The Common Good

United States

The NSA's Need to Know, Your Privacy, and Jesus' Path

I was encouraged by the findings of U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon on Monday who granted an injunction to plaintiffs Larry Klayman and Charles Strange that will temporarily stop the National Security Agency from continuing their data-gathering program that mines information from our mobile phone calls.

The injunction was issued because the judge believes that Klayman and Strange likely will win their lawsuit against the federal government, claiming that the phone record collection practice is an unconstitutional violation of personal privacy.

The whole storyline is made that much more dramatic since the otherwise secret program was leaked to the public by former NSA contract Edward Snowden, who is now on the run, seeking asylum in exchange for shared intelligence. And while some perceive Snowden as a hero of individual liberty, others vilify him as an enemy of the United States, much like any other terrorist. Interestingly, people’s opinions about the NSA — and, frankly, the Obama administration and the government as a whole — diverge in similar ways.

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'Testifying to the Truth': EPA Testimonies (Part Two)

As President Obama has pointed out, the climate issue is not only a technical one. In his words, “We have a moral obligation to future generations to leave them a planet that is not polluted and damaged.” We in the faith community would, of course, agree. But it is not only future generations that will bear the impacts of climate change. They are being felt now, most intensely by those populations around the world who are least able to cope with them. We must act with great conviction and haste to move toward solutions.

The central principle of the Bahá'í Faith is the oneness of humankind. This principle has deep implications for policy in many arenas. It should guide us to seek solutions that are equitable and just, treating all people as members of one human family. I believe that to be effective, the carbon standards established by EPA over the next several months must be animated by this foundational principle.

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Cutting Food Stamps is a Bad Way to Balance the Budget

“Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” (Luke 3:11)

Many of us are blessed enough to not know what it is like to be hungry, to regularly miss meals, or to consume a diet void of essential nutrients for a healthy life. But now, millions of our brothers and sisters here in the United States may, sadly, be facing these situations because of a reduction in their food stamp benefits.

Starting Friday, all households receiving food stamp benefits will see their food budgets shrink as a temporary increase expires. A family of four could lose up to $36 a month in food stamps (also known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP).

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Federal Workers Deserve A Living Wage

WASHINGTON —  “All labor has dignity.” That’s what the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. said 50 years ago, and it’s still as true today.

Yet too many working men and women are unable to live with dignity in a world where the fastest-growing jobs are the lowest-paying ones. Just and living wages are a moral imperative, and workers must earn enough to afford the basics for themselves and their families. That’s why we have come together to support those fighting for a living wage.

As it turns out, the largest low-wage job creator in the country isn’t Wal-Mart or McDonald’s — it’s Uncle Sam. Through federal contracts, loans, and leases, the federal government employs about 2 million low-wage workersacross the country — sewing military uniforms, cleaning the bathrooms at Washington’s Union Station, serving Big Macs at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, and hauling federal loads on trucks. Too many of these workers can’t even afford rent and food, they work without any benefits, and often are forced to rely on economic safety net programs like food stamps, Medicaid, and Section 8 housing vouchers to meet their basic needs.

Making matters worse, many of these workers are not compensated for overtime work and are actually paidbelow minimum wage. It’s illegal, but it happens. As faith leaders, we have visited with many of these workers and have asked President Obama to meet with them too.

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Q Conference - Miroslav Volf On Faith in Public Life

An interconnected, interdependent world means a greater intermingling of faiths and the possibility for conflict. We’ve seen it in the United States in anti-Shariah legislation and the recent atheist Reason Rally.

Theologian Miroslav Volf, director and founder of the Yale Center for Faith and Culture, argues that globalization and the resurgence of faith in the United States increases the need for pluralism in public life.

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A Charitable Disconnect?

Something’s wrong here: The United States is the most charitable nation in the world, and yet nearly half of Americans are classified as poor/low income, with 16 percent now living below the poverty line.

This week, the Charities Aid Foundation released the 2011 World Giving Index, a comprehensive study that ranks countries by their generosity. The study, gleaned from 150,000 interviews with participants in 153 nations, focused on three categories:  monetary donations, time spent volunteering, and willingness to help a stranger.

This year, the United States topped the list, up from fifth place in 2010.

While the amount of money Americans give to charity has not increased markedly, the study found a 4 percent increase in volunteering time, and an 8 percent increase in helping a stranger. (While this may not seem like drastic change, one percent means thousands of people.)

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The Morning Sojo: November 7, 2011

A round-up of recent Op-Ed columns from the mainstream media.

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Not All Budget Cuts Are Created Equal

kondanani boyos
Less than one percent of the federal budget goes to foreign aid. Our spending on development and foreign assistance is not -- by any stretch of the facts or imagination -- our national debt.

Cutting foreign aid programs will do little to get us out of debt, but would be a devastating setback in the fight against global, extreme poverty.

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Is The American Dream God's Dream?

american dream poster

Nearly 50 million Americans are currently living below the poverty line (that is $22,000 for a household of four) and half of them are working full time jobs.

In our current economic system, the "happiness" of the super-elite is secured while the lives, liberty, and access to basic needs of the rest suffer. This isn't the American Dream and it isn't God's dream either.

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"Hole-y" Bible Gets a Digital Makeover

This morning, as I caught up on what had been going on in the world over the weekend, I stumbled across a very interesting resource -- a website that compares the frequency with which words appear in the Bible and the Quran.

Although that in itself is an interesting tool, I was less interested in the comparison feature and more interested to see how often certain words appear in the Bible.holeybiblescreenshot

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