A few weeks ago, Donna Quinn of the National Coalition of American Nuns (NCAN) asked me to help spread the word that their coalition of more than 2000 Roman Catholic sisters had endorsed the requirement in the Affordable Care Act that birth control be included as a basic health care service for women. Because of their faith, the NCAN wrote that they believe “that women should not be singled out by any organization or group through its refusal to insure a woman’s reproductive needs.”
The nuns are speaking out just as those on the right want us to believe that birth control use is immoral. On March 25, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court will be hearing two cases where company owners who don’t personally support contraception are denying their employees insurance coverage for birth control as mandated by the Affordable Care Act. The lawyers for these private corporations go so far as to call birth control use sinful and immoral. To make it worse, the owners are claiming that including contraceptives in health care violates their company’s religious freedom.
Sister Donna and the nuns at NCAN know differently, and they’re bravely standing up to their hierarchy. But they need us as Unitarian Universalists to stand with them — to say that as people of faith we support universal access to contraception. Sign the petition here and then help gather more support by sharing via social media.
Unitarian Universalists have a longstanding commitment to women’s moral agency and reproductive justice. We believe women should be able to make personal decisions about their families, their bodies, their sexuality, and their health. It is precisely because life is sacred that we support the intentional and moral use of contraception.
We know that religious freedom means that each person has the right to exercise their own religious beliefs; religious freedom cannot mean that an individual or a corporation gets to impose their religious beliefs on their employees. We know that millions of people of faith agree with Donna Quinn and the nuns of NCAN that “We support women as moral agents able to make the right choices for their own bodies.”
Please join the Religious Institute and the nuns to stand on the side of love for women, birth control, and real religious freedom. Sign the petition here.
If you can come to Washington, DC on March 25, join us at the Supreme Court for a faith rally to demonstrate that people of faith support birth control and true religious liberty. I would love to see a sea of yellow Standing on the Side of Love shirts and hats at the Court that morning. RSVP here for details.
Rev. Debra W. Haffner
President, Religious Institute
The Religious Institute is a multifaith nonprofit organization that advocates for sexual health, education, and justice in America’s faith communities, cofounded and directed by Unitarian Universalist minister Rev. Debra W. Haffner. To find out more and join its mailing list, go to www.religiousinstitute.org or like us on Facebook.More >
Today is March Forth! Here at the SSL Campaign HQ, we will be fasting for 24 hours as part of our commitment to take action today along with the United Church of Christ(UCC) and our partners at the Fast for Families. And while we are fasting, we will be letting Congress know why: the time to take action and pass immigration reform is now! We just updated our resource page on immigration: click here for new materials and ways to take action today.
Read below for a beautiful reflection and prayer from Rev. Susan Frederick Gray in Arizona, who recently spoke with Fasters when they made a stop in Phoenix this past Sunday. After reading Rev. Susan’s message, call Congress today at (202) 224-3121. Click here for a sample script and more.
Fast for Families: A Reflection and Prayer
It is time to act! It is time to fast! It is time strengthen the demand for humane immigration reform. It’s time to end the system of mass detention and deportation.
Too often in the conversation about immigration, people talk about the rule of law. But the truth is what we have in this country, affecting millions of people is a failure of law.
Our immigration system is broken. As a result it is everyday breaking up families, inflicting untold suffering and fear, even death. It is a broken system that has for generations exploited immigrants and their families.
Over 1,000 people are deported every single day in this country. Children losing their parents, parents losing their spouses. No one who has not been through it can imagine the pain, the suffering, the heartbreak. It is a failure on the part of our leaders, on the part of Congress and of the President to hear the cries of the people. It is unjust. It is wrong. It is morally indefensible. Morally indefensible – this means that no one could stand before God, could stand before Love, and justify this system. The family is the foundation of human goodness, of human community, and it is families that this system tears apart.
For generations, this nation has demanded and benefited from the hard work of millions of immigrants, yet refused to create enough legal pathways to these jobs. The system is broken – designed to take advantage of workers, of immigrants, while refusing to acknowledge their humanity. And now we criminalize these same workers, these men and women, and their children.
We see the painful effects of these policies and the refusal of our politicians to act. For too long this issue has been used as a political tool, a way to win elections, an issue full of rhetoric, full of blame, full of promises that remain unfulfilled. It must not continue. But it will continue until we create the political and moral pressure to force our leaders to act. They will not act unless they are compelled to do so.
Power never gives up without a demand. We must continue to build coalition, to bring our friends and our neighbors and our families to this struggle. We must continue to build power and pressure and the moral dilemmas that will force action.
I pray for all of those in this struggle. I pray for all who hunger for justice. Who dream of a day where we might all be free, where equality and human dignity – where freedom and justice will no longer be mere words, mere empty rhetoric, but the law and the spirit of the land.
I want to end with a prayer. Spirit of Life, Most Holy God – Lover of Justice and Truth, be with all of us here today – and all those across this land who are doing what they can to bring a great change to our nation. Give us courage, because we need it. Give us strength, because we need it. Give us the power to tear down the border around our hearts, the militarized borders around our nations. In our actions, in our fasts, in our prayers – help us bring to light the injustices, the indignity of what is happening, and the suffering that is hurting so many families. May the hearts of our leaders be opened, may their eyes see the truth, may all ears hear the cries of the people. And may all hearts be broken open by its truth, so that all hands might work together to bring an end to this terrible injustice.
May not one more family divided. Not one more young person denied her dreams. No more detentions. No more deportations. Let us pass Comprehensive and humane immigration reform. Let us act, let us pray, let us fast – until this day comes. God give us courage because we need it. God give us strength because we need it. May God give us the power to break down once and for all these walls, these borders around our hearts, and may one day we all be free. May it be so. Amen.
Rev. Susan Frederick-GrayMore >
Today, light a chalice or take a moment to reflect, plan, and act on how we can support immigration reform as individuals and as a larger community. Families continue to be torn apart by our broken immigration system. Below see a reflection by Nora Rasman, Campaign Coordinator, Standing on the Side of Love. How will you Stand on the Side of Love?
I just returned from the United We Dream 2014 Congress in Phoenix, AZ. United We Dream is the ‘largest immigrant youth-led network,’ comprised of dozens of organizations working for local and national immigration reform. The event was attended by over 500 Dreamers and included plenary sessions, break out workshops and caucuses, and an action where hundreds of Dreamers marched to the Phoenix ICE office to call for an immediate halt to deportations, support local hunger strikers, expand access to driver’s licenses, and in support of human rights. I am eager to watch and support the exciting and brave organizing of UWD. Here are a few of my lessons learned:
Let creativity lead: I was excited by the varied and innovative ways folks organized events and spaces throughout the UWD Congress. During Saturday’s action, attendees each wrote a dream on a white balloon. The balloons followed us to the action and were released in unison. The walls of the plenary hall were covered in art created during the weekend: art with specific messages and demands as well as more abstract political imagery. Each morning opened with an optional yoga or dance class to keep participants moving and get energized for the day ahead. The creativity throughout the UWD Congress pushed me to get creative and past any “business as usual.”
Listen: The stories shared throughout the weekend were powerful, painful, and transformational. Each speaker came with clear needs of ways their community and organizations can be best supported. We can benefit from taking time to listen and learning how we can lovingly engage from where we enter.
Search for nuance: Our deeply polarized conversations can make it hard to find common ground with our opponents. I am energized to stand on the side of love by engaging lovingly with people across political difference.
The time is now: The violent and dehumanizing impact of deportation on individuals, families, and communities was a central theme of the UWD Congress. Sign this petition to stand with detainees and their families on hunger strike calling for their release and the end to all deportations. Click here for more information on the #Not1More campaign.
We have much work to do: The day before we arrived, SB1062 passed the Arizona state legislature. The law would have allowed businesses to use religion to discriminate against serving people based on their perceived sexuality, gender identity, and gender expression. The UWD Congress participants wove protest against SB1062 widely into their content and action talking points. The Queer Undocumented Immigrant Project (QUIP), a project of UWD, had a strong presence and addressed the ways undocumented LGBTQI folks will be disproportionately targeted by the new law. Late Wednesday, February 26, 2014, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer vetoed SB1062. Our work continues with similar religious freedom bills being proposed in many states across the country.
All the love,
Nora Rasman, Campaign Coordinator
Standing on the Side of Love
Each year in this country, people living with disabilities are murdered by their family or caregivers, with 2 more last month alone. Please bring witness on the side of love on the National Day of Mourning this Saturday, March 1, 2014 to remember those who have passed away.
The first annual Day of Mourning in 2012 was a response to the murder of George Hodgins and the public reaction to his death. As is so often the case, media attention focused on justification for the murderer, his mother, because she was burdened with a disabled family member. George’s life was erased in the process.
Too often, when a person with a disability is murdered, people act as though their life had no value.
It is time to change this.
Nothing counteracts dehumanization and violence better than LOVE.
If you can attend a vigil on Saturday, March 1, 2014 for the Disability National Day of Mourning, please come! Wear an SSL shirt, carry an SSL sign. Show the world that these lives matter. Your witness is needed. Click here to see a list of vigil sites. There’s also a virtual vigil. These vigils are organized under the auspices of the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network.
If you can’t attend a vigil this year, consider following the conversation on Twitter or Facebook with the hashtag #DayofMourning. Please do what you can to shift the conversation about the worth and dignity of the lives of people living with disabilities. Together, we can make a difference. Thanks!
President, EqUUal Access
To find out more about the National Day of Mourning, review these resources: Statement on the White House blog about the importance of the Day of Mourning, ASAN Statement on the murder of Jaelen and Faith Edge, and the Advocacy Monitor, a project of the National Council on Independent Living.More >
Blog Series: From North Carolina to Your Home State
On Feb. 8, 2014, between 1,000 – 1,500 UUs from across the country joined partners in Raleigh, NC, to witness in solidarity at the Mass Moral March, spearheaded by the North Carolina NAACP. Together, we learned about the many interconnected justice issues at stake in their state and how this has led to a Fusion Coalition focused on a 14 Point Agenda to bring North Carolina “Forward Together.” Throughout the coming year, the Unitarian Universalist Association and the Standing on the Side of Love Campaign will focus on voter suppression—an issue that impacts so many people and is thus at the core of the struggle in North Carolina. In this election year, UUs across the country will be learning more about what we can do ensure all people have voting rights, especially after the Supreme Court gutted key parts of the Voting Rights Act.
This blog post is the first in a series that will build upon our collective energy after our gathering in Raleigh, focusing especially on how we will bring this back to our home states. Several states in the South have similar initiatives, modeled after the movement in North Carolina, including South Carolina and Georgia. Below we hear from Rev. Marti Keller, an Affiliated Community Minister with the UU Women’s Federation, who shares her experiences with the Moral Mondays movement in her state of Georgia.
Leaping from Our Spheres
I first met Monica Simpson a year ago for lunch at a Panera café in Atlanta, over black bean soup and salads. I was excited to be with her as we planned for a Sunday morning sermon she would be delivering at my then congregation. Her sermon would be especially timely following the selection of Reproductive Justice as the UUA’s Congregational Study/Action issue over the next several years and the role her Atlanta-based organization, Sistersong, had played and will play in redefining and expanding our work in this arena. Monica is the executive director of this collective that was formed in 1997 to educate women of color and policymakers on reproductive and sexual health and rights, a catalyst for and partner in the UUA’s work in this arena.
Monica and I found each other again: in Washington, DC, during a national gathering of We Belong Together, a network of women’s groups working for fair and comprehensive immigration reform, shining the light on the plight of undocumented mothers separated from their children and other injustices under the existing system. We walked the long halls of the Senate and House office buildings together.
A few weeks ago we both showed up for the first Moral Monday in Georgia, modelled after weekly demonstrations in North Carolina last year (and the nationally publicized mass Moral March that happened in Raleigh on February 8). The initial Atlanta gathering—and the next one—focused on Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, which if adopted in all states could provide coverage for an additional 4.5 million lower-income women. Georgia is one of the states whose governor has refused to participate.
Monica was not only present, she was front and center, one of the lead speakers at the rally, which attracted around 200 people who stood in a freezing hard rain. I caught up with her by phone to talk about the link between the Moral Monday movement and the reproductive justice work that the Unitarian Universalist Women’s Federation and the UUA share with Sistersong.
The connection is “a huge deal,” she said unhesitatingly. “The communities where this expansion is most important are communities of color.”
Federally subsidized healthcare not only impacts women’s ability to care for our own bodies, it also impacts a woman’s right to parent children in healthy and sustainable ways, Monica noted.
While access to healthcare has been highlighted in Georgia’s Moral Mondays, in North Carolina the current focus has been on voter ID laws, asking for repeal of measures passed there that have discouraged and disenfranchised people of color and young people, the primary constituents of and advocates for the services, rights, and conditions necessary for fully realizing reproductive justice.
The larger stage, the number of groups, and the energy of Moral Mondays will only strengthen and magnify this effort.
Rev. Marti Keller
Affiliated Community MinisterMore >