Many Unitarian Universalists in Massachusetts and around the country have been following the news of the traditional St. Patrick’s Day Parade in South Boston and its various exclusions. The traditional St. Patrick’s Day Parade (organized by the Allied War Veterans Council) excludes LGBTQ groups from marching openly. The parade’s organizers state that in addition to celebrating St. Patrick and Irish heritage, their parade is meant to honor veterans. In spite of this, and notwithstanding the end of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, the organizers would not allow a group of LGBT veterans to march openly. The parade organizers have also excluded Veterans For Peace from marching in their parade “for associating the word ‘veteran’ with the word ‘peace’,” in spite of their military service and in spite of St. Patrick’s own words: “Killing cannot be with Christ.” These exclusions hurt me to my core since I am a US Navy veteran, a member of Veterans For Peace, and a lesbian.
In response to these exclusions, the local Boston chapter of Veterans For Peace (the Smedley D. Butler Brigade of VFP) worked in solidarity with local LGBTQ organizations and progressive activists to create an alternative and inclusive parade: the St. Patrick’s Peace Parade. This parade, known affectionately as the “second parade”, follows the traditional St. Patrick’s Day Parade along the same route. In past years, street sweepers and more than a mile of distance separated the two parades, but this year – on March 16, 2014 – for the first time the City of Boston did not put street sweepers between the parades, and the distance between the two parades was shortened. This meant that more onlookers than ever saw the messages of love, peace, and inclusion from the St. Patrick’s Peace Parade.
In addition to Veterans For Peace and lots of LGBTQ groups, there were many wonderful people and worthy organizations witnessing for environmental, social, and economic justice and peace. The “second parade” included a “Religious Division”, with Unitarian Universalists well represented. Many Unitarian Universalist participants marched with banners and signs from their own congregations as well as rainbow flags and messages of full support for LGBTQ inclusion and equality, and many more marched behind a large Standing on the Side of Love banner. Together, we indeed harnessed love’s power to end bigotry and oppression!
One of the central St. Patrick’s Peace Parade organizers was Pat Scanlon, the Coordinator of the local Boston chapter of Veterans For Peace, a Unitarian Universalist himself (a member of North Parish in North Andover). The Arlington Street Church in Boston played a special role, too, in providing rent-free space for peace parade organizational meetings. I’m so pleased that my own congregation, the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Andover, participated with enthusiasm. Other UU congregations that stood on the side of love, represented by parishioners and/or their ministers, were Community Church of Boston; First Church in Boston; First Parish Church, Billerica; First Unitarian Society, Newton; Harvard Unitarian Universalist Church; Unitarian Universalist Church of Marblehead; Unitarian Universalist Church of Wakefield; and Unitarian Universalist Church of Weymouth. Mid-route, some parade-watchers from South Church, UU, Portsmouth, NH joined in with us! In addition to UUs standing on the side of love, other faith groups were a part of the parade, including organizations and congregations from the Catholic, Jewish, United Church of Christ, Quaker (Religious Society of Friends) traditions and more.
It was a big step in the right direction that there were no street sweepers between parades this year, and less distance between the two parades than ever. How wonderful that more parade watchers than ever saw the “second parade” and its messages! But we will continue to stand on the side of love with a second, alternative, inclusive St. Patrick’s Peace Parade until the day that there is one, unified, inclusive St. Patrick’s Day parade in Boston. Says Pat Scanlon, “Our Peace Parade is not going away until we have one welcoming inclusive parade for all without censorship.”
Last month I joined immigrant rights partners in Southwest Florida to visit our immigrant neighbors being held at the Glades County Detention Center. We could not bring any cameras inside. All I could do was draw and take notes of what I saw and experienced. When we entered the facility – run by the County Sheriff, who gets federal funding to collaborate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) as a detention center— I found myself smiling to the staff, trying to beam love wherever I went to the county officers, the detention officer, the ICE officials, everyone. The tour of the building still felt abstract- cinderblock walls, fluorescent lights, that really awful processed-food cafeteria grey water smell coming from the kitchen, the glorified sandbox that baked in the Florida sun that provided one hour of outside fresh air for detainees. That sweet, make-nice part of me wanted to believe that this wasn’t so bad.
Then we went up to the control room. Like a Foucaultian nightmare, we saw all the detainees in their “pods.” I turned my head to hide my tears from the ICE and County Officers. Who was I to be up in this room with the freedom to leave at any time when these men and women were trapped in a multi-use space where you ate, slept, used the bathroom and tried to pass the time each day?
We were able to sit down with a group of men and listen to their stories and experiences. All of the men were people of color, detained anywhere from 2-4 months. One man corrected us and said, “C’mon, man, we’re not detainees, we are inmates.” The injustice and despair of the men was palpable. All of them were waiting: waiting for a court date; for communication from their lawyers; to discover if their fate would be to be deported to a nation where they never even lived; waiting to be reunited with their spouses and kids. Some came over to the US when they were toddlers. Quite a few were picked up for not coming to a court date as Legal Permanent Residents. They say they never received any notification of the court date. The harassments all men received from county officers each day ranged from having their daily-use cup swiped from them (to replace was $1) to taunting lines like, “Go tell ICE about your human rights!” when detainees would dare complain. Complaints could result in threats of physical harassment. One man said he was living a half-life and that the county officers treated them all like dogs. All the men agreed; they were in limbo.
The officers came into the multi-purpose room where we were talking. After two hours, our time was up. We were supposed to also meet with the women, but for a vague reason the ICE officials told us they did not want to meet with us since we were not legal aid. We wondered what the women might have shared with us. And then, we shook hands with all the detained men and left. I walked out into sunshine and freedom and they walked back into the nightmare of Limbo, waiting.
Set up a tour. Contact your local immigrant ally group. It’s not fun or easy. But it is the right thing to do. The oppression I witnessed is happening in my backyard, a little over an hour from my house. My faith dictates that I shall not ignore it forget it. I am on the side of Love.
Rev. Allison Farnum
Minister, UU Church of Ft. Myers
In community and denominational life, Allison currently serves on the board of Interfaith Action of Southwest Florida, an ally organization of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. Rev. Allison is also co-president of the interfaith congregation-based community organizing group, Lee Interfaith for Empowerment (LIFE).More >
Blog Series: From North Carolina to Your Home State
(with a journey along the way to Mississippi!)
One month ago today, on February 8, 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 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 many people and is 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 second in a series that will build upon our collective energy after our gathering in Raleigh. Evan Seitz, from the UU College of Social Justice(UUCSJ), writes about his experience at the Mass Moral March, and shares more about an upcoming Civil Rights Journey being organized by the Living Legacy Project and the UUCSJ. To learn more about the UU Living Legacy project and their long history of organizing pilgrimages to important civil rights sites, click here for more info. Click here to learn more about the Mississippi Civil Rights Journey, which will run from July 5-12, 2014.
On February 8th, I, along with thousands of others, participated in the Moral March in Raleigh, North Carolina. Many say this march, organized by the North Carolina NAACP and a broad coalition of progressive groups, was the largest civil rights protest since the march from Selma. The masses of people, the diversity of groups and people – from medical students and teachers to organized labor and the Sierra Club – the impassioned speech by North Carolina NAACP leader Rev. Dr. William Barber II who serves as Pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Goldsboro, NC – it was a heady experience for me. I loved the intensity of that weekend and the sense of solidarity I felt with the people of North Carolina.
For the people of North Carolina, the march was one event in a series of escalating acts of protest against repressive policies passed by the state legislature. The backbone of this movement began in 2006, when Rev. Barber began organizing a coalition of organizations now known as the Historic Thousands on Jones Street (HKonJ) Coalition. This coalition has committed to work together to advance a broad progressive agenda. They have amassed an impressive list of accomplishments, including raising the minimum wage and preventing the previous administration from passing restrictions on voting.
Things took a turn for the worse in 2012 when North Carolina elected Pat McCrory as governor. In 2013, the legislature, with the governor’s support, passed a series of radical and regressive laws. Unemployment benefits for thousands were terminated; voting access was curtailed; funding for public education was slashed. The voter suppression bill was made possible largely due to the 2013 Supreme Courts decision in Shelby County v. Holder, which struck down key provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Prior to the decision, many counties in North Carolina required pre-clearance from the justice department before changing voting laws, effectively requiring pre-clearance for any state-wide rule changes. The new law requires voters to have an ID (student IDs are not accepted), ends same day registration, ends straight party voting, and reduces early voting.
North Carolina is not alone. Since 2011, nineteen states have passed new voter suppression laws – including all southern states except Louisiana. Fifty years after the American Civil Rights movement, we are engaged in a new fight to protect our right to vote.
The way forward on this issue is still not clear. Rev. Barber has said that he believes the key to a progressive United States is an organized South. Will Barber’s strategy of a “fusion coalition” be a key to organizing against these laws? What will the role be for allies who live in states that don’t have voter suppression laws?
And now for my pitch: UUCSJ and the Living Legacy Project (LLP) are co-hosting an intergenerational bus tour through Mississippi this summer. The goal of the trip is to explore the history of the Civil Rights movement, with a particular focus on the Mississippi Freedom Summer of 1964. Your leaders will include veterans of the movement, and we will stop to talk to the organizers and activists who made that monumental summer possible. We will also talk to those engaged in the struggle against modern voter suppression. Learn more at uucsj.org.
Unitarian minister Theodore Parker was paraphrased by Martin Luther King Jr. stating, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” Let’s continue to stand with those who are doing more than their fair share to bend that arc. Let’s learn from those who have done this work before. And let’s continue to walk this road with humility and courage – forward together, and not one step back.
Senior Associate for Service Learning
Unitarian Universalist College of Social JusticeMore >
What a great Thirty Days of Love it was this year! With MLK Day at the beginning and National SSL Day(or Valentine’s Day to some!) at the end as our anchor holidays, we stood on the side of love in inspiring ways. Here at the SSL Campaign HQ, we worked for months leading up the the Thirty Days of Love to create weekly and daily themes, identify powerful messengers, cultivate resources and more. And then, for 30 days, we offered a daily email, action, reflection, and more. But what is really amazing about this campaign is all the ways people like YOU take it home and create something unique that fits your community, congregation or family. While it would be next to impossible to recount every single way that folks participated, we want to give you an overview of the many ways that people stood on the side of love during the 2014 campaign, which ran from January 18- February 16.
While the Thirty Days of Love might be “over” this calendar year, here are ways you can stay involved until we meet again for Thirty Days of Love 2015!
1. Let us know what you thought about this year’s campaign, and help us shape next year’s by offering your feedback. Take the 2014 Thirty Days of Love Survey here!
2. Were you inspired by the messages and resources we shared? Feel free to use them in upcoming RE classes, social justice discussions, sermons and more! Click here to access the thirty Days of Love calendar with all the daily resource pages.
Thirty Days of Love 2014 by the Numbers
- Close to 2,000 people signed up for the daily Thirty Days of Love emails. Did you miss those emails? Check them out by clicking on any day of the calendar, available here.
- Between 1,000-1,500 UUs participated in our signature witness event: the Mass Moral March in Raleigh NC
- Thousands of people participated in the campaign throughout the 30 days on social media, including sharing important actions with their networks, sharing their own stories, and continuing the conversations on justice issues.
- Dozens of Courageous Love Awards were presented to community love heroes throughout the U.S.
- Close to 60 Bloggers contributed to the daily messages, both those published on the official site, and through outside blogs that offered solidarity messages!
- 44 people RSVP’ed, and many more joined on the day of for our online chat on Valentine’s Day to talk about the future of Standing on the Side of Love.
Mass Moral March: Feb. 8, 2014 Raleigh NC
Our signature public witness event during the Thirty Days of Love 2014 was our partnership with NC congregations in the Mass Moral March on February 8th, in Raleigh NC. Read more about that day here, and check out our new Voting Rights Today page that will carry our work forward after Raleigh!
Honoring UU Heroes
On the eve of the Mass Moral March, we awarded Rev. Clark Olsen with the 2014 Standing on the Side of Love “Courageous Love Award”. Read more about Rev. Olsen and his long legacy of standing up for civil rights here. Read more about other Courageous Love Awards recipients below!
Extra Love Notes
In addition to the messengers who authored messages for the daily themes, the UUA’s office of Youth and Young Adult Ministries (YaYA) followed the Thirty Days of Love with a daily reflection by their staff. We also had an unexpected, lovely surprise: several days before the 30 Days launched, UU bloggers across the country decided to participate in a solidarity 30 Days “Blog-A-Thon”. Check out their great contributions here. Finally, Belief.net blogger Britton Gildersleeve also blogged daily during the Thirty Days of Love, check out her posts here.
Congregations that Sizzle
Congregations large, small and every size in between took part in the Thirty Days of Love campaign! Below are just a few of the stories that came in. If you have something to share you want to see added to our round-up, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org, with 30 Days Round-Up in the subject line. You can also submit a blog post sharing more about your experiences during the campaign, just click here for more info!
Unitarian Universalist Church of Hillsborough, North Carolina
The UU Church of Hillsborough ended their 30 Days of Love Campaign by asking UUCH members and their friends to commit to community service in one of their five focus areas, including BLGT, prison ministry and community focused issues areas. They featured people working on each of the areas and presented a new model for community involvement.
Georgia Mountain Unitarian Universalist Church, Dahlonega, Georgia
The Faith in Action Committee of the Georgia Mountain UU Church, in rural north Georgia, facilitated the 30 Days of Love campaign for the first annual celebration. Their joys and successes prove that even a small church in a conservative rural area can build bridges of love! From sharing stories with the congregation, to community-held events, the Love in Action was abundant! Some of their highlights were the “Building Bridges of Love” by joining the Dahlonega community at the Methodist Church for the monthly soup lunch fundraiser, which was a great success with over 80 people enjoying the awesome soups, cornbread, and desserts, and $425 was raised for the Community Helping Place food pantry.
In addition, the Faith in Action team created a community-attended event held in the town park, “Heart in the Park,” led by their part-time minister, The Reverend Charlotte Arsenault, to witness for marriage equity. The congregation walked with Standing on the Side of Love signs, and hand-painted Love signs made by the children from the church, through town to the park where other local people joined us. They gathered around to create a heart, singing hymns, sharing personal stories and being inspired by Rev. Charlotte’s words.The final event was to honor two local groups with the presentation of “Courageous Love Awards” on February 16. These awards went to PFLAG of Blairsville, Georgia, and Dorothy Foster, founder of Nacoochee Presbyterian Church Hispanic Ministry and founder of ESL program in Cleveland, Georgia. The participation for all the events was heart warming, proving that people really do want to be a part of Love in Action.
Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Raleigh, North Carolina
The UU Fellowship of Raleigh hosted many of the events for UUs when we gathered in their city for the Mass Moral March, including a rocking worship service on Friday night and a “Taking It Home” debrief on Saturday afternoon after the rally. The UUFR provided support for logistics for people traveling, helped coordinate home-stays and shuttles, and ensured folks were well-fed throughout the weekend.
Magic Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, Twin Falls, Idaho
The UU Fellowship in Twin Falls, ID held a potluck to teach congregants the ins and outs of the SSL campaign. Their political education campaign included a brainstorm about the priorities facing people across the state of Idaho. One of the priorities that emerged from their conversation was working to voice concerns about HB 427, the “Religious Freedom Bill” sponsored by Rep. Lynn Luker (R-Boise). As a small rural congregation the UU Fellowship reached out to the SSL team about ways to engage with other congregations working on similar issues. To contact them directly email love [at] uua.org and we’ll pass your message along.
First Unitarian Church, Louisville, Kentucky
The First Unitarian Church of Louisville celebrated 30 Days of Love by making a jazzy bulletin board to keep congregants in the know about all things 30 Days of Love.
Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Jefferson City, Missouri
Members of the UU Fellowship of Jefferson City in Missouri attended the founding convention of Faith Foundations in observance of 30 Days of Love. The event sought to bring together faith communities to build together across agenda including expansion of Medicaid in Missouri, the local public transit system and voting accessibility. See a video from the event here.
National Standing on the Side of Love Day: February 14, 2014
And here is just a small slice of the ways that SSL supporters celebrated National Standing on the Side of Love Day this year:
Unitarian Church of Lincoln, Nebraska
Members and friends of the Unitarian Church of Lincoln braved cold temperatures to rally for marriage equality on the steps of the Nebraska capitol on Valentine’s Day 2014.
Unitarian Universalists Across Virginia
Multiple UU Congregations in Virginia partnered with People of Faith for Equality in Virginia to participate in Witness for LOVE where LGBT couples sought marriage licenses or recognition for existing partnerships. Check out videos and learn more about that campaign here.
First Unitarian Universalist Church of Richmond, Virginia
The UU Church in Richmond, VA helped organize Witness for LOVE events, held in their Capitol and across the state of Virginia on Friday, February 14. Unitarian Universalists in Richmond celebrated a federal judge’s striking down the state’s prohibition on same-sex marriage. Congregants from First UU Church of Richmond celebrated Valentine’s Day by supporting six same-sex couples to turn in applications for marriage.
Unitarian Universalists of Gettysburg, Virginia
On Valentine’s Day, Unitarian Universalists of Gettysburg organized a License Our Love Valentine’s Day at the local courthouse. Though they planned to be denied, over 60 folks turned out in support of marriage equality. Watch video coverage of the event here.
South Valley Unitarian Universalist Society, Salt Lake City, Utah
South Valley UU Society members gathered at the Utah State Capitol for the Unitarian Faith Day of the Coalition of Religious Communities. Members were there to call for a raise in the minimum wage and talk about the connections between immigration, minimum wage and broader justice movements. They also held a Valentine’s Day Dance Party for couples who were able to marry in Utah during the brief 18 day period when marriage was legal for all in their state.
Unitarian Universalist Church of Wakefield, Massachusetts
The UU Church of Wakefield celebrated its Standing on the Side of Love Sunday on February 9, 2014 with a sermon by Rev. Maddie Sifantus, “Share the Love,” special music and the dedication of our new SSL banner. In photo, some members posing with the banner after the service, including Rev. Sifantus and Rev. Ralph Galen, Affiliate Minister.
Courageous Love Awards
First Parish Unitarian Universalist, Cambridge, Massachusetts
First Parish Unitarian Universalist awarded their fourth annual Courageous Love Award to the Westborough 8 on February 16, 2014. The Westborough 8 are young climate justice activists who last year committed nonviolent civil disobedience at the office of TransCanada to protest the Keystone XL pipeline. The group sat down in the lobby of the TransCanada corporate offices in Westborough, Massachusetts, and refused to leave. They Super Glued their hands and chained their waists and ankles together. They were arrested and charged with being disorderly persons, disturbing the peace, and trespassing.
“These young activists are carrying on the legacy of Mahatma Gandhi, Rosa Parks, and Martin Luther King Jr.,” said Senior Minister Rev. Fred Small. “Their courage, creativity, and determination inspire me. But we need to do more than honor them for their climate activism—we need to join them.”
By awarding them the Courageous Love Award, First Parish in Cambridge honored the Westborough 8—Emily Edgerly, Devyn Powell, Lisa Purdy, Shea Riester, Ben Thompson, Ben Trolio, Alli Welton, and Dorian Williams—for their determination to create a more just and sustainable future.
“We stand together,” the young activists said in an online statement, “as representatives of a desperate generation who have been forced into this position by the reckless and immoral behavior of fossil fuel corporations such as TransCanada. The Keystone XL pipeline . . . represents an intolerable threat to our future. . . . Today, we add our peaceful civil disobedience to an accelerating tidal wave of actions as people across the nation rise up together.” The Keystone XL pipeline, which would deliver dirty tar sands oil from Canada to refineries in Texas for global export, has been called “game over for the climate” by former NASA scientist James Hansen.
Founded in 1636, First Parish in Cambridge is dedicated to working for justice and building the Beloved Community of Dr. King’s dream. Each year, First Parish in Cambridge celebrates Valentine’s Day Sunday as “Standing on the Side of Love” Sunday. Past recipients of the Courageous Love Award are the Student Immigrant Movement (2011), transgender activist Nancy Nangeroni (2012), and Louis D. Brown Peace Institute founder Tina Chéry (2013).
Cedarhurst Unitarian Universalists, Finksburg, Maryland
The Cedarhurst UUs celebrated Thirty Days of Love with a Social Justice Film Fest and awarding three Courageous Love Awards. The awardees are June Horner, Rev. Lucy Brady, and the Human Service Program of Carroll County, represented by Cindy Parr. June Horner was honored for her work in helping to start a local PFLAG group and for her tireless advocacy for the Marriage Equality Act. Rev Lucy Brady was honored for developing a safe space at St Paul’s United Church of Christ for LGBTQ and allied youth that is supportive and accepting. The Human Services Program was honored for the services it provides to those at risk and its efforts to help them achieve self sufficiency
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 >