establish a state exchange website. Observers credit Kynect with insuring 15 percent of the state’s population.  Kentucky had the highest decrease in the country in uninsured residents at 5.8 percent.  Do you support dismantling Kynect? Yes -- 12%    No – 76 %   Unsure – 10 %   No Answer – 2 %

10.  To improve access to the polls by members of our military, do you favor allowing military voters to return their completed ballots via e-mail? Yes -- 71%    No -- 14%   Unsure -- 13%   No Answer -- 2%

11.  Should the General Assembly allow for the expanded use of public-private partnerships in the construction of infrastructure projects? Yes -- 48%    No -- 12%   Unsure -- 39%   No Answer -- 1%

12.  Currently, the unlawful trafficking in synthetic drugs is a Class A misdemeanor for the first offense, and second and additional offenses are punishable as a Class D felony.  Do you support toughening the penalty for unlawful trafficking in synthetic drugs, making it a Class D felony punishable by one to five years in prison? Yes -- 50%    No -- 27%   Unsure -- 21%   No Answer -- 2%

13.  Should non-violent felons have their voting rights automatically restored after they have served their sentences? Yes -- 81%    No -- 10%   Unsure -- 7%   No Answer -- 2%

14.  Do you support a statewide smoking ban in public places? Yes -- 87%    No -- 8%   Unsure -- 3%   No Answer -- 2%

15.  Should electronic cigarettes be included in a smoking ban? Yes -- 69%    No -- 16%   Unsure -- 13%   No Answer -- 2%

16.  Do you favor allowing the people of Kentucky to vote on a constitutional amendment concerning expanded gaming in Kentucky? Yes -- 77%    No -- 11%   Unsure -- 10%   No Answer -- 2%

17.  If tax modernization requires a change in the state’s sales or income taxes, would you support expanding the base to include services (such as dry cleaning and physician fees) rather than increasing sales or income tax rates? Yes -- 34%    No -- 36%   Unsure -- 28%   No Answer -- 2%

18.  Do you support legislation that would permit public money to be used for public charter schools that would be granted special permits to operate outside usual state regulations?  Yes -- 20%    No -- 58%   Unsure -- 20%   No Answer -- 2%

19.  There has been research showing that marijuana has positive medical benefits for patients dealing with illnesses like cancer, multiple sclerosis, and AIDS.  Do you support legislation that would make marijuana a Schedule II drug thus legal for doctors to prescribe?  Yes -- 81%    No -- 9%   Unsure -- 9%   No Answer -- 1%

20.  Many Kentuckians get into a debt trap by misusing payday lending services.  Do you support capping the interest rates these lenders can charge and imposing penalties for violating the caps? Yes -- 93%    No -- 3%   Unsure -- 3%   No Answer -- 1%

21.  Do you support a three-day sales and use tax holiday during the first weekend in August each year to exempt clothing, school supplies, school art supplies, computers, and school computer supplies? Yes -- 61%    No -- 22%   Unsure -- 14%   No Answer -- 3%

22.  Should the General Assembly establish a regulatory structure for the manufacture and use of drones? Yes -- 69%    No -- 10%   Unsure -- 18%   No Answer -- 3%

Of course, many other issues large and small will arise before this 60-day session concludes. To help me do that work, I encourage you to stay in contact. The General Assembly has a number of ways for you to stay informed.

The Kentucky Legislature Home Page (www.lrc.ky.gov) provides information on each of Kentucky’s senators and representatives, including our phone numbers, addresses, and legislative committee assignments. The home page also provides summaries and texts of bills, as well as information on the progress each bill has made through the legislative process.

 

Reflections on my First Day at the Capitol

I arrived on Capitol grounds early (10:30 am) to give myself time to learn my way around before the Kentuckians for the Commonwealth (KFTC) gathering. It turned out to be a good idea because I had to go to the business office to get my ID badge. Lesson one: don't try to get your badge on the first day of the Legislative session. They moved the office from the Capitol basement to the Annex building. Fortunately, I got to the correct office before a lot of other people. I had to wait only about 20 minutes. The line was out the door and down the hall when I left.

The KFTC gathering was so crowded that people lined the walls and stood in the hallway. There were folks from all over KY with many different issues of interest. We heard from Representative Kelly Flood and Senators Gerald Neal and Morgan McGarvey. Rep. Flood encouraged optimism, and spoke in support of sustainable and earth-friendly energy. The Senators took questions on various topics including voter rights, tax reform, and budget. Senator Neal also expressed his concern about the proposed methane treatment facility in West Louisville.KFTC Rally in the Rotunda

After lunch, KFTC held a rally in the Rotunda. Again, the room was overflowing and the noise level was deafening. There were speakers from several organizations covering topics like ecology, workers' rights, mininum wage, and tax reform.

I ran into Nancy Jo Kemper at the rally. While talking in the hallway, she introduced me to several key people including Senators and lobbyist. Chris Sanders, who served as Interim Coordinator of the KBF, was also there. They both send their regards to their KCC friends.

The day ended with a KY Smart on Crime Coalition meeting with Rep. Brent Yonts. We put finishing touches on a proposal that he will be filing. The proposal is an act relating to crimes and punishments. More details to come later. 

It was a good first day, and I am grateful for the opportunity to represent the Council as your legislative advocate. Come back to this blog for more updates throughout the legislative session.

Peace,

Peggy

 

The Immigrant's Creed

Written by Jose Luis Casal, General Missioner for the Tres Rios Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) (Thank you to Rev. John Odom, Presbytery of Mid-KY for sending this out.)

 

I believe in Almighty God, who guided the people in exile and in exodus, the God of Abraham in a strange land, Joseph in Egypt, Ruth in Israel, and Daniel in Babylon, the God of foreigners and immigrants.

I believe in Jesus Christ, a displaced Galilean, who was born away from his people and his home, who fled his country with his parents when his life was in danger, and returning to his own country suffered the oppression of the tyrant Pontius Plate – the servant of a foreign power – who then was persecuted, beaten, and finally tortured, accused and condemned to death unjustly. But on the third day, this scorned Jesus rose from the dead, not as a foreigner but to offer us citizenship in heaven.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the eternal immigrant from God’s kingdom among us, who speaks all languages, lives in all countries, and reunites all races, cultures and tongues.
I believe that the Church is the secure home for the foreigner and for all believers who constitute it, who speak different languages, are diverse in culture and race and yet are united in love and purpose.

I believe that the Communion of the Saints begins when we accept the diversity of the saints.

I believe in forgiveness, which makes us all equal, and in reconciliation, which identifies us more than does race, language or nationality.

I believe that the Resurrection God will unite us as one people in which all are distinct and all are alike at the same time.

Beyond this world, I believe in Life Eternal in which no one will be an immigrant but all will be citizens of God’s kingdom, which will never end.

ORANGE WALK On December 12

Guest Blog & Invitation from Kathy Wolfson, Moms Demand Action
December 14, 2015 will mark the third anniversary of the Sandy Hook tragedy, a day that left our country horrified and heartbroken. It is also a day that shocked so many of us into action, and resulted in the founding of Moms Demand Action. Over the past three years, we have honored the victims and survivors of gun violence every day by taking action—calling Congress, lobbying at statehouses, demanding gun sense policies in American businesses, and bringing more and more supporters into our movement. We’ve made great progress in the past three years, yet we know all too well that we have much farther to go. This year, we will commemorate the third anniversary of the Sandy Hook tragedy and honor all victims and survivors of gun violence by hosting “Orange Walks.” Together, we acknowledge that one of the best way we can honor the victims and survivors of gun violence is to keep moving forward, keep making progress, being visible, and never giving up. At the conclusion of our Orange Walks, we will ask all of our supporters to take one important, immediate action: to urge President Obama to take executive actions to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people.
 (hmfckickback@co.uk)

WHAT IS AN ORANGE WALK? Orange is fast becoming a symbol of the gun violence prevention movement. It represents the value of human life and our shared commitment to do everything we can to reduce gun violence in our country. The “Wear Orange” campaign (www.wearorange.org) was inspired by a group of Chicago teens after their friend Hadiya Pendleton was shot and killed just one week after marching in President Obama’s second inaugural parade. The students asked their friends to wear orange—the color hunters wear in the woods to protect themselves and others—to help honor Hadiya’s life and all those stolen by gun violence each year.Orange Walks are events at which we: the moms, dads, brother, sisters, survivors, mayor s,, and faith leaders of America, gather together to show our shared commitment to ending gun violence. The walks represent the significant strides that our movement has achieved and also show our recognition that we have much further to go. As we walk together, we prove to the gun lobby, to elected officials, and to the voices of extremism, that we will be loud, we will be visible, and we will never stop fighting to keep our families, our communities, and our country safe.

Join us for an Orange Walk in Louisville on December 12 at 10 am to honor the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, and all victims of gun violence. Be sure to wear orange - the color of gun violence prevention and awareness!
RSVP here >>>

 

A BIG STEP FOR CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM

by Peggy Hinds

Yesterday I sent an Action Alert about Senate Bill 2123, The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act. I mentioned that two of our board members are in Washington advocating for the bill. Well, I was wrong. There are three KCC board members in Washington meeting with officials. Below is a message from The Reverend Anthony Everett and The Reverend Kenneth Golphin.

"Reverend Kenneth Golphin (Kentucky Council of Churches Treasurer), Mr. William Saunders (Lexington NAACP President), and I have scheduled meetings for the Sentencing Reform Lobby Day on Capitol Hill with staff persons for both US Senators (KY) Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul in attempts to move US S. 2123, the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015, to the senate floor for a vote.  The lobby day is sponsored by the ACLU, The Leadership Conference, the NAACP, and the Interfaith Criminal Justice Coalition. A third meeting has been scheduled for us by Mr. Saunders with US Representative (KY) Andy Barr to discuss our support of a similar house bill, US H. R. 3713, the Sentencing Reform Act of 2015.

As an at-large Human Rights Commissioner for the Commonwealth of Kentucky and an United Methodist clergy concerned with restorative justice, I believe this legislation, if passed, will be a crucial first step to reducing some mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders and curbing recidivism, especially amongst ethnic and poor people throughout the entire state.  This 'smart on crime' bipartisan bill is a necessary step toward allowing for punishments to fit the crime and a new prioritization regarding drug enforcement resources.  Other states have revamped their sentencing policies, reduced their prison populations, and seen their crime rates continue to drop, all the while saving billions of dollars.  This will be good for Kentucky and I am glad that Senator Rand Paul is a cosponsor.  We can all support this effort by calling the US Senate at 1 (866) 338-5720 to register our views with both senators."                           -- The Reverend Anthony Everett

“In addition to love and forgiveness the church ought to be about fairness, and about encouraging political leadership to be about the same. To quote the talking points we'll be using ‘Punishments should fit the crime. For far too long, federal sentencing laws have taken a blunt approach to crime that has served neither public safety nor justice. This approach has ruined families and exploded the prison population. This bill takes a good first step toward a more reasonable, rational approach to public safety and sentencing that will reduce mass incarceration in the United States.’ "                                              – The Reverend Kenneth Golphin

Although these two gentlemen and The Reverend Amariah McIntosh are in Washington on behalf other organizations, they also represent KCC. I am grateful for their leadership in this effort. Again, I encourage each of our members and friends to contact Senators and Representatives to thank them for this bipartisan effort and encourage their support. 

A Guest Post on Thankfulness

Surprised by Thankfulness
By Rhonda Blevins, Executive Coordinator, Kentucky Baptist Fellowship
 

 

"In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus."
1 Thessalonians 5:18


It was a tiny, green ninja toy I must have picked up countless times before. But this time was different. This time, picking up that tiny, green ninja toy brought tears to my eyes. Tears of gratitude.
 
For this mother of small children, picking up toys for the umpteenth time often brings about frustration and annoyance. Annoyance at my kid who is old enough to pick up his own mess—frustration with myself for not being a better mom—you know, the kind of mom who actually has her kids trained to pick up their toys. But on this particular occasion, that tiny, green ninja toy in my hand made me smile at first.  For an instant, I was overcome with joy and thankfulness for that messy kid’s presence in my life. For a moment, I relished his childish wonder at such a simple little thing. For a second, I was happy—no, joyful. I couldn’t remember the last time I experienced such joy. It came from a place deep inside me—a place that had been closed off for far too long. The smile turned to tears that flowed freely for the first time in ages.
 
“Thank you.”
 
I didn’t say it. I felt it. Somehow I was grateful for the opportunity to pick up a tiny, green ninja toy. What else could I be grateful for, I wondered? If I can feel thankful for a chore I despised just yesterday, what other drudgeries might I see in a new light? Unsure whether the rest of the day’s chores could be experienced similarly, I decided to try. Could I be grateful to fold laundry or make the bed? I decided to keep a little log that morning, to keep myself focused on the impromptu gratitude experiment I was about to conduct.
 
First chore: make the bed. “Can I find a way to be thankful while I make the bed?” I found myself thankful for my nice, warm blanket, remembering those who have no shelter, no bed, no blanket. Oh, how I love my blanket and my nice, soft sheets. As I turned the comforter over, I remembered it was a wedding gift. In fact, the blanket and the sheets were wedding gifts too. People loved us enough to provide these wonderful gifts that we still use years later. These were gifts. We didn’t earn these items. They were given to us out of love. I felt grateful for the love of so many family and friends. I’d be nowhere without the people who have sustained me my whole life through.
 
Downstairs to vacuum. “Let’s see how this goes.” Before I could start, I had to pick up more toys. But this time I smiled as I picked them up, remembering the breakthrough with the tiny, green ninja. When I had the floor clean enough to vacuum, I plugged in the sweeper and pushed it back and forth across the carpet. I felt thankful for this vacuum cleaner. In a long line of rotten vacuum cleaners, this one was the first good one I’ve ever owned. I thought about how my husband researched vacuums (something I would never do). Feeling irritated with him lately, I felt my irritation shrinking as I remembered the many ways he makes my life better. Now, lest you think me super zen-ful, I must confess that I caught myself thinking about how much I hated the carpet in my family room. No doubt, it was time for replacement. But when those negative, hateful thoughts arose, I somehow mustered enough mindfulness to tell myself, “No! We’re not going there right now.” And you know what? It actually worked! I could have a dirt floor, I reminded myself, and suddenly I became thankful for that old carpet.
 
My final chore of the morning was to sweep and mop the kitchen. I thought to myself, “Let’s turn on the T.V.” I don’t know why I did it, but in a flash my mindful experiment with gratitude mostly ended. I turned on the television to my favorite late-morning talk show, and gratefulness was soon gone. I swept the messy floor. I mopped the sticky tile. Where were my thoughts? They were with Ellen and Sting, simultaneously entertained by them and envious of them. Envious of her humor and perfect skin. Jealous of his muscle-tone and talent. Gratitude was gone. After the task was done I sat down and said to myself, “Whoa. What went wrong?” Realizing that I lost mindfulness the moment I turned on the television, I thought, “Well, that exercise in gratitude is gone. What do I have to feel thankful for now that it’s done?” I had to laugh. I could feel thankful that it was done. So I did.

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Justice impaired, justice denied

by Peggy Hinds

 Early in my tenure as the interim ED, I was asked by the Kentucky Bar Association to serve on a task force considering fair compensation for public defenders and prosecutors. I agreed, not knowing exactly what it had to do with the mission of KCC. At the first task force meeting, I felt totally out of place in a room full of lawyers and judges, and again questioned my participation.

 How is the compensation of prosecutors and public defenders and their staff relative to the mission of the Kentucky Council of Churches? I soon discovered the answer to this question.

 Prosecutors and public defenders implement our constitutional principles. They are essential in, and primarily responsible for, the operation and fair administration of our system of justice. Liberty and public safety hang in the balance.

 Justice is the first virtue of society,[1] and an essential tenet of civil and religious traditions.[2] The timely administration of true justice is due every person, without regard to status or economic condition.[3] Society has particular responsibility for people who do not have the means to provide a just defense for themselves.

Pope Francis stated that "Human rights are not only violated by terrorism, repression or assassination, but also by unfair economic structures that creates huge inequalities."[4]

 When there is a high rate of turnover among prosecutors and public defenders, cases are delayed and then, too often, handled by inexperienced replacements without the knowledge, understanding and training of those they replaced. The inevitable consequence of high turnover and inexperience is a lack of justice for those who rely upon public defense, as well as those who are victims of crime. We can call ourselves a just society only when we provide equal justice for all.  

 In its policy statement “Call to Justice,” the Council defines justice from a biblical perspective.

“In Scripture “justice” is not synonymous with “punishment.” When God speaks of “justice,” more is implied than persons “getting what they have coming to them.” God’s justice requires that all persons have equal access to God’s gifts and that no partiality or preference of any kind be given to any person or groups of persons. There is always also the element of grace and mercy behind the “justice” that God brings. It assures not just what is deserved, but more than what is deserved; and mercy is always offered to all equally. “Injustice” is always seen as taking more than one’s “fair” (equal) share at the expense of someone else.”[5]

 People who can afford a private attorney have an unfair advantage over defendants who have to rely on public defenders. It is not that public defenders are less qualified or that they care less about their clients. They are underpaid and overburdened with cases. The state loses the most qualified and experienced defenders because they are drawn to higher paying private practices or to other states that pay their public defenders and prosecutors significantly more than the Commonwealth. Overall, Kentucky public defenders make about 23% less on average than an attorney doing the same job in one of the surrounding states. 

 Currently, the respective staffs of the Attorney General’s Office and the Department of Public Advocacy have their salaries inappropriately suppressed because the state bases the salary of these employees on a 37.5 hour work week. The important work of the employees of these agencies should not be limited to 37.5 hours per week. The salaries should be based on a regular 40-hour work week, just as is the case for many other state agencies.   Salaries for all prosecution and defender staff should be increased 6.67% to accommodate this increase in service to the Commonwealth.

 Retention of public defenders and prosecutors will ensure that the accused and victims of crime have the experience and knowledge essential to a proper and timely trial. It will also save the state and tax payers money because replacing attorneys and training new staff cost more than appropriate compensation.

 To ensure public safety, benefit taxpayers and reduce the cost of the criminal justice system, the KBA Task Force is asking for a 23% increase in the salaries of prosecutors and public defenders, along with other measures that will put Kentucky in line with the average of the surrounding states. As Christians, who have a heart for justice and equality for all people, we can be supportive of the Task Force’s request because it will make a significant difference for victims and accused.

 


[1] Rawls, John, 1971, A Theory of Justice, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, p. 3. See also, Slote, Michael, "Justice as a Virtue", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2014 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2014/entries/justice-virtue/>.

[2] "Our Rabbis taught: ...The sword comes into the world, because of justice delayed and justice denied...“ Pirkei Avot 5:7, section Mishnah (1st century BCE – 2nd century CE);  “…he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily.” Luke 18:8; Zechariah 7:9. "This is what the LORD Almighty says: 'Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another.'" Psalm 82:3. "Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed." Exodus 23:6. "Do not deny justice to your poor people in their lawsuits."

[3] "To no one will We sell, to no one will We deny or delay, right or justice,“ Magna Carta (1215) Cl.40 ; "Our Law says well, 'To delay justice, is injustice.'" William Penn, Fruits of Solitude 69 (11th ed. 1906)(1693)“; "Justice too long delayed is justice denied“ -Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from the Birmingham Jail.

[4] Rice-Oxley, Mark, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/mar/13/jorge-mario-bergoglio-pope-poverty.

[5] KENTUCKY COUNCIL OF CHURCHES, Policy Statement: A Call For Justice, Commission on Justice Ministries, Adopted by the 44th Annual Assembly, October 11-12, 1991.

A Time to Speak - Support for ending the death penalty is growing

By Father Patrick Delahanty, reprinted with permission from The Record

We are living in some exciting times for the campaign to end the death penalty in Kentucky. First of all, you can imagine the joy that swept over me as I stood outside on the lawn at the U. S. Capitol and listened to Pope Francis call again for the abolition of the death penalty.
His ringing endorsement of the work of those like the many Catholics in Kentucky working for repeal is an affirmation of our work. Pope Francis, as did his immediate predecessors, asks us to be “champions” of life willing to protect it from conception until natural death.
The Catholic witness on this issue has always been important in Kentucky and continues to be so. Since July, in all four dioceses, pro-life and social-concerns committee members of the Catholic Conference of Kentucky have been finding Catholic constituents willing to meet with state senators and state representatives to discuss repealing the death penalty in Kentucky. These meetings will continue.
So far reports to me as chair of the Kentucky Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (KCADP) are heartening. At least one legislator has changed his position and is now willing to vote to repeal the death penalty and some other proponents are saying they have not shut the door and are open to more dialogue. This is healthy, respectful and a civil approach to changing public policy.
Catholic leadership in the Covington diocese led to the formation of the Northern Kentucky Conservatives Concerned About The Death Penalty. Part of a national movement among social, political and evangelical conservatives, this brings a new dimension to the work in Kentucky. Conservative voices like these announce that repealing the death penalty is not simply the work of one party, nor a partisan issue, but an issue about respect for human life that members of all parties are called to have.
Thomas More College in Covington recently hosted Sister Helen Prejean for an evening presentation. The pro-life and social concerns committee members of the Catholic Conference had approached the college to arrange for the event. In Lexington, members from these same two committees set up presentations at a parish and at Lexington Catholic High School. In the Archdiocese of Louisville, staff of the Merton Center worked to have
Sister Helen speak at Bellarmine University and engaged Interfaith Paths to Peace as an additional host. She also spoke at DeSales High School.
The series of articles published in the Courier-Journal on Sunday (Nov. 8) indicate how broad the support for abolition is becoming. Written by a former executioner and dean, a victim family member, a state representative and a leader of the group, Conservatives Concerned, the opposition to the use of the death penalty now spreads across the political spectrum.
Catholics are some of the leaders of this opposition. I hope readers will visit the Coalition’s website and sign up for the eNewsletter and the legislative alerts that KCADP distributes. KCADP posts a special video to its Facebook page each Thursday.
Many of these could be used in classrooms and religious education programs. These reflections by Kentuckians — murder victim family members, family members of those on death row, Kentuckians all over the state — often speak of forgiveness and other values that mirror our beliefs about human life and dignity. After viewing these, you can help ensure others see them by clicking on the “like” button and sharing them with your own Facebook friends.
Kentucky has executed three men in 40 years; 60 percent of the death sentences imposed have been struck down by the courts; we have not executed anyone in seven years; only one death sentence has been imposed since 2010; and Kentucky is under court order not to proceed with any executions at this time.
What better time could there be for legislators to move ahead and repeal the death penalty? They will when they hear from readers who champion human life asking them to do so.
Father Patrick Delahanty is a retired priest of the Archdiocese of Louisville and chair of the Kentucky Coalition to Abolish to Death Penalty.  http://therecordnewspaper.org/a-time-to-speak-support-for-ending-the-death-penalty-is-growing/. 

 

Reducing Recidivism through Successful Economic Reintegration

 

A guest post by Molly Rose Green

 

Nationally and locally, awareness of the long-lasting and pervasive effects of criminal records is increasing.  Many Kentuckians with prior convictions work hard to be productive members of society, but their criminal records unnecessarily hamper those efforts.  

 Today in Kentucky, expungement is unavailable to citizens convicted of even the lowest level felonies.  Kentuckians can expunge a misdemeanor conviction, but even then under limited circumstances – to qualify, the person must have had no convictions in the five years preceding, and wait five years with no additional convictions.

For several years now, House Bill 40 has proposed expanding expungement in Kentucky to cover low-level felony convictions.  However, this year the bill is gathering more bipartisan support, as well as the endorsement of many business interests.  Specifically, HB40 would make nonviolent Class D felony convictions eligible for expungement, subject to the same restrictions currently in place for misdemeanor convictions which include a five-year waiting period after completion of the sentence, and exemption for crimes involving children or sexual offenses.

 Importantly, HB40 also includes a provision that would provide protection from certain lawsuits to employers who hire former felons.  It would prohibit the introduction of information pertaining to an expunged conviction as evidence in a civil suit or administrative proceeding alleging negligent hiring or licensing.  That means that even if an employer could find out about an expunged conviction through a Google search for example, that evidence still could not be used against the employer.

On October 14, the Interim Joint Committee on Judiciary held a hearing in Hopkinsville, KY, where it heard testimony on the expungement bill.  Representative Darryl Owens, the bill’s sponsor, introduced HB40, noting that although it had been introduced many times before, significant factors have made it even more critical now.  He stated that top companies in the state are turning away qualified applicants, merely because of mistakes they made in the past:  “Those mistakes have been adjudicated by our courts, individuals have served their sentences and paid their fines, yet they and our economy continue to be penalized.”

 Next, Sarah Davasher-Wisdom of Greater Louisville Inc., testified in favor of the bill.  She stated that the Louisville chamber of commerce supports HB40 because expungement will reduce the obstacles that limit employment opportunities for many Kentuckians, helping to integrate them into the local economy.  Russell Coleman, of Frost, Brown, Todd and the Coalition for Public Safety, who is also a former senior advisor to Mitch McConnell and FBI special agent, also testified in favor.  He discussed how the left and right are coming together to support expungement, noting the importance of re-integrating people into society and into the workforce: "One in three people have a criminal record, and their applications are going into the trash." 

 The next speaker was West Powell, who was convicted of burglary for stealing a radio in 1989 when he was 18 years old.  He is in school for physical therapy and is concerned about being licensed – he testified that even 26 years later, his criminal record is impacting his life: "I made a mistake but I think I paid for it four times over."  Finally, Representative David Floyd, a Republican who has co-sponsored the bill in the past, read a letter from Mac Brown, VP of the Brown-Forman Corporation in support of the bill.

 Many other states are taking or have already taken steps to expand expungement.   From 2010 through 2014, at least 21 states expanded or established expungement policies.  Further, several nearby states have more advanced policies than Kentucky.  For example, Indiana’s recently passed Second Chance Law expanded eligible crimes to include Class D and some other felonies.  In Ohio, eligible felony convictions can be expunged after three years. 

If passed, HB40 would make 94,645 Kentuckians eligible for class D felony expungement, according to AOC and KSP.

For the next year, Molly Rose Green will be partnering with the DPA Frankfort office on a fellowship project funded by the Initiative for Public Interest Law at Yale.  The project aims to expand access to expungement in Kentucky through community education, direct services, and legislative advocacy.  Molly can be reached at molly.green@ky.gov or (859) 576-2276.

 

 

 

 

Ecumenology

Ecumenism, the art of unity between Christian churches, has been around for a long time. The National Council of Churches was founded in 1950. However, ecumenism really took off with the Second Vatican Council of the Roman Catholic Church in the early 1960's. I was a toddler when the Council took place (1962-65). All I know of it is what I have read in books and learned from others. 

In his memoir, Reflections Over the Long Haul, Robert McAfee Brown wrote about the Council from a Protestant perspective. A primary purpose of the Pope's call for the Council was "an increasing recognition that (a) Christians should not be divided, (b) that even though divided they should not be fighting one another, and (c) an admission that both sides have lived sinfully self-enclosed lives and that they must engage in dialogue." (p. 202) 

My take-away from the event, Brown's synopsis of its purpose, and ecumenical efforts since then is two-fold: 1) We are all one body in Christ Jesus. 2) That divisions and disagreements are a part of who we are as human beings. 

The Apostle Paul described the Church as one body with many parts.


Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:12

Ecumenism is the Church attempting to be one body, even though we are made up of many differing parts. It matters that we make this effort, because it is what Christ wants of us. Walking away, turning away, ignoring, and particularly dismissing one another is not an option if we are to be the true Body of Christ. Ecumenism will be important as long as we hold to differing ways of interpreting Bible and theology, and living out differing expressions of Christian identity. 

The Kentucky Council of Churches, and other ecumenical groups, invite Christians to live as one body as we function as different parts. I offer a few suggestions for what Christians can do to make this a reality:

1. Seek opportunities for ecumenical and interfaith dialogues. Many communities offer such events and activities. If you cannot find a conversation in your area, start one.

2. Work together with other denominations and religions on common issues and mission projects. Faith communities that unite have strength and influence that a lone church or individual does not. Join together to make your community better.

3. Learn about other denominations and faith groups. Take a class, or read many of the resources that are available. Visit places of worship different from your own. 

4. Discuss disagreements with love, patience, integrity, and civility. We will not always agree on everything. Even people in the same church have differing views. We can learn from one another, and the Spirit will work in conversations that are open, honest, and grace-filled. 

5. Be open to the Spirit's movement in ecumenical and interfaith situations. Pray for guidance and an openness to God's leading. 

6. Stay present. Even when you want to walk away, or you think the dialogue will never bear fruit, persevere with patience and determination. The results can be transformative when we are willing to stay at the table and show hospitality to each other. 

7. Join an ecumenical organization in your area. Most states have a Council of Churches, or similar organizations. Many towns and cities have ecumenical and interfaith groups. These groups are excellent resources for engaging and learning. Donate to your state's Council so that this important ecumenical work can continue. 

 

*Image from https://www.theartofuncertainty.com 

Toolkit for Payday Lending

Toolkit on payday lending 

The Center for Responsible Lending is excited to share Faith and Payday Lending: Resources for learning and action - a toolkit that gathers resources and tips for those advocating for payday reform, serving households hurt by predatory lending, and seeking to spark conversation in their congregations about high-cost lending. A tremendous thank you to PICO National Network with whom we collaborated on this project. 

The Faith-Based Toolkit  includes

  • ·         resources for educating, and mobilizing faith based communities
  • ·         practical advice for those dealing with debt

Share your payday or car title loan stories with the CFPB 
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has said that it has received fewer complaints about payday and car title loans in the last several months. Your stories will inform the CFPB's work on payday and encourage a strong rule. You can both Tell Your Story and Submit a Complaint.


Send a social media message on payday 
Another way we have been working to call for payday reform is through sending public messages to the CFPB’s director, Richard Cordray. Here’s a simple way to do it:

1. Take a selfie with a #StopTheDebtTrap sign

2. Share it on social media with one of these messages or write your own:

I support a strong #payday rule from the @CFPB. We need to #StopTheDebtTrap

#StopTheDebtTrap with a strong @CFPB rule on payday lenders so that we can #LendJustly

3. Email your selfie and message to nate.frierson@responsiblelending.org, so that it can be shared with all of our messages to Director Cordray!

Pope Francis: usury is an affront to human dignity

With Pope Francis recently completing his visit to the United States and conveying compassion for the poor (perhaps most powerfully through his actions) - it's worth remembering Francis'  comments on usury:

“When a family has nothing to eat, because it has to make payments to usurers, this is not Christian, it is not human! This dramatic scourge in our society harms the inviolable dignity of the human person.”

Read more about Catholics in the United States working on payday reform here: 
http://togoforth.org/2015/08/07/payday-lending-hurts-families/   



We will continue with monthly calls to keep everyone updated on the status of the campaign.  The next call will be Tuesday, October 20 at 3PM EST and will include a presentation from Exodus Lending Following that, the calls will be on November 17 and December 15. Be on the lookout for an email with details about the call-in and registration information.

As always, feel free to call or email me with any questions

Thanks again for all of your help!

Nate Frierson

Center for Responsible Lending - Faith Affairs

(202) 349-1869