Stan KimerHaving started this series in late April on the importance of engaging both the business and the faith/religious communities in promoting workers’ rights, I am now alternating each post between the business community and faith community connection.

A few months ago I read and clipped out of the Raleigh News and Observer (originally printed in the New York Times) a provocative article titled “Do Churches Fail the Poor?” by Ross Douthat.  I saved it knowing I would write about it in this blog. I felt the title was indeed relevant since it is primarily workers living near the poverty level that ironically receive the fewest employments benefits and rights.

This fascinating article led with a quote from a Harvard University social scientist Robert Putnam who said, “Most organized religion has focused on issues regarding sexual morality, such as abortion, gay marriage, all of those. I’m not saying if that’s good or bad, but that’s what they have been using all their resources for …. not at all focused on issues of poverty.”

When sharing the stage at an event with Dr. Putnam, President Obama remarked, “Despite great caring and concern, when churches pick the defining issue that’s really going to capture the essence of who we are as Christians, fighting poverty is often seen merely as a ‘nice to have’ compared to ‘an issue like abortion.’”

The Douthat article went on to attempt to debunk this critique by pointing out that religious charities direct billions of dollars to important and helpful institutions like schools and hospitals. But no matter what side of this discussion you fall on, I do feel strongly that people of faith should increase their focus on advocating for better rights and benefits for the most vulnerable of working Americans. If you are involved in a place of worship, consider helping to start a committee to research and take action on this issue, starting with accessing resources available through the North Carolina Council of Churches and the North Carolina Justice Center. Here are some links that might prove helpful in such an endeavor:

The NC Justice Center’s Workers’ Rights Project,

The NC Council of Churches Lectionary on Living Wages and

the Council of Churches Grassroots Advocacy Toolkit.

Stan Kimer[Editor’s note: Stan C. Kimer is a retired IBM executive and former President of the North Carolina Council of Churches. He now runs a firm which offers consulting services around diversity management and training, and talent/career development. This is the third installment in a series of posts he is authoring for The Progressive Pulse. You can read the previous installments by clicking here and here.] 

I started this series in April on the importance of engaging both the business community and the faith/religious community in promoting workers’ rights. I will alternate each month between the business community and faith community connection, and since I wrote my first business community piece last month, this month I introduce the faith perspective.

I write the faith perspective with a long history of leadership within the North Carolina Council of Churches, including serving as their President in 2011 and 2012. This strong and active organization within North Carolina includes 17 denominations and eight individual congregations that have over 6,200 congregations and about 1.5 million congregants.

The overall mission statement reads, “the Council enables denominations, congregations, and people of faith to individually and collectively impact our state on issues such as economic justice and development, human well-being, equality, compassion and peace, following the example and mission of Jesus Christ.

Wow!! Engaging people of faith to support fair treatment, compensation and benefits for all workers falls squarely in most of these individual elements. Let’s explore several of them one by one:

  • Economic Justice and Development. Even as we live in one of the richest nations of the world, the gap between the poor and wealthy continues to grow, and many people even with full time jobs struggle with living in poverty.
  • Human well-being. Typically those in the lower paying jobs struggle to barely survive, and often do not receive benefits higher wage earners commonly receive critical to human health and well-being. Lower wage earners often go without healthcare benefits, family leave to deal with illness, fair treatment during pregnancy and more.
  • Equality. It is only fair that all hard working people are compensated well enough to live and afford basic necessities.
  • Compassion. People of faith should always have a strong commitment to bettering the lives of all people, and true compassion means speaking out and advocating for those who are struggling to survive and may not have the time and energy to engage in this advocacy.

While the North Carolina Council of Churches is itself overtly Christian, many of the committees and task groups working on issues such as this (see for example the N.C. Families Care Coalition) are interfaith and include members from non-Christian faith communities as well as additional Christian denomination not a part of the Council. This underlines that promoting justice in our world is a strong common commitment across the universal faith and human community.

I now look forward to continuing this faith discussion in alternating months.


The current chief editorial writer for Raleigh’s News & Observer, Ned Barnett, has been doing an excellent job since taking over the position a few months back (click here for a great recent example).  But if you ever find yourself missing the insights of Barnett’s predecessor, Steve Ford, you will be happy to know that Ford is still producing some excellent essays over at the website of the North Carolina Council of Churches.  

This one from last Friday about the current state budget and tax debate is worth your time.


Payday lending 3It remains difficult to fathom that the leaders in the General Assembly would really want to open the can of worms that is payday lending, but, as we have reported on several occasions here recently, powerful state Senators are indeed advancing a bill to re-legalize the long-banned practice here in North Carolina.

Meanwhile, opposition to the idea continues to surface and grow in numerous places. Here are just a few:

Yesterday, the North Carolina Council of Churches devoted the newest issue of its Raleigh Report to a description of the evils of two-week, triple-digit interest rate loans.

This morning, Read More