Feeding Their Spirit, Mind and Body—October 22, State College

“Poverty is a very complicated issue, but feeding a child isn’t.”—Jeff Bridges

Please join YMCA of Centre County and YMCA of the USA for an Anti-Hunger Conference. Learn what Ys and other organizations are doing, what resources are available to you, and how you can get your community involved. Specific program topics include Summer Feeding, Weekend Food Backpacks, and Afterschool Meals/Snacks.

Thursday, October 22, 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.

Ramada Conference & Golf Hotel, 1450 South Atherton Street, State College, PA 16801

Lunch will be provided.

Please RSVP by October 15, 2015 to Theresa Mast (tmast@ymcaocc.org).

For more information on the conference agenda, please contact Mel Curtis at mcurtis@ymcaocc.org or 814-342-0889.

Hotel rooms available. Contact 814-238-3001 and reference YMCA conference (Group Code YMC1).

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Speak Up for Climate Action and Regulating Methane—September 29, Pittsburgh

Every year America’s oil and gas industry leaks 7.3 million metric tons of methane, a greenhouse gas that’s 86 times worse for our climate than carbon dioxide, into the atmosphere.

Last week, the EPA released the first-ever rules to regulate this dangerous pollutant, and you can be sure that industry will be out in full force to stop the rules from going through.

That’s why we need you to come out and show the EPA that Pennsylvanians support tough methane regulations and bold climate action.

On September 29th, the EPA will be hosting a public hearing on the rule in Pittsburgh in the William S. Moorhead Federal Building at 1000 Liberty Avenue.

Will you join us there to speak out for climate action? Sign up at https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1UBKRVhnmtcnc6f-W0ZTRH8UDW7pLXtVoaA4s2U5xRsQ/viewform.

The hearing begins at 9AM and lasts until 8PM, and each speaking slot is 5 minutes long (you only have to be there for your time slot). We’ll provide resources to help you write your comment and keep you informed about day-of logistics.

No technical background or expertise is required.

To fight climate change and protect public health, we must stop methane pollution. Sign up now and take a stand for our future!

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I Am More Than a Stereotype—September 15, Harrisburg

This summer, 35 kids from the YWCA’s Camp Reily program participated in an exciting video project in which they engaged in workshops about the YWCA’s mission of “eliminating racism and empowering women” – and learned how to produce a video!

In the workshops, the kids unpacked what the constructs of “race” and “gender” mean and how they’ve experienced them in their own lives. Carmen Henry-Harris had them interact with different kinds of hair as part of learning about race, instilling the mantra that we’re “different but not deficient!” Tara Leo Auchey’s workshop on gender ignited some spirited debate about what toys or clothes are for boys or girls – but by the end of the session most of the kids agreed that “it doesn’t matter!” With that foundation set, Diana Robinson taught the kids about the video production process, working with them to develop story-boards and giving them roles directing, assisting and helping with the video and audio.

The final product of the kids’ hard work, titled I Am More than a Stereotype, will star the faces and voices of Camp Reily and will be debuted at a “red carpet” event at the Midtown Cinema on Tuesday, September 15th at 6:30 PM! The stars of the film will arrive in limos, will walk up the red carpet and will speak a bit about the process and experience of creating the video.

Come show your appreciation of and support for our Camp Reily kids and stand with them in their call for “no more stereotypes”!

Join the “I Am More than a Stereotype” Red Carpet Premiere event page for event updates!

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10 Facts About Religion in America

August 27, 2015

By Michael Lipka

It’s a fascinating time for conversations about faith in the United States, with Pope Francis set to visit next month, a presidential election on the horizon and major trends reshaping the country’s religious landscape.

Changing landscape

One of the most important and well-documented shifts taking place over the past decade is the steadily rising share of people who are religiously unaffiliated – from 16% in 2007 to 23% in 2014. As journalists and others gather in Philadelphia for the annual Religion Newswriters Association conference this week, here are 10 other things we’ve learned from our recent research:

  1. Protestants no longer make up a majority of U.S. adults. Closely tied to the rise of the religious “nones” is the decline of Christians, including Protestants. The U.S. has a long history as a majority Protestant nation, and, as recently as the 2007 Pew Research Center Religious Landscape Study, more than half of U.S. adults (51.3%) identified as Protestants. But that figure has fallen, and our 2014 study found that 46.5% of Americans are now Protestants.
  2. Religious switching is a common occurrence in the U.S. Depending on how “religious switching” is defined, as many as 42% of U.S. adults have switched religions. That definition counts switching between Protestant traditions, but even if Protestantism is regarded as a single group, about a third of Americans (34%) identify with a different religious group than the one in which they were raised.
  3. There is a wide range of racial and ethnic diversity among U.S. religious groups and denominations. Seventh-day Adventists, Muslims and Jehovah’s Witnesses are among the most racially and ethnically diverse U.S. religious groups. The least diverse are the National Baptist Convention, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.
  4. Partisan divisionBefore Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment was published in June, U.S. Catholics’ views of climate change mirrored those of Americans overall – including major partisan divisions. While six-in-ten Catholic Democrats say global warming is caused by humans and that it is a very serious problem, only about a quarter of Catholic Republicans feel the same way.
  5. In a typical week, about one-in-five Americans share their faith online. This is about the same as the number who tune in to religious talk radio, watch religious TV programs or listen to Christian rock music.
  6. Americans have continued to become more supportive of same-sex marriage. Aggregated data from 2015 polls show that fully 55% of U.S. adults favor same-sex marriage, which is now legal nationwide following a Supreme Court ruling in June. That represents a rise of 20 percentage points over the last decade or so. Among the major religious groups, White evangelical Protestants are the least supportive of gay marriage (24%), while those without any religious affiliation are the most likely to favor allowing gays and lesbians to wed (82%).
  7. Religious freedom or discrimination? A 2014 poll found Americans are divided on the question of whether wedding-related businesses should be allowed to refuse service to same-sex couples for religious reasons, with 47% saying businesses should be able to refuse service and 49% saying establishments should be required to serve same-sex couples.
  8. On another hotly debated social issue – abortion – Americans’ views in the last two decades have largely held steady. A majority of U.S. adults (55%) continue to say abortion should be legal in all or most cases. At the same time, four-in-ten say it should be illegal in all or most cases.
  9. Frequency of religious service attendance remains a strong predictor of how people will vote in elections. In the 2014 midterm elections, exit polls showed that those who attend worship services at least weekly voted for Republicans over Democrats for the House of Representatives by a 58%-to-40% margin. Meanwhile, those who never attend services leaned heavily toward Democrats (62% vs. 36%).
  10. Christians continue to make up an overwhelming majority of members of Congress (92%), compared with 71% of the general public (as of 2014). At the same time, while 23% of U.S. adults are religiously unaffiliated, only one member of Congress (Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz.), or 0.2% of that body, claims no religious affiliation.

Congress religion

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Time to Kill the Death Penalty

Saturday, 29 August 2015 00:00

By Bernie HornCampaign for America’s Future | Op-Ed

 Death penalty

Opponents of the death penalty pray outside San Quentin State Prison in San Quentin, California, on January 18, 2004. The state imposed a moratorium on capital punishment in 2006. (Photo: Peter DaSilva/The New York Times)

In February 2015, the governor of Pennsylvania issued a moratorium on executions. In May, Nebraska became the 19th state, and the seventh state since 2007, to abolish the death penalty. And weeks ago, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled the death penalty unconstitutional, saying “…this state’s death penalty no longer comports with contemporary standards of decency and no longer serves any legitimate penological purpose.”

Nevertheless, states have executed 19 prisoners so far this year – 15 of them killed by the states of Texas and Missouri alone. Texas, Missouri and Florida accounted for 28 of the 35 people executed in 2014. In contrast, 23 states and the federal government have not executed anyone for at least the past 10 years.

This is a tragic little corner of America’s “culture wars,” where mostly Southerners insist that their moral beliefs require them to execute thy neighbor. Little do they understand that they’re on the wrong side of history.

There’s been quite a turnaround from the late 1980s and early 1990s, when progressives were afraid to speak out against the death penalty. At that time polls indicated that about 80 percent of Americans favored capital punishment while only 16 percent opposed it. The polls don’t look so bad today, but at least on the surface Americans still favor the death penalty by a margin of two to one.

And yet, progressives should now feel comfortable on this issue, especially in a primary election. Most Democrats do not favor capital punishment and support by independents is around 60 percent and falling fast. It is intransigence by the Republican base that keeps public opinion looking worse than it is.

There are two arguments that move Americans to our side: (1) it doesn’t work, and (2) it’s killing innocent people.

According to the Gallup Poll, Americans have had a strong change of heart when asked “Do you feel that the death penalty acts as a deterrent to the commitment of murder, that it lowers the murder rate, or not?”

DP data

Americans now agree with 88 percent of the country’s top criminologists who, as noted in a study in the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, do not believe that the death penalty is a deterrent.

The same Gallup Poll asks “How often do you think that a person has been executed under the death penalty who was, in fact, innocent of the crime he or she was charged with – do you think this has happened in the past five years, or not?” Over the past ten years, about 60 percent have said that yes, an innocent person has been executed within the past five years while about 30 percent say that has not happened.

Again, most Americans have their facts straight. At last count, since 1973, 155 prisoners on death row have been exonerated. Although it is impossible to know how many innocent people have been executed, the Death Penalty Information Center offers a list of ten whose innocence seems probable.

Some of us painfully remember the years following the “Willie Horton” attack on presidential nominee Michael Dukakis, when fairly progressive political consultants would insist that their progressive clients could not oppose the death penalty. It would guarantee their defeat, consultants said. Many progressives agonizingly followed that advice.

Those days are over. We can follow our consciences while simultaneously arguing from a strong political position: that we should instead spend society’s time and money on policies that actually reduce crime and make law-abiding Americans safer.

This piece was reprinted with permission from the author.

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Urge PA’s Legislators to Invest in Children in the Budget

From Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children (http://www.papartnerships.org):Budget past due

Pennsylvania has been without a state budget for two months now, and the impact of Harrisburg’s inaction is being felt across the commonwealth as students start a new school year…

Last week, the state missed a scheduled payment of more than $1 billion to school districts. As the Campaign for Fair Education Funding noted, that missed payment only aggravates the funding inequities that already exist in our schools “and it’s the children who will ultimately feel the pinch.”

In central Pennsylvania, one of the state’s poorest school districts says if the budget stalemate continues, it might not be able to pay staff.

In western Pennsylvania, the McKeesport Area School District is opening a line of credit to get the funding it needs to operate until a state budget is enacted, while the Chartier Valley School District is considering withholding payments to charter schools in the absence of state funding.

Philadelphia schools could run out of money by mid-October if the impasse isn’t resolved soon.

The Luzerne County Head Start is borrowing money to keep its doors open for the 1,136 children it serves. “It’s not a good situation,” says the program’s executive director, “but it’s better than not having our children here in session and staff signing up for unemployment.”

The Head Start program serving Bradford and Tioga counties is borrowing money, too, so it can keep its doors open for the 400 young children and their families who count on the program.

And it’s not just classrooms that are being affected. County child welfare agencies face the same uncertainty on when state funding will be in place to help investigate and prevent child abuse and neglect.

Take a moment to write your state lawmakers and let them know we need a new state budget now that prioritizes stronger investments in high-quality pre-kindergarten, basic education funding and child welfare. Click the links below to send a message to Harrisburg.

If you’ve already spoken up for Pennsylvania’s children, please share this email with your friends, family and neighbors and ask them to let Harrisburg know we need a state budget that invests in kids.

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Family Budget Data Offered as Argument for PA Minimum Wage Hike

Posted at http://www.publicnewsservice.org/2015-08-31/livable-wages-working-families/family-budget-data-offered-as-argument-for-pa-minimum-wage-hike/a47921-1

August 31, 2015 – Andrea Sears, Public News Service (PA)

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Living Wage

Workers around the country seek a $15 an hour minimum wage. Credit: The All-Nite Images/fickr.com

HARRISBURG, Pa. – As bills to increase the minimum wage languish in Harrisburg, new information is being offered showing people earning the minimum don’t come close to a secure standard of living.

The statistics, compiled by the Washington-based Economic Policy Institute, were released late last week. They show what a modest family budget looks like in 18 regions across the state.

Mark Price, a labor economist at the Keystone Research Center, says the numbers show minimum wage workers need a raise.

“When you add all the numbers up, there are a lot of families in Pennsylvania that don’t earn enough to really live the comfortable, adequate lifestyle,” he points out.

The minimum wage in Pennsylvania is $7.25 an hour, same as the federal minimum, which hasn’t been raised since 2009.

According to Price, a full-time job at minimum wage brings in $15,000 a year, far short of what the institute finds necessary for meeting basic needs for a single adult, even in rural areas where the cost of living is slightly lower. Price says a rural adult would need almost twice the income provided by the minimum wage.

“Our estimate is that it’s roughly $27,000 a year, and that includes expenses for food, transportation, housing, health care and other basic needs,” he explains.

In urban areas, he says the number for a single adult’s basic needs climbs to $33,000, and for a two-parent family with children it’s more than $52,000.

Advocates are calling for a minimum wage of $15 an hour. And though it sounds like a lot more money, Price says it’s not really a raise.

“We’re not talking about raising the minimum wage above what it used to be,” he stresses. “We’re really just trying to get it back to where it used to be. We’re trying to restore the purchasing power that people have lost over time.”

Gov. Tom Wolf has endorsed bills that would raise the wage to $10.10 an hour. A Republican bill would increase it to $8.75, but there’s been no action on either proposal.

Price says the longer the budget impasse goes on in Harrisburg, the less likely there will be any minimum wage increase.

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A Time to Build Up: The Campaign to Triple the Capacity of PAIPL—September 9, Harrisburg

From Pennsylvania Interfaith Power and Light (http://www.paipl.org):

  • BUILD UP capacity for education, outreach, and action
  • BUILD UP a predictable, stable financial base
  • BUILD UP grassroots mobilizing and advocacy

September 9, 2015, 1:00–3:00 p.m.

United Church Center Board Room, 900 S. Arlington Ave., Harrisburg, PA

RSVP by registering here: http://tinyurl.com/TimeToBuildUpHBG or email info@paipl.org

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New Ruling Could Give Fast-Food Workers More Power to Unionize

Christian Science Monitor: “A major ruling handed down on Thursday by the US National Labor Relations Board could give unions greater bargaining power by enabling them to negotiate directly with large parent companies like McDonald’s that rely heavily on franchisees and contractors. The board in a 3-2 decision ruled that an existing standard that said companies only qualify as “joint employers” of workers hired by another business if they had “direct and immediate” control over employment matters was outdated and did not reflect the realities of the 21st century workforce. The ruling said parent companies can be held liable for labor violations committed by franchisees and contractors even when they have only indirect control. It is expected to impact a broad range of US industries built on franchising and contract labor, from fast food and hospitality to security and construction.

Read more at http://www.csmonitor.com/Business/2015/0827/New-ruling-could-give-fast-food-workers-more-power-to-unionize.

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Commit to Dismantling Mass Incarceration During the Pope’s Visit—September 26, Philadelphia

From the PICO National Network (http://www.piconetwork.org):

This past June we made the journey to the Vatican in Rome to deliver your stories to Pope Francis. We told him about the realities of our people—stories of economic exclusion, detention, deportation, and the over criminalization of Black and Brown bodies across our country.

We know there is a moral crisis in America today when there are currently over 2.2 million people in our nation’s prisons, jails or immigrant detention centers. Now is the time for us to repent, be reconciled and recommit to fighting injustice in our country.

On September 26th, Pope Francis will be visiting with those who are currently incarcerated in the Curran-Formhold Jail in Philadelphia. As we recognize the power that world-leaders like Pope Francis have to bring a moral challenge to our Congress, our nation’s leaders, and to all of us, we want to stand with the Pope as he comes to visit Philadelphia in September.

As an act of national solidarity to dismantling the evil system of mass incarceration and detention, we ask that you visit your local jail, prison or detention center. Help us to shine the light on profiting from the suffering of our black and brown communities.

Join with us on September 26th as we repent, reconcile and recommit ourselves to dismantling mass incarceration. Stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Philadelphia as we continue the work of righteous resistance. Learn more at http://salsa3.salsalabs.com/o/2115/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=17387.

We want to invite you all to wrestle with the principalities and powers that manifest themselves in mass incarceration via racial prejudice, systemic evil and violence, and religious apathy and complicity.

Below are some ways that you can enter into solidarity with us, in your congregation and community:

  • Commit to visiting a prison in your local area and hosting a prayer vigil outside
  • Use the 3.5 Minutes Curriculum and host a conversation or training with your friends, family, small group, or house meeting
  • Identify and share local stories that we can highlight during the Pope’s visit

Sign up here to host an event on September 26th as we uplift the work of prophetic hope and healing by standing in covenant with the Pope at your local jail.

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