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There Are Some Asks You Simply Cannot Ignore

1 Comment | Share On Facebook| There Are Some Asks You Simply Cannot Ignore Share/Save/Bookmark Sep 18, 2013
Rev. Wendy von Zirpolo is arrested by a police officer in an act of civil disobedience.

Post author Unitarian Universalist Rev. Wendy von Zirpolo is arrested in an act of civil disobedience. (Credit: Sidney Traynham, Church World Service)

Last Thursday, I was privileged to join over 100 women—20 of whom are undocumented immigrants—in an act of civil disobedience on Capitol Hill organized by the We Belong Together campaign. We blockaded the intersection outside the House of Representatives, calling them to pass compassionate immigration reform that treats women and children fairly, with hundreds more people standing by to support us. Before we were arrested, I helped lead the group in an oath recommitting to work for immigration reform as one of several faith leaders, including Sandy Sorensen of the United Church of Christ and Sammie Moshenberg of the National Council of Jewish Women.

The decision to risk arrest was easy on every level. As a citizen, my soul weeps at the horrific acts of dehumanization we inflict upon immigrants and citizens of color in the name of patriotism. As a mother, my heart breaks knowing how many of those impacted are children. As a religious leader, I am called to put my faith into action and my body literally on the line to say “not one more death or deportation.” We must achieve compassionate immigration reform. We cannot allow other important issues to distract us or delay that reform. The collective soul of our nation and our people is at stake. My prayer is that our leaders take quite seriously the urgency involved and get busy paving a fair and compassionate pathway to citizenship. One that honors families and protects the most vulnerable among us—our children.

For me, last week’s action was particularly important because of the focus on families. The image of families being broken apart was what helped me see migrant justice as a human rights issue in the first place. I’ll never forget the experience of marching with families protesting Arizona’s SB 1070 in 2010. It helped me understand who is really impacted by our current system and practices around immigration and detention. My hope in participating in this action was that more and more people join us in that understanding.

We Belong Together civil disobedience

100 women block an intersection outside the U.S. House of Representatives and call for compassionate immigration reform. (Credit: Sidney Traynham, Church World Service)

When I was first asked to participate in this action, I rapidly replied “yes” and signed up. I was pleased to be able to lend my body, mind, and spirit to what is surely one of the most important civil rights struggles of our day. I had assumed the event was in nearby Boston—it was only after I registered that I realized it was all the way in Washington, DC! That took a bit more doing. With commitments on either side of the day of the action, attending suddenly turned into a heavy lift and perhaps just not possible.

As I drafted my regrets, another email arrived—an email that shared the list of speakers, including an 11 year-old daughter of an undocumented parent, and the fact that over 20 undocumented women were risking arrest. As a white, well-aged woman who continues to benefit from our dominant systems, I knew I would fare well in any arrest. The “price” of participation would be primarily in travel. That the majority of the 100 were Latina and nearly one fourth were undocumented spoke miles. The decision quickly became one about the price of not participating. What does it mean when we leave the heavy-lifting, the inconvenient, and the dangerous to those already at great risk in our society? What does it say when we let questions like “is it worth it?” and “will it matter?” enter into our discernment? What does it say about our commitment when we look at this as “our work” rather than “our lives?” There are some “asks” you simply cannot ignore.


Rev. Wendy von Zirpolo is the minister at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Marblehead, Massachusetts. Rev. Wendy is a committed social justice activist and was previously arrested in an act of civil disobedience during the July 2010 protests of Arizona’s SB 1070 and inhumane treatment at the Maricopa County Jail. She also serves as the Co-Chair of the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Journey Towards Wholeness Transformation Committee.

For more information on last week’s civil disobedience action, check out the media round-up from the We Belong Together campaign.

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Ask Your Senators to End Employment Discrimination

No Comments | Share On Facebook| Ask Your Senators to End Employment Discrimination Share/Save/Bookmark Sep 17, 2013

Sept. 17: FaithsCalling to End Employment Discrimination, faithscalling.orgToday, people of all faiths will be calling their Senators to advocate for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a bill that would prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ people in the workplace.

Will you add your voice to the chorus and call your Senators today? Simply dial 1-888-897-0174 and say that you support ENDA. When you dial in, you’ll hear a brief recording and be automatically connected to your Senator’s office. You can also receive updates on the campaign by texting “faithscalling” to 877-877. Click here to learn more.

As a Jew, I believe that all people are created in the in the image of God. This is not unlike your commitment to affirming the inherent worth and dignity of all people. In 29 states, it remains legal to fire, refuse to hire, or fail to promote an employee based on sexual orientation, and in 33 states, based on gender identity. We must raise our voices together as people of faith and speak out against this injustice.

The High Holidays are a time when Jews examine the commitments we have made to each other and to ourselves—both the ones we have lived up to and the places where we’ve fallen short. The sounding of the shofar at the end of Yom Kippur serves as our personal and communal call to action to strive for justice and equality for all. There could not be a better time to reaffirm our support for the rights of all and call for essential legislation like ENDA.

Today is the day to take action for ENDA and your voice is critical. Will you join me and call 1-888-897-0174?

In faith,

Rachel Laser Portrait

Rachel Laser
Deputy Director
Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism


The message above went out on Tuesday, September 17, 2013 to Standing on the Side of Love supporters. You can sign-up for these emails here.

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First Look! The Third Annual Thirty Days of Love

No Comments | Share On Facebook| First Look! The Third Annual Thirty Days of Love Share/Save/Bookmark Sep 10, 2013

For the past two years, we have committed to a period of intentional action, service, education, and reflection called the Thirty Days of Love. During this time, folks all across the country (and even the world!) have spread love and justice in truly inspiring ways.

In 2014, our third annual spiritual journey for social justice will run from January 18 through February 16 and focus on four weekly themes:

Week One: Living the Dream

Sunday, Jan. 19: Suggested worship service themes include honoring Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and recommitting to racial justice work.

What to Expect: Kick off the week with MLK Day and set aside time for congregational self-examination and reflection. Look for resources on furthering your racial justice work.

Week Two: Sharing Our Stories

Sunday, Jan. 26: Suggested worship service themes include exploring your community’s “Story of Self, Us, & Now” and using stories to make the invisible visible.

What to Expect: Resources for telling your own story as well as stories from past and present social justice heroes. Help us envision what our stories will be in the future and how we can get to that place.

Week Three: Building Bridges of Love

Sunday, Feb. 2: Suggested worship service themes include “where is your radical love?” We encourage you to give out Courageous Love Awards and focus on the idea of radical inclusion.

What to Expect: A chance for us to reach out past walls, barriers, or borders and engage in places we don’t usually go. Look for ideas on putting together service projects, interfaith exchanges, and community dinners.

Week Four: Pause, Reflect, Celebrate!

Sunday, Feb. 9: Celebrate love–what justice victories does your community have to celebrate this year? This could be anything from a new anti-discrimination ordinance to an emerging partnership with an immigrant justice organization to the opening of a new LGBTQ youth center.

What to Expect: Since our campaign kicked off in 2009, we have helped achieve marriage equality in 13 states and DC. These are HUGE victories! Plus, the SSL campaign turns five years old in 2014. Look for inspiration on lifting up these milestones in your community.

On February 16, we invite you to end the Thirty Days of Love with Share the Love Sunday, a chance for your congregation to give back and help support our social justice work.

We hope that you will start to think about how you can lift up these weekly themes in your congregation or community. Over the course of the next several months, we will be sharing more information on our plans for the third annual Thirty Days of Love. Bookmark our Thirty Days 2014 webpage today so you will always have the most current resources at your fingertips!

I can’t wait to embark on this spiritual journey for social justice with you.

In faith,

Meredith Lukow
Program Assistant
Standing on the Side of Love


The message above went out on Tuesday, September 10, 2013 to Standing on the Side of Love supporters. You can sign-up for these emails here.

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Join the Interfaith Fast Action for Immigration Reform

No Comments | Share On Facebook| Join the Interfaith Fast Action for Immigration Reform Share/Save/Bookmark Sep 05, 2013

All summer long, you have been standing on the side of love with immigrant families. From California to Florida to New York (where Rev. Susan Karlson recently got arrested to raise awareness about the dire need for immigration reform), you are putting your faith in action!

Now, with Congress returning from their August Recess next week, we must escalate our work for immigrant justice. There will be many ways to plug into over the next few months and we’ve just revamped our resources page. Click here to learn more and get involved.

We are also really excited to announce that Standing on the Side of Love is joining with the Interfaith Immigration Coalition in a rolling Fast Action for Immigration Reform during the month of September.

Imagine hundreds of thousands of people of different faiths fasting and praying together in an act of solidarity and hope. Join us for a spiritual fast that will enable us to take on some of the suffering of our broken immigration system and focus more clearly on reflection and action for change. Demonstrate your solidarity with immigrant communities by fasting for just one meal, a day, or every week, or you can fast by abstaining from caffeine or social media or whatever would be spiritually important to you. All our denominations will be spreading the word, sharing our stories, and creating a huge moral movement for immigrant justice.

Click here commit to join with thousands of others across the country for the interfaith Fast Action for Immigration Reform.

Standing on the Side of Love will be co-hosting a webinar this coming Monday to help kick off the fast, where you can learn about the current status of immigration legislation and how to raise awareness. Click here to sign up for the webinar.

Together, we will ensure that our voices are heard in the halls of Congress. We will get just, compassionate immigration reform passed this year!

In faith,

Rev. Noel Andersen, UCC Minister, Interfaith Immigration Coalition Grassroots Chair, & Church World Service Grassroots Coordinator
Jennifer Toth, Standing on the Side of Love Campaign Manager

PS: Heads up–we are also gearing up to join local immigrant rights organizations in a National Day of Action for Dignity and Respect on October 5.


The message above went out on Thursday, September 5, 2013 to Standing on the Side of Love supporters. You can sign-up for these emails here.

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Continuing to Walk Until We Have Compassionate Immigration Reform

2 Comments | Share On Facebook| Continuing to Walk Until We Have Compassionate Immigration Reform Share/Save/Bookmark Aug 27, 2013
Rev. Susan Karlson gets arrested.

Post author Rev. Susan Karlson and others are arrested in an act of civil disobedience.

Each Thursday, clergy and lay people circle Federal Plaza that houses Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and immigration courts in New York City. We silently pray the Jericho Prayer and walk in solidarity with people who struggle with unjust immigration laws and fear separation from their families. Last Thursday, we continued marching to Varick Street, home of a detention center that brings immigrants in shackles, bound by their hands and feet. At the detention center, others joined us for a rally and eight of us remained in the street and got arrested in an act of civil disobedience.

My decision to act in civil disobedience outside a place that shackles human beings feels linked to all the current events happening around the country directly related to racism. We have immigration laws that criminalize undocumented people no matter how they entered the country initially. Under the current broken system, many undocumented immigrants pay taxes, but receive no benefits or representation. The court decision about the slaying of Trayvon Martin and Stand Your Ground laws deeply trouble many, but people of color live with this every day. The recent Supreme Court decision on the Voting Rights Act abnegates the need for protections around voting rights for people of color.

I might scream about the endless stop and frisk rhetoric from politicians who say we must continue to stop young Black and Latino men. I think about all the enslaved people brought to this country against their will in shackles and now how people are now detained for long periods of time and suddenly deported in shackles to out of the country in shackles, a country they may not remember or have ties to now. It is time to remember the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.

NYC Federal Plaza witness

Witnessing for immigrant justice at the Federal Plaza in New York City.

A dear immigration activist friend with the New Sanctuary Movement of NYC asked me to commit civil disobedience. Despite his tireless efforts for immigration reform, he cannot risk arrest because he would be deported. I risk nothing and, in fact, am treated with the utmost respect and dignity, in contrast to the treatment of thousands of immigrants brought to Varick Street. We so desperately need humane immigration reform with a path to citizenship. I hope that our rally and civil disobedience brought more awareness and might hasten the end of this ugly nightmare that undocumented immigrants face.

To learn more about the history and involvement of Unitarian Universalists in the New Sanctuary Movement, click here.


Rev. Susan Karlson is the new Central East Regional Group (CERG) Disaster Response Coordinator, charged with recruiting, organizing and developing partnerships to bring Unitarian Universalist volunteers to all the areas devastated by Superstorm Sandy. On September 1st, she is leaving her ministry at the Unitarian Church of Staten Island in New York where she and the congregation worked on immigration, antiracism, interfaith efforts, and Sandy recovery. Susan has been an active participant in the New Sanctuary Movement since her previous arrest three years ago for civil disobedience around comprehensive immigration reform. She also serves as secretary of the Unitarian Universalist Trauma Response Ministry.

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