UU Manchester Unitarian Universalist Congregation

Taking a Public Position on a Social Justice Issue

Approved Unanimously by Executive Board / March 7, 2017

Introduction

This policy defines the process of how the UU Manchester minister and members of the congregation could take public stands on important social justice issues. The process could engage the congregation in multiple ways to assess its support for a proposed position.  The final step is Executive Board approval.  Under this policy and where time is of the essence, and where the Executive Board believes broad congregational support is already well known, the Executive Board has the authority to waive the process and vote immediately on the request.  The Minister is also empowered to take public stands at his or her own discretion, as defined within this policy.

Principles and Background

The Unitarian Universalist Church of Manchester, New Hampshire is a religious and spiritual community for which social action is a fundamental expression of our core values and principles. The health and vitality of our congregation depends on creating opportunities for our members to take strong and effective social action.  One of the most effective ways is for the UU Manchester congregation to take a public stand on important social issues. This can take a number of forms, such as:

  • Producing a written statement that is intended to be released publicly such as to a newspaper, posted on social media, or read into the public record at a hearing
  • Having our Minister or Executive Board President sign a petition on behalf of the congregation, or sign a joint statement sponsored by an organization we support
  • Allowing members of our congregation to carry a banner at a demonstration, vigil, or parade that states the UU Manchester Congregation supports the social justice action

Given our principles of honoring independent thought and diverse beliefs, it is anticipated that not all congregants will necessarily agree with a particular request. It is also understood that no congregant would be bound to agree with or act on a public statement by the congregation. Every voice matters and should be heard, while respecting our congregation’s Covenant and any related policies.

The Request

The minister, congregant(s), or committee(s) may prepare a written request for the UU Manchester congregation to take a public position on an important social justice issue.  The request shall include the following:

  • Name(s) of the member(s), committee(s), or group preparing the request
  • A description of the position the UU Manchester congregation is to consider taking on the social justice issue
  • How this request is consistent with:
    • the Principles and Purposes of our UU faith
    • the Mission and Vision of the UU Manchester Congregation
    • the regulations governing 501(c)(3) organizations;
  • List of any Statements of Conscience, Resolutions, or Actions of Immediate Witness passed by the UUA that support this request (refer to a separate section of this policy that describes these documents)
  • Names of at least five (5) UU Manchester members that support this request, including the preparer(s).

The Request shall be submitted to the Social Responsibility committee and/or Minister.

Assessing the Support of the Congregation

The Social Responsibility Committee and/or Minister shall work with the preparers to develop a strategy to assess whether the UU Manchester Congregation will broadly support this request.  At a minimum this assessment shall include the following:

  • The preparers with the support of the Social Responsibility Committee shall conduct a forum where friends and members of UU Manchester can discuss and debate the request.  The forum shall be announced to the congregation at least 14 days before it takes place.  At the end of the forum a straw vote may be taken.  Meeting minutes shall be prepared recapping the forum and noting the number of people who took part, the results of the straw poll, and any disagreement that was expressed.
  • The preparers and the Social Responsibility Committee shall make copies of the request available to all members and friends of UU Manchester, inviting comments to be sent to the Social Responsibility Committee especially from those who could not attend the forum.
  • The Social Responsibility Committee shall meet with the Minister for discussion and theological reflection on the topic.

When the assessment is complete, the Social Responsibility Committee and the preparers shall complete a written report detailing the result of the assessment.  If in the opinion of the Social Responsibility Committee and Minister there is broad support from the congregation for the request, the request and the report shall be submitted to the Executive Board.

Vote on the Request by the Executive Board

The Executive Board shall take up the Request at their next scheduled Executive Board Meeting.  If they approve the request, then it shall become the official position of the UU Manchester Congregation on that social justice issue.  If the Executive Board fails to approve but does not reject a public position, a Congregational Meeting may be called at any time by written or emailed notice to the Executive Board by any ten (10) UU Manchester Members to vote on making the request an official position of UU Manchester. A two-thirds majority vote of a quorum of Members in attendance—a quorum shall be twenty (20) percent of Members—can approve the request to become the official position of the UU Manchester Congregation on that social justice issue or issues.

Action of Immediate Witness for the UU Manchester Congregation

If time is of the essence, the preparer(s) can ask the Social Responsibility Committee to handle the Request as an Action of Immediate Witness and waive the congregational assessment.  If the Social Responsibility Committee and Minister concur that the likelihood of congregational support is almost assured, the Social Responsibility Committee may submit it to the Executive Board for approval on an expedited basis. If the Executive Board approves the request, then it shall become the official position of the UU Manchester Congregation on that social justice issue.  Approval of the Action of Immediate Witness shall then be announced in the next monthly newsletter and for two weeks via the weekly electronic newsletter.

Minister

As an essential aspect of their work, the Minister may wish to associate him- or herself in their ministerial role with a particular activity, policy statement, or call to action. While the Minister may wish to discuss the matter with the appropriate Social Responsibility Committee member or members in advance, the Minister is not required to do so and may identify him- or herself in their official capacity as Minister of the UU Manchester Congregation. We defer to each Minister’s discretion whether or not a disclaimer or qualifying language is appropriate. For example, it may sometimes be appropriate to state that the reference to an official position with UU Manchester is for identification purposes only and/or does not necessarily represent an official position of the Church. The Minister should ordinarily advise the relevant Social Responsibility Committee and/or the Executive Board promptly following their decision to take an action in UU Manchester’s name.

Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations (UUA)

Statements of Conscience, Resolutions and Actions of Immediate Witness

As a Unitarian Universalist congregation, UU Manchester is part of a national movement of UU congregations seeking justice in the world through our Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA).  At our national meeting known as General Assembly, representatives from our congregations develop, debate, and pass Statements of Conscience and Resolutions that inform and support our work for justice globally.  Because these go through a rigorous democratic process over a number of years, they represent official positions we have taken as a faith on important social justice issues.

On pressing social justice issues that demand our immediate attention, Actions of Immediate Witness (AIW) are developed and passed at a single General Assembly and represent the sentiments of the congregational representatives present that year.

UU Manchester members and friends who seek to have UU Manchester take a public position on a social justice issue are encouraged to review UUA statements, resolutions, and Actions of Immediate Witness and use them in support of their request. These can be found on the UUA website at http://www.uua.org/justice.


Taking a Public Stand

Note:  All the referenced UUA statements can be found in full on the uua.org website under Social Justice

Human Rights

Discrimination

There can be no discrimination against any person on the basis of age, sex, gender identity, race, creed, color, marital status, familial status, physical or mentality disability, or national origin in matters of employment, in places of public accommodation, or in housing accommodations.

We are committed to oppose institutional racism which has resulted in:

  • The disproportionate incarceration of members of minorities
  • Instances of excessive use of force by police against minorities
  • The use of For Profit Prisons which have proved to be inferior to government-run prisons in matters of prisoner safety, medical care, nutrition, and rehabilitation services, and which affect minority prisoners disproportionately
  • Laws that permanently disenfranchise felons who have completed their sentences.

We support legislation and groups who work to end institutional racism, such as Black Lives Matter.

Reference:  2000 Statement of Conscience – Economic Injustice, Poverty, and Racism

The Death Penalty

We oppose the imposition of the death penalty.

This has been the position of the UUA since its inception.

Reference:  1974 General Resolution – Death Penalty

Healthcare

Healthcare is a human right.

Every person should have access to affordable healthcare.

Reference:  1992 General Resolution – Universal Health Care

Immigration

A moral immigration policy would include

  • A path to legal permanent residency and citizenship
  • Work Visas that require the same protections applicable to citizens
Reference:  2013 Statement of Conscience – Immigration as a Moral Issue

Democracy

Voting

Voting rights are the foundation of our democracy.

Voting should be easy and convenient for every citizen.

We are opposed to any regulation or practice that imposes barriers to voting on any person or group such as the elderly, the disabled, students, the poor, or minorities.

We believe that on-line registration and same day registration should be permitted, and that federal Election Day should be a national holiday.

Money in Politics

Big money interests have acquired enormous influence over our elections, enabled by recent legal decisions granting personhood to corporations and permitting unlimited anonymous donations.

We support public funding of elections, and legal and constitutional action requiring disclosure of the sources of political contributions.

Economic Justice

Workers are entitled to a livable minimum wage.

Reference: 2000 Statement of Conscience

Workers are entitled to reasonable provisions for time off to provide care for themselves and their families.

Reference: 2000 Statement of Conscience

There should be equal pay for equal work.

Reference: 2000 Statement of Conscience

Social Security

Social Security has provided a secure and dignified living for retirees and the disabled for generations, must be protected and strengthened to keep it viable into the future.

The right of workers to form labor unions to obtain fair wages and safe working conditions must be protected.

Education

Universal public education is a foundation of our democracy.

Every child is entitled to an equitably funded public education.

Reference:  1982 General Resolution – Public Education, Religious Liberty, and the Separation       of Church and State

Environmental Justice

It is the responsibility of the government to provide a safe and healthful environment for all through regulations guaranteeing clean air and water.

Global warming is real and greenhouse gases are contributing to it.

We support government action to limit production of greenhouse gases and to encourage the development of safe sources of renewable energy.

We believe the United States should cooperate with international programs to reduce global warming.

Reference:  1994 General Resolution – Environmental Justice