Harnessing Love’s Power
to Stop Oppression


One Click Away from Compassionate, Family-Based Immigration Reform

No Comments | Share On Facebook| One Click Away from Compassionate, Family-Based Immigration Reform Share/Save/Bookmark Apr 17, 2013

I have been hearing so many amazing stories of Unitarian Universalists making advocacy visits to tell their elected officials that immigration reform must respect the inherent worth and dignity of all people.

In 2010, I marched and later was arrested in Phoenix, AZ, because my faith values taught me that it is wrong to tear apart families and criminalize whole communities. No person is illegal. I stood on the side of love to stop immoral legislation that sadly began spreading from one state to another.

Now finally the moment is here, a once in a generation moment, to pass federal legislation that will create one immigration policy for our nation.

An immigration reform bill was introduced this morning, so now is the time to tell Congress that reform must be compassionate.

You can do that right now, by simply sending this message to your local elected official. Tell them that reform must keep families together.

One of the proudest moments of my presidency was when thousands of Unitarian Universalists witnessed at the Tent City detention center in Phoenix at Justice General Assembly last year calling for an end to detentions and deportations and for reform of our immigration laws.

You and I both know how powerful our voices can be when we mobilize and work together to make real change happen. Click here to add your voice today towards compassionate, family-based immigration reform.

Love has no borders, love keeps families together, love respects the inherent worth and dignity of all people.

In faith,

Rev. Peter Morales
Unitarian Universalist Association

The message above went out on Wednesday, April 16, 2013 to Standing on the Side of Love supporters. You can sign-up for these emails here.

More >

Standing on the Side of Love for Marriage Equality at the Supreme Court

No Comments | Share On Facebook| Standing on the Side of Love for Marriage Equality at the Supreme Court Share/Save/Bookmark Apr 12, 2013

A couple weeks ago, hundreds of people witnessed for marriage equality as the Supreme Court heard arguments on the constitutionality of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California Proposition 8.

Among them were dozens of Unitarian Universalists! Check out our video to hear from these committed activists why they stand on the side of love:

Special thanks to our colleague Annette Marquis for putting together this great video.

More >

Stand Up For Love

No Comments | Share On Facebook| Stand Up For Love Share/Save/Bookmark Apr 11, 2013

This post was written by Rev. James Ismael Ford of the First Unitarian Church of Providence. (Credit: Jessica Duckett)

I’ve been told that a minister is supposed to provide a “non-anxious” presence. I can tell you that the run up to Sunday the 7th, I was anything but non-anxious. I can only say I was at one with my anxiety. We were trying to bring two denominational heads together to make public statements in favor of marriage equality in Rhode Island and in our country.

Both Rev. Peter Morales, president of the Unitarian Universalist Association, and Rev. Geoffrey Black, general minister of the United Church of Christ, are committed long time supporters of LGBTQ rights, so their willingness was never in doubt. But, they have many obligations and trying to get them here at the same time and as part of the run up to the senate taking its votes, well, that seemed almost impossible.

But, in a minor evidence of the existence of a deity, and one benevolent and supportive of equal rights for all people, not to mention a lot of work by a lot of people, it happened. At ten o’clock Rev. Black preached good news at Beneficent Congregational Church, and at ten thirty Rev. Morales spoke to the heart of LGBTQ rights as human rights and as a spiritual imperative at the First Unitarian Church of Providence.

As the service at First Unitarian ended, we had our ordinary coffee hour, but instead of winding down, while some people headed out, others started arriving from Unitarian Universalist and United Church of Christ congregations as their worship services ended, as well as non-churched people who had heard of these progressive ministers who were going to make a public statement about a critical civil rights issue for our times. Lt. Governor Elizabeth Roberts even made a brief appearance to thank Revs. Black and Morales for their support.

Revs. Ford, Black, Morales and others sing a hymn at the program. (Credit: Jessica Duckett)

By one o’clock our “Stand Up for Love” program kicked off with a rocking music led by Kate Katzberg, Mo Methot, and the First Unitarian band. At one thirty as Lynda Gulley took to the piano as Revs. Black and Morales as well as other local religious leaders came into the historic Meeting House to join with a crowd of about three hundred and fifty people. Gene Dyszlewski, the First Unitarian Church’s community minister for social justice, as well as leader of the religious coalition for marriage equality, invited greetings. Betsy Garland, president of the Rhode Island Council of Churches, and Donald Anderson, Executive Director, both made statements of welcome.

Rev. Black led off with a rousing call to human rights. And Rev. Morales brought it home with a call to action. Members of Rhode Islanders for Marriage were present to sign people up to volunteer.

We concluded the program with an old hymn, “We’ll Build a Land,” combing words from the prophets Amos and Isaiah. The refrain filled the room, “Come build a land where sisters and brothers, anointed by God, may then create peace: where justice shall roll down like waters, and peace like an ever flowing stream.”

We left filled with hope for a new dawn.

So, I’m still anxious. First, we have a vote in the state judiciary committee to get through, and then we have the vote at the state senate.

There’s much work to do.

But, I feel that hope, stirring.

And, I believe, in my heart, we shall achieve marriage equality this year.

Check out our video to see an excerpt of the program:

Rev. James Ishmael Ford is senior minister at the First Unitarian Church of Providence. He is a social justice activist, theologian, and Zen meditation teacher as well as a parish minister. His most recent book is “If You’re Lucky, Your Heart Will Break: Field Notes from a Zen Life.”

More >

Not One More!

1 Comment | Share On Facebook| Not One More! Share/Save/Bookmark Apr 10, 2013

As the debate over immigration reform continues in Washington, so too do the deportations that rip families apart. In response, our partners at the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) have launched #Not1More, a collaborative project to expose, confront, and overcome unjust immigration enforcement policies through organizing, art, legislation, and action.

Click here to watch the video and learn how you can take action to ensure that there is #Not1More deportation.

This is a monumental time in the movement for immigrant justice. Over the past two weeks, UUs went on 60+ advocacy visits to tell their elected officials that immigration reform must respect the inherent worth and dignity of all people. Today, thousands of folks will gather together in Washington, DC and at echo events across the country to raise their voices for compassionate immigration reform, and there will be a sea of Yellow Shirts there. An immigration reform bill is likely to be introduced any day now, and it is imperative that legislators continue to hear from you to ensure that reform is compassionate.

In recent years, deportations, incarceration, and criminalization of immigrant communities have escalated at an unprecedented rate. But at the same time, record numbers of people are refusing to be victims and instead are taking a stand for themselves, for their families, for our communities, and for all of us.

#Not1More weaves together all of our voices in a central location so that local efforts to stop deportation and build community are strengthened and accompanied by cultural creations that illustrate the ugliness of criminalization and the beauty of our communities.

Together we say: not one more family destroyed, not one more day without equality, not one more indifferent reaction to suffering, not one more deportation.

Click here to add your voice and say #Not1More. 

In faith,

Jennifer Toth
Campaign Manager
Standing on the Side of Love

PS: Learn more about what you can do to advocate for compassionate immigration reform here: http://www.standingonthesideoflove.org/cir.

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

More >

Restoring Human Dignity

1 Comment | Share On Facebook| Restoring Human Dignity Share/Save/Bookmark Apr 05, 2013

This post was written by Susan Shepherd of First Parish Cambridge UU.

One Sunday afternoon in March, over 100 people from all over the Boston area gathered at First Parish Cambridge UU to hear from the folks who are on the front lines of the struggle of “Ending the New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration and the Restoration of Human Dignity.” We were very excited to have these faith and community leaders join us as we grapple with the issues raised by Michelle Alexander in her book, The New Jim Crow, which is the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Common Read for this year. Earlier in the day, Rev. Fred Small also delivered a moving sermon at our worship service on The New Jim Crow.

“[M]ass incarceration,” Alexander writes, “operates with stunning efficiency to sweep people of color off the streets, lock them in cages, and then release them into an inferior second-class status.” While well aware that racism operates in many different ways in the criminal justice system, Alexander focuses on its impact on black men in particular.

Alexander explains that no country in the world incarcerates a greater proportion of its racial or ethnic minorities than the United States. A higher percentage of our black population is in prison than was the black population of South Africa at the height of apartheid. More than half of young black men in our big cities are under the control of the justice system or have criminal records; in some cities, it’s 80 percent. Rather than rehabilitating and reintegrating convicts into society, the justice system is a forced march into a netherworld of racial stigma and permanent marginalization.

“We have not ended racial caste in America;” Alexander charges, “we have merely redesigned it.”

Each of the panelists enhanced our understanding of the issue of mass incarceration and what we can do about it. Rev. George Walters-Sleyon from the Center for Church and Prison called mass incarceration a humanitarian crisis and pointed out how a disproportionate percentage of African Americans and Latinos are incarcerated or under the control of the criminal justice system. Then, Barbara Dougan from Families Against Mandatory Minimums demonstrated with cans and soup packets the small amount of drugs for which people are given lengthy prison sentences under the mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines. Money and resources go into keeping nonviolent people in prison when it could be better spent on drug rehabilitation programs. Additionally, no rehabilitation, treatment, or employment assistance is offered during or after prison–perpetuating the problem and leading to recidivism.

Rev. Paul Robeson Ford of Union Baptist Church spoke eloquently about how mass incarceration has been a very intentional strategy for, as he put it, “dealing with Black men” in the post-Jim Crow era – hence the New Jim Crow. He asked people to think about what it does to a family when there are three generations of men incarcerated at one time. He implored people to understand this reality as a moral issue that people of faith must address.

When asked about the links between the mass incarceration of people of color and the detention of undocumented persons in the United States, Rev. Walters related his own story of riding a bus through New York State when border guards boarded the bus and demanded he prove that he was not “illegal.” In spite of having a Massachusetts driver’s license and other identification, he was held in jail for five days for no apparent reason. At the time, he overheard one of the prison guards saying that keeping people in the jail was providing his employment. Thus, we see that these issues are complex and interwoven.

All of the panelists agreed that we need to work together in whatever way we can to stop this injustice. So what can we do? Check out Standing on the Side of Love’s action page to get involved.

Later that week, members of our congregation’s Social Justice Council joined a rally at the State House with our Standing on the Side of Love signs to protest the use of dogs to patrol visitors at Massachusetts prisons. They are intimidating grandparents, spouses, friends, and even children. Rev. Walters and others cited the use of dogs against civil rights protestors and the feelings that are evoked for people of color when they come to the prisons and are confronted with men in uniforms and dogs. The dogs find little contraband and have a chilling effect on family visitors. Yet, it has been documented that the recidivism rate is much lower for prisoners who receive regular visits from family and friends.

While confronting the realities of mass incarceration is devastating, the antidote is solidarity. At First Parish we are building partnerships, creating caring community, and standing on the side of love. Will you join us?

Susan Shepherd is the Vice Chair of the Standing Committee of First Parish Cambridge UU. She is also a member of the congregation’s Transformation Team.

More >