By Woody Woodrick
Several measures before the Mississippi Legislature have the support of religious leaders who share a common concern for the education and welfare of children.
Congregations for Children held a Jan. 25 news conference at the state Capitol to voice its support of a number of bills that impact the state’s children.
“This is a critical time for children in both houses. Congregations for Children is here to say we will hold lawmakers accountable for doing justice to our children to change these statistics.”
Congregations for Children is an ecumenical group that advocates for children. It is primarily supported by the Mississippi Conference of The United Methodist Church, the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi and the Jackson Diocese of the Roman Catholic Church.
Episcopal Bishop Duncan Gray III said faith groups have a role to play in the making of public policy.
“The question is often asked why the faith communities involve themselves in matters like this,” he said. “Freedom of religion provides for us a place at the table for discussion of public policy. Our faith traditions call us primarily to be the voice of the most vulnerable, weak and broken in our midst; to be the place where God’s spirit interacts with the political realm in such a way that policy is defined and laws are made.”
Gray said the group will not be afraid to enter the debate over public policy or disagree with public officials.
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To that end, Congregations for Children supports full funding of the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, improved teacher salaries, pre-kindergarten programs and a redesign of the state’s high school curriculum.
“It is essential that schools be structured and strengthened so that every child have access to a strong education and nurturing classroom and all that they need to be strengthened as they grow into adults in Mississippi,” Ward said.
She called for support of pre-K programs “so that children will not arrive at kindergarten doorsteps having never held a crayon, having never been read to, having not had the experiences which gives them readiness to learn.”
Bishop Joseph Latino of the Roman Catholic Church said the issues the group supports are issue of justice for children.
“We thank legislators for their deliberations and encourage them to think seriously of how they can avail the resources of this government to make this state not the last statistically in all those things that deal with what we give in response to children but to lift us above that position that we now hold,” he said.
Bills supported by Congregations for Children:
To learn more about these bills or track their progress through the legislature, click here, and then on “Bill Status” or "Bill Status Text Search."