Although the U.S. Constitution states that impoverished citizens cannot be jailed because of their inability to pay fines and other debts, a church music director in Alabama and his wife were jailed because they were incapable of paying court costs that stemmed from expired license plate violations.
Tim Fugatt, a music pastor at Valley View Church of God in Sylacauga, and his wife, Kristy, were going through a financially tough time in December of 2010 when they were both pulled over and cited for having expired license plates in the town of Childersburg.
The couple had recently found out that their new-born son, Cole, was diagnosed with a rare brain disease that forced them to keep their son in the hospital. With Kristy not working, and Tim living off a modest church music director pay, the two appeared in Childersburg municipal court and pled for the judge to rule them "not guilty" and explained the situation with their son and their financial struggles. more >>
The Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which counts the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. among its founders, is based in Atlanta, Georgia but has branches across the country. One of SCLC's missions is to eradicate environmental classism and racism wherever it exists. This past winter, we experienced one of the worst cold snaps and storms in recent memory, which highlighted the challenges we still face on managing weather events. You may recall the news coverage of impassable highways and of commuters stranded for hours in their cars.
The dramatic images on television certainly provided a glimpse of the immediate impacts of the storm but there were other impacts that were not seen but are still being felt from extensive power outages or increased utility bills throughout the South. All told, Americans east of the Mississippi spent $14 billion more on their power bills last winter than they did the year before. In some areas, power costs rose a jaw-dropping 1,000 percent. Sadly, the effects were especially pronounced among our most vulnerable brothers and sisters: the poor, the sick, the mentally ill and others that suffer hardship each day.
While we know weather events like last year's polar vortex can truly make a bad situation worse, what would happen if the outcomes we experienced last winter—namely, less reliable and more expensive electricity—become a regular occurrence? If not stopped, that's exactly the reality we will face as new, largely unrealistic environmental regulations from Washington, D.C. could leave us facing widespread power outages and increased energy costs, even when we're not in the midst of extreme weather. more >>
Ryan Bell, an ex-pastor who quit his faith in God for a year following his resignation from the Hollywood Adventist Church and a divorce from his wife of 17 years, is set to decide New Year's Day whether he will remain a believer or become an atheist. While he has distanced himself from zealous atheists, Bell expressed a desire to be "good" without submitting to boundaries.
Nearing the end of his yearlong embrace of non-theism, Bell told the LA Times that leaving the faith has allowed him to see "both sides of the coin." The former Fuller Seminary and Azusa Pacific University teacher has consorted with several atheist groups as a public speaker, sharing his experiences of walking away from church life. "Being with atheists, they can have the same sort of obnoxious certainty that some Christians have," he said of his experiences. "I don't want to be part of that. It feels like I'm stuck in the middle. I want to be for something good, but I don't want boundaries, and religion just feels like a very bounded thing."
As he nears a self-imposed January 1 deadline to decide between atheism and faith, Bell told the LA Times, "The question I am asking right now [is] why do I need religion to love?" more >>
South Carolina megachurch NewSpring gave away over $215,000 worth of shoes and gift cards to students and teachers in underprivileged schools earlier this month. NewSpring Public Relations Director Suzanne Swift said the donations are a no-strings-attached way to show the community they care.
"Our church believes you can't do life alone and as families are buying gifts for Christmas and other necessities, this is just a small way we can come alongside them, be generous and help these families in our community," Swift told The Christian Post.
More than 350 volunteers from Pastor Perry Noble's multi-site church traveled to 12 elementary schools, giving away 7,265 pairs of colorful New Balance shoes fresh out of the boxes to every single student. Teachers and staff also received $25 restaurant gift cards as well. more >>
A string of secret Santas in Massachusetts made their way to local Toys "R" Us stores last week and paid thousands of their own dollars to pay off all of the stores' layaway orders in efforts to help families in financial need put gifts under the Christmas tree for their children.
The pay it forward-type of Christmas initiative took prominence last Wednesday at a Toys "R" Us in Bellingham, Massachusetts where an unidentified woman, known only as the "Layaway Angel" paid nearly $20,000 of her own money to bless hard working parents by closing out all of the store's 154 layaway orders. Each balance varied from just a few bucks to over a few hundred dollars.
One parent, who along with her kids is a beneficiary of the "Layaway Angel's" Christmas generosity, told the Milford Daily News that she was surprised when she received a call from Toys "R" Us telling her to come pick up her layaway order because her balance had already been paid for. more >>
Some churches are countering the trend of Black Friday shopping and materialism by promoting "Bless Friday," an observance promoting charity work that seeks to bless the less fortunate.
Eva Kaminski, associate director of Communications at Memorial Drive Presbyterian in Houston, told The Christian Post that Bless Friday is "an encouragement for people to shift their focus from shopping to serving."
"Bless Friday is something that our congregation and staff have embraced. The beauty is in the soul-building that occurs when we focus on others instead of self, and serve in Christ's Name," she said. more >>