Is it just? Farm Bill requires able-bodied on food stamps to work part-time or get job-training


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NEW FARM BILL REQUIRES WORK FOR FOOD ASSISTANCE: IS IT JUST?

TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, last Thursday, the House of Representatives passed a new farm bill. Now, a lot of people don’t realize it, but the farm bill also includes food stamps or, known by its new name, the SNAP Program.

In the latest version of the bill, passed by the narrowest of margins — 213 to 211 — all Democrats opposed the bill and the reason why, Harry, is many say they oppose it is because there are new work requirements in this bill. The measure requires participants to work 20 hours per week or enroll in job training if they’re going to pick up what was traditionally known as food stamps. Now, there are exceptions for this for those that are disabled, for youth and other exemptions that would allow some people to get around these requirements.

Harry, my question for you is this: what is the Biblical approach to assistance, what is the Biblical approach to work and how do these two come together?

DR. REEDER: Tom, given the fact that they had the appropriate exemptions — if someone is disabled, unable to work or underage to work and is in need of the assistance — given those exemptions, the fact that you have a bill that is encouraging people to go to work at least 20 hours, part-time, or to be enrolled in a job training or job search process, I find that extraordinarily appropriate and good governing. It astounds me that almost one-half of the Congress would vote against that.

There must be something I am not seeing, but we’ve gone over this bill and the exemptions are there to take care of those who are incapable of work and the fact that you are trying to get people engaged in the workforce is a positive because work is not punishment and work is not something to avoid, but work is something to embrace.

THE IMPORTANCE OF WORKING FOR YOURSELF IS LONG-KNOWN

I remember the comments — I won’t name who, but three personages out of the Civil War — and one of the critiques of slavery that all three of these leaders had was that it was built upon the false assumption that happiness is found in oppressing and forcing and impressing other people to do work for you.

You say, well, what about hiring people? Yeah, you hire people to create work — you don’t hire people to do work for you, but you hire people to create work for them but you’re still supposed to be working. That’s why you can hire somebody because you can now pay them.

WORK WAS GIVEN BY GOD BUT THWARTED BY SIN

All of this is predicated upon the fact that work is not a part of the curse and work is not something to avoid, but work was built right into the creation week when Adam and Eve were made and God gave them what we call a “creation mandate” to subdue the earth — that’s work — rule over the creatures and the creation — stewardship of God’s creation, the home he made for us, that’s work — and then, of course, to be fruitful and multiply and that’ll lead to work when you start raising children. Work is good.

Now, the curse of sin brought frustration, sweat, thorns, briars and complexity, and consequences of the curse of sin upon work but work is not a curse. There is the curse of sinful consequences within work, but it is not work that is the curse. That’s something good. It contributes to self-respect, it contributes to creation of wealth, it contributes for others as it creates jobs for other people when you do a job and you do it rightly. It also contributes not only to your self-respect to your self-engagement and appropriate view of self-esteem that you’re made in the image of God and not only can you work, but you can work with purpose.

WORK CAN (AND SHOULD) BE WORSHIP

And then, ultimately, with the Gospel, we can teach people to do work as worship. You know, work as worship gave rise to a statement in our society called “professional.” What does the word professional mean in its origins out of the Reformation? Well, here was the notion that Calvin, Luther, Knox and others said this: all work is sacred if it is worthwhile work and done worthwhile. And work is a subset of worship — an instrument of worship. Do your work heartily unto the Lord. Therefore, the way you work becomes a profession of your faith so do it with excellence.

“Oh, that guy’s a professional,” meaning he does it with excellence. And when you say to someone, “He’s a professional. He does it with excellence,” that was a compliment out of the Reformation meaning his work honored the Lord and it was an act of worship. “Whether you eat, drink or whatsoever you do, you do them to the glory of God to honor him.” That is something that is of excellence.

Therefore, the bill, I applaud its promotion of work. I also applaud the fact that we have a mechanism of mercy for those who can’t work or those who are in the process of finding work and are demonstrating that process.

IN ANCIENT ISRAEL, A SIMILAR SYSTEM WAS IN PLACE

That is exactly what was happening in Israel. In Israel, if someone was unable to own land and harvest a crop to take care of themselves and to feed themselves and others, then Israel had three definite steps available for them.

The first step, if you owned land, you were called to obey this commandment from the Lord, “Leave the gleanings.” What does that mean, leave the gleanings? Well, that means, when you’re bundling up your harvest, whenever you bundle something, something’s going to fall out. Count that as the providence of God for people who don’t have land or maybe who are not capable of planting and harvesting but they can come out and pick up the gleanings. Notice they are unable to do full work, but they can do some work. They can’t plant and harvest — they don’t have strength or the ability to do that — but they could pick up gleanings. Therefore, you don’t just go hand it to them, but you leave it on the ground so they can pick it up and actually do some work even though mercy is being provided.

Another thing that was stated is, when you harvest, leave the corners of your field — don’t harvest the corners. Well, there are some people who don’t own land and they can’t plant and they can’t do a full harvest, but they could harvest a corner so leave that corner and let them harvest — see, they’re doing some work. You have made a provision for them because they’re incapable of doing the full work so you’ve made the provision for them.

And then the third thing that they would do is you would always have a relative who could be a kinsman redeemer who could take care of someone who could not provide for themselves so the kinsman redeemer was there. Now, by the way, also, the refuge cities were a place that they could flee to until they could “get back on their feet” as well.

Notice how all of the mercy provisions made also a provision for the blessing of work and the blessings that come from work. If someone was incapable of any work, get to the temple or someone could go to the temple for you and the priest had the storehouses from which they could administer to those incapable of work. Go and place yourself at the temple and people would give alms of mercy to you as well.

There were multiple ways to help those who could not work at all but the primary means of helping people was not simply to give them something, but to create a way for them to work. Avoiding of work is a pagan virtue, not a Christian virtue.

CHRISTIANS TURN A CREATION MANDATE INTO A REDEMPTION MANDATE

Christians embrace work as a creation mandate and, because of redemption, they change the creation mandate into a redemption mandate and make work an act of worship so that they do their work heartily unto the Lord and not only create jobs for others by the way they work but take what they have and make sure they’re providing for others in their family and beyond through the tithe, and the offerings, and the alms gifts and creating jobs for people.

How can we not only give if they are incapable of work but how can we create some work and use that as a transition in their life as they move into a full-time vocation through training or applications for jobs? I see this as a wonderful and positive bill because it responds to people in distress but it responds by encouraging and facilitating the blessing and virtues of work, not avoiding it or counting work as a curse.

AND ALWAYS REMEMBER THE DIVINE WORK CHRIST HAS DONE FOR US

Praise God for the work that Jesus did. Here we are in need of mercy and what did He do? He shows us mercy by going to work and then He does a work for us to save us. Then He works in us so that we can now work, not for our salvation, but we can work for our Savior in every arena of life.

Dr. Harry L. Reeder III is the Senior Pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham.

This podcast was transcribed by Jessica Havin, editorial assistant for Yellowhammer News, who has transcribed some of the top podcasts in the country and whose work has been featured in a New York Times Bestseller.

 

Ledbetter: Alabama’s teachers are standing tall with return to classroom instruction

All of the personality traits, values and life lessons that we carry with us as adults were shaped and instilled in us by the people we encountered in childhood. For many, the strongest influences came from our schoolteachers, who opened new worlds of knowledge and taught us skills that remain with us today.

Consider for a moment the music teacher who taught you to play an instrument, the math teacher who led you to a love of numbers, the history teacher who brought to life the stories of our nation’s past, or the English teacher who inspired you to love great literature.

Teaching is one of the few professions whose impact continues to last for decades after the individual who does the job retires.

As many children across Alabama are preparing to return to school even while the coronavirus pandemic continues, teachers have never been more important or vital or deserving of our deepest appreciation.

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Returning to brick-and-mortar school instruction will, hopefully, restore a sense of normalcy to our children’s lives in these decidedly abnormal times.

A return to the classroom and even resuming the online instruction that some are adopting will also help our students maintain their education progress and continue the important social and emotional development that interaction with their peers and instructors allows.

Our English second language learners will receive the communication skills they need in order to better assimilate, and many low-income students will receive the healthy nourishment from the school lunch program that might be denied them at home.

Given the current circumstances and environment, I recognize that some of our public school employees may have a sense of trepidation about returning to school, and that is certainly understandable. Wearing a face mask to do something as simple as shopping for groceries, paying for gas or walking into a restaurant offers all of us a constant reminder that COVID-19 is a very contagious virus.

But our teachers and educators are setting their concerns aside and answering the call to duty.

I know that Gov. Kay Ivey, State Superintendent Eric Mackey and the staff of the Alabama Department of Education took great care in developing the “Roadmap to Reopening Alabama Schools,” and local school boards are being equally diligent in creating and implementing their own safety guidelines.

The importance of sanitization will be stressed more than ever before, and billions of dollars made available to Alabama through the federal CARES Act will help ensure that any resources that are needed to reopen schools safely will be readily available.

As the majority leader of the Alabama House, I can also offer assurances that the legislature stands ready to pass legislation or make appropriations that are necessary to ease the return to classroom instruction once we are in session.

The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted an even deeper appreciation of the frontline heroes who have remained on the job and provided the most essential services throughout the crisis.

Doctors and nurses in our hospitals and health clinics; grocery store and other retail employees; law enforcement officers, emergency workers and firefighters; postal workers; sanitation workers; restaurant personnel; and those in dozens of other professions are among those who continued working even when times were their toughest.

I am proud to say that the teachers, school nurses, administrators and support personnel in Alabama’s schools also rank high upon the list of those who have stood tall, and their already invaluable service to our state is even more important to students and parents in each of our cities, towns and crossroads today.

Helen Keller, one of Alabama’s most inspirational figures, once said, “It was my teacher’s genius, her quick sympathy, her loving tact which made the first years of my education so beautiful. It was because she seized the right moment to impart knowledge that made it so pleasant and acceptable to me.”

As I close by wishing everyone a safe, happy and healthy school year, we would all do well to keep Helen Keller’s words in mind.

State Rep. Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville) serves as majority leader in the Alabama House of Representatives

5 hours ago

Alabama Ag Commissioner Pate gives update on unsolicited seed packages from China, urges public to stay ‘vigilant’

MONTGOMERY — Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries (ADAI) Commissioner Rick Pate gave an update Monday afternoon on the spate of seed packets from China that people across Alabama have received in recent weeks despite never having ordered anything.

Pate said that after the state seed labs had performed tests on the packets they had collected from individuals across Alabama, and none of them proved to be dangerous.

“Right at 50% of them proved be some kind of weed flower … 41% were vegetables, and 9% were herbs … we found no noxious compounds, no dangerous compounds,” said Pate at the event.

However, he warned, “They might send out the first seeds that weren’t treated with anything, have a sense of security come about, and then later send something out that could be harmful.”

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The commissioner further urged members of the public to refrain from planting any unsolicited seeds and continue to report them to the Department.

“At the very least something criminal has gone on here,” stated Pate, referencing laws that prevent seeds from being moved across state lines without being inspected by the relevant agencies.

Pate said his department had collected 252 seed samples as of Monday morning.

A total of 385 individuals in all but 11 of Alabama’s 67 counties have received one of the packets, according to information relayed at the press conference. State workers will be collecting the remaining samples soon.

(AL. Dept. of Ag/Contributed)

“Because we’ve got such a good food and drug lab, because we’ve got such a good seed lab, we knew this was inside of our comfort zone,” Pate said of the decision to conduct the seed tests in-house as opposed to shipping them to the federal government.

Andy Tipton, division director of Food Safety and Ag Compliance, said that 25 states had reported similar seed packets showing up at consumers’ doorsteps. He added that the ADAI was turning over all relevant info to the FBI, who were monitoring the situation.

Pate further told Yellowhammer News that one of the prevailing theories remained that the cause was an internet seller running a scam to artificially inflate their customer numbers and create opportunities for fake reviews.

He ended his press conference saying, “We have no idea the reason for this happening, but it doesn’t mean we can stop being vigilant.”

Any Alabamian still receiving one of the packets can report it here.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95

6 hours ago

Alabama basketball star John Petty returning for senior season

University of Alabama star forward John Petty, Jr. will return for his senior season, the player announced on Monday.

The Huntsville native was a second-team All-SEC honoree this past season, after leading the Southeastern Conference in three-point percentage.

Petty was considering entering the 2020 NBA Draft, however he decided to return for a final season in Tuscaloosa after evaluating his prospects. Another college season could see Petty lock down his chance at being a first-round pick.

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Tide head coach Nate Oats released a statement on Monday afternoon celebrating Petty’s return.

“It’s great to have John back for his senior year,” Oats said. “He is certainly one of the best, if not the best, shooters in the country which is extremely important to us with how we play.”

“He’s made it clear that it’s his goal to become a first round pick in the 2021 NBA Draft and we’re going to work with him to make sure he’s in the best position to reach that goal. Let’s get to work!” the coach concluded.

Follow along with the Bama men’s basketball program here.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

6 hours ago

State of Alabama, University of Alabama System officials unveil GuideSafe app aiming to keep schools virus-free

Key figures from Alabama’s government and university systems joined to announced the new GuideSafe platform that bills itself as the key for students to safely return to college campuses amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The GuideSafe platform will help the state fulfill its promise to test every single college student before they return to campus, and the platform will provide a space for ongoing health monitoring throughout the semester.

The unveiling took place over videoconference, where State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris, University of Alabama System Chancellor Finis “Fess” St. John and other key players detailed the importance of GuideSafe to the upcoming semester.

GuideSafe was developed by the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) in conjunction with the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) and tech company MotionMobs. It will be provided to any educational institution in the state that wishes to use it.

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Governor Kay Ivey apportioned some of Alabama’s CARES Act funds for the development of GuideSafe and the universal free testing for college students.

St. John on Monday praised Ivey’s “decisive action to provide funding” for the testing initiative and other campus reopening measures.

(Click for higher resolution version that will open in new tab)

GuideSafe will be accessible via app on smartphones and tablets and via web browser on any computer. Students will be invited to join the platform in the coming weeks.

One of the key features of the GuideSafe app is that it will track the location of students via smartphone and then inform them if they have come into contact with someone who has tested positive for the coronavirus.

“This new app – using Google- and Apple-led technology and created by UAB faculty, staff and MotionMobs for the people of Alabama – is a necessary tool in our effort to return to college campuses safely this fall,” said UAB President Ray Watts.

The app also allows students and faculty to report symptoms as they experience them, and get directed to a nearby testing site if necessary.

“The combination of these tools enables every participating college, university and K-12 school to engage faculty, students and staff regarding on-going monitoring of symptoms, exposure and risks of acquiring COVID-19,” said Sue Feldman, professor and director of graduate programs in health informatics at UAB.

A general factsheet on GuideSafe is available here.

Watch:

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95

6 hours ago

Trump fires TVA board chair after outsourcing uproar

President Donald Trump on Monday announced that he was removing the Tennessee Valley Authority’s board chairman, Skip Thompson, an Alabamian.

Thompson, a resident of Decatur, is the president and CEO of Corporate Billing, a subsidiary of Birmingham-based National Bank of Commerce. He previously served as the president and CEO of both First American Bank in Decatur and First Commercial Bank in Huntsville, as well as serving on the board of Decatur Utilities.

Trump appointed Thompson to the TVA board in 2018. He was elected chairman of the board last year.

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The president on Monday cited TVA’s plan to outsource information technology jobs overseas as the reason for firing Thompson and one other board member. Trump warned the other board members that they would be next if the outsourcing continued. The president also called on them to replace the organization’s CEO, who Trump said was making far too much money.

The president added, “Let this serve as a warning to any federally appointed board: If you betray American workers, you will hear two words: ‘You’re fired.’”

The TVA is the electricity provider for much of North Alabama. Self-described as “a corporate agency of the United States,” it is regulated at the federal level and not under the jurisdiction of the Alabama Public Service Commission.

Congressman Mo Brooks (AL-05) applauded Trump’s move on Monday.

“TVA fires AMERICANS & hires cheap foreign labor,” the North Alabama congressman tweeted. “TVA executive salaries EXORBITANT. TVA=NO competition, unlike private sector execs who compete to earn profits to earn pay… WAY TO GO [President Trump]!”

RELATED: Doug Jones: ‘The TVA has lost its way’

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn