Election Day 2017

elections, politics, voting

Today is a very important day throughout the country. There are very important state and local races taking place across the nation in New Jersey, Virginia, New York City, North Carolina cities (Charlotte, Greensboro, and Raleigh), and Atlanta Mayor and some special races in Georgia. Two of the most important races taking place today are gubernatorial races in Virginia and New Jersey.

In Virginia, gubernatorial candidates Ed Gillepsie(R) and Ralph Northam(D) are the two contenders to succeed current Virginia governor, Terry McAuliffe. Mr. Gillepsie is the former chairman of the Republican Party, and Mr. Northam is a physician and the current Lt. Governor in Virginia. This is expected to be a close race, as polling shows that Mr. Northam has a slight lead ahead of Mr. Gillepsie. President Trump has tweeted in support of Mr. Gillepsie and has shown his support, while encouraging his base to do the same. There are 100 House of Delegate seats that will be filled today in VA, and the Attorney General’s race is occurring.

In New Jersey, the current Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno(R) and Mr. Philip Murphy(D) are both vying to become the next governor of New Jersey. One of the two will succeed, Gov. Chris Christie. Mr. Murphy is a former Goldman Sachs employee, and former Ambassador to Germany. Early polling showed Mr. Murphy with a lead over Ms. Guardagno; however it is still anyone’s race until the results are in completely.

In Atlanta, Charlotte, and New York City, there are city mayoral and city council races taking place today.

Personally, I am thrilled at all of the women who are on the ballot. In Virginia, there are 17 women running for state office in the Virginia legislature. In New Jersey, there are 11 women running for state office in the New Jersey state legislature. I am rooting for many of these women, not just because they are women. But, I am rooting for them, because their voices and representation is needed in local and state government. State and local legislatures must begin to reflect the diversity and differences among us all.

Jennifer Carroll Foy is an advocate, attorney, and mother who I am rooting for today, as she seeks to represent District 2 in the Virginia House of Delegates. I am invested in her, because she understands perseverance and she is qualified to effectively serve based upon her education, work as a public defender, and caregiver for her family. Her voice and experience is needed in Richmond. I hope that she and other women will be successful in their races.

Other amazing women running include: Vi Lyles who is running to become the next mayor of Charlotte, and Nikema Williams is running to become Senator in Georgia’s 39th District.

Today’s elections are extremely significant, because these races will help Democrats and Republicans gauge the political climate among voters since Trump’s win last November. Elections being held today will help both parties identify key issues and areas to focus on as we prepare to focus on 2018 Midterm Elections.

So, if you’re in New York City, Charlotte, Atlanta, Virginia or New Jersey—- GO VOTE and also ensure that you do your research to cast your ballot for the best candidates to represent you. Your elected officials are an extension of you and your voice. Be invested!

Happy Voting!

NKD

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Partisan Politics in the Pulpit

Executive Branch, politics

bible

On May 4, 2017, President Trump signed an Executive Order designed to “promote free speech and religious freedom.” The First Amendment provides one of the greatest protections that all Americans (and organizations) enjoy—the right to freedom of speech, including political speech and religious freedom. Free speech and religious freedom are core tenets that set America apart from many other countries. However, the question of whether politics and partisan speech should be apart of the dialogue and discourse for religious organizations, that enjoy tax breaks, is a controversial topic.

This is a controversial topic, because many believe that organizations that have declared themselves tax-exempt under the Internal Revenue Code should not engage in partisan political speech. Tax-exempt organizations have been prevented from engaging in partisan political speech, because structural mandates are in place that would empower the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to revoke the tax-exempt status of these organizations for engaging in such speech. There is a presumption that organizations that are not required to pay taxes, and that enjoy certain benefits should remain neutral with respect to certain political policies, candidates, and parties.

The other argument is that there should be “separation of church and state.” Thomas Jefferson coined this phrase in a letter from the 1800s directed to religious leaders and churches. Many argue that this phrase was designed to ensure that the government stays out of the affairs of the church, and/or that the church has no place inserting itself in government. The argument is a current argument that continues. The new Executive Order signed by President Trump furthers this discourse and discussion surrounding the role of the church and political speech among religious organizations and leaders.

The Order permits religious leaders and organizations, that enjoy tax-exempt protection, to engage in speaking freely and openly about partisan politics without the organizations’ tax-exempt status being jeopardized. This means that churches and other religious organizations can NOW freely endorse or oppose candidates, and not face any adverse action by the Treasury Department or the Internal Revenue Service(IRS).

Under current law, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organizations, namely religious organizations, have been prevented from engaging in partisan political speech. Religious organizations that engaged in partisan political speech, prior to this action, possibly faced being required to pay tax penalties; the denial or revocation of tax-exempt status; and/or being disallowed from certain tax deductions for contributions received by such organizations. The Order has changed the prior requirement, and has relaxed certain mandates in the name of religious freedom.

The U.S. Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, has been called upon to give guidance to federal agencies as it pertains to defining the scope of religious freedom. The IRS and the Treasury Department will also have to come up with a new way to evaluate how this Executive Order should be implemented and the scope of the order. There are major questions that remain unanswered, including whether or not the new relaxed mandates will also apply to other 501(c)(3) non-religious, tax-exempt organizations. If the regulations will not apply to non-religious organizations, then the Trump administration and Justice Department may have yet another case to defend against in court. Non-religious organizations may eventually have standing to bring a strong case under the Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection Clause, if the scope of this Executive Order is not carefully defined.

For now, clergy, pastors, religious leaders, and religious organizations can interject partisan politics in the pulpit in the name of religious liberty.

Here is the actual text of the Executive Order: https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/05/04/presidential-executive-order-promoting-free-speech-and-religious-liberty