Consensus on Racial Justice
INASMUCH AS, the General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association of 1962 affirmed that segregation and discrimination, wherever practiced, continue to be a matter of major national and international concern and reflect attitudes contrary to moral, religious and ethical commitments;
UNITARIAN UNIVERSALISTS PLEDGE THEMSELVES TO:
- Work to eliminate all vestiges of discrimination and segregation in their churches and fellowships and to encourage the integration of congregations and of the Unitarian Universalist ministry; and
- Work for integration in all phases of life in the community.
In spite of the passage of Civil Rights Acts in 1957 and 1960, the comprehensive Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, inequalities of treatment and opportunity continue to exist in American society. While these inequalities affect members of all minority groups, attention has been focussed on the special problems of the Negro minority in the United States. Negro citizens and other persons engaged in the civil rights movement find themselves at the mercy of individuals who hope to prevent progress toward full equality of the races by resorting to physical violence and acts of terrorism, and the victims are often denied justice when they face all-white courts and juries.
A double standard of justice exists in some communities and states. All-white police forces, court officials, judges and juries, and segregated courtrooms and jails have operated to deprive minority group persons of the equal protection of the laws in violation of the United States Constitution. In everyday terms this means, at the least, harassment and discourtesy from law officers and, at the most, summary trials without adequate counsel, and severe and unreasonable sentences or fines meted out, especially where the offense may be committed against a white man. Conversely, whites accused of crimes of violence against minority group persons or civil rights workers of any race, are acquitted by prejudiced juries or otherwise treated leniently, especially in the South.
Members of the minority races and ethnic groups find much public school education still segregated in defiance of the landmark 1954 Supreme Court decision. They find doors to fair employment opportunities still closed in many places, face uneven compliance with the public accommodations part of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and see authorities in some places closing rather than opening public facilities to all groups.
Probably the most difficult hurdle, aside from jobs and education, continues to be housing where the Northern Negro especially finds himself confined to the decaying neighborhoods of the central city and the avenues of escape to the white suburbs effectively blocked by restrictive real estate practices. The federal government, though possessing the power under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to cut off the flow of federal funds to programs and activities in the states which are administered in a discriminatory manner, has not chosen to exercise this power to any significant extent.
A whole private area of American life, including club association, fraternal memberships, and shamefully, church membership, remains almost totally segregated. Several states maintain laws forbidding racial intermarriage, thus arbitrarily interfering in the most sacred of human relationships.
Much remains to be done to implement the concern of Unitarian Universalists for the supreme worth of every human personality and the dignity of man.Racial Violence and the Administration of Justice The rise of violence in the political and social conflicts of American life endangers freedom of speech and assembly essential to democratic society. These freedoms and, in general, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are, and have been, federal rights of all citizens since the founding of the Republic. To secure these freedoms, the President should appoint a commission to investigate the collapse of law in such acts of terrorism and make remedial recommendations wherever constitutional rights are denied. The local police should invite the assistance of the FBI in cases of terrorism.
The Justice Department should press with renewed vigor the prosecution under existing law of those guilty of the beatings, the shootings, the bombings and the killings. The President is urged to recommend and the Congress to enact new federal legislation at the earliest moment to protect the security of the individual from assault or threatened assault upon his person or property, where that assault has a racial purpose or effect, and to provide civil damages for the victim of such assault.
State and local officials are urged to curb police brutality, to institute human relations programs in local and state police departments, and to end the use of unwarranted curfews wherever they exist. Support is also urged for federal legislation to protect individuals against unreasonable use of force by law enforcement officers and to make such law enforcement officers and their civilian superiors liable for civil damage suits for unnecessary and unreasonable use of force resulting in physical injury. Enforcement officers formally charged with unlawful violation of the rights of persons should be suspended from their duties pending trial. Local civilian review boards to hear complaints on police brutality should be established.
The Department of Justice should enforce existing laws such as the 1875 statute making jury discrimination punishable by fine of up to $5,000 and seek new legislation making for a uniform system of choosing jurors which will fairly reflect the racial composition of the court's jurisdiction. Also, legislation forbidding discrimination in appointment of court officers and police is needed.
The Justice Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation should make on-the-spot arrests where constitutional rights are being violated by local law enforcement officers or other persons, as they are empowered to do under existing law.
The President of the United States should appoint men to the federal judiciary who are free of racial prejudice and who do not owe their political careers to the system of white supremacy.
Other needed reforms to assure equal protection of the law include support for public defenders for the indigent, installment paying of fines, and limits on excessive bail.The Franchise The right to vote is elemental in our American society. Efforts by the federal government to implement the provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 should be supported so that all obstacles to the right to vote may be removed in localities where they still exist.
The efforts of private citizens in voter-registration campaigns should be supported and the Department of Justice should be vigilant to extend the protection of the law to these workers so that intimidation of any kind will not delay, hamper, impede, of pervert the exercise of the franchise.
Federal voting examiners should be used in every county in which discrimination still exists. Federal authorities should also observe voting subsequent to registration to make sure that once registered, persons are not prevented by any device from voting, and that their votes, once cast, shall be accurately tallied.Education Denial of equal opportunities for education on account of race or color continues to be widespread though several years have intervened since the historic Supreme Court declaration of 1954 that the United States Constitution forbids it. Such disregard for the supreme law of the land presents a moral crisis no less than that resulting from the violation of the human rights involved. Public schools should be promptly integrated at all levels.
Since passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it is no longer necessary for the executive branch to rely on the federal courts for implementation. Therefore, the Office of Education should move speedily to require desegregation and integration of the nation's public schools, north and south, and to use the powers granted under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to withhold federal-aid funds from school districts which continue to segregate white from minority groups pupils. "Freedom of choice" plans achieve only token integration and leave minority group parents who exercise "free choice" exposed, in many localities, to intimidation and reprisals.
De facto segregation of schools is as unconscionable and harmful as formal segregation is unconstitutional. Citizens and government on all levels should work to correct discriminatory racial imbalance and improve the quality of education in the public schools.
We urge adequate preparation of teachers in the field of human relations so that they may give meaningful instruction in human relations and we encourage federal and state authorities to work towards that end.
Preschool education for socially disadvantaged and culturally deprived children should be a necessary preparation for school integration.Housing Comprehensive open-occupancy legislation should be enacted at all levels and such legislation should embody firm and unambiguous enforcement procedures. The President of the United States should be encouraged to extend the President's Executive Order No. 11063 on Equal Opportunity in Housing to include all mortgage loans made by financing institutions which are regulated or supervised by the federal government and that the Order cover federally-assisted housing, not just that built after November 20, 1962; and that more adequate funds be appropriated for the vigorous enforcement of the Executive Order.
Furthermore, members of our churches and fellowships should support such legislation at the state and municipal levels. In order to make such legislation effective, individual Unitarian Universalists should introduce into every phase of the requisition, purchase, building, financing, and occupancy of real property the banning of discrimination due to race, religion, or nationality. Legislation should be encouraged, consistent with the objectives of open occupancy, to curb panic selling or block-busting.
Our churches and fellowships and individual members should undertake efforts with others in their own communities for the integration of their own neighborhoods and our members should scrutinize off-campus or sorority and fraternity housing in colleges and universities as it affects minority students or foreign students and other students and seek to eliminate discrimination.
Our churches and fellowships should call upon their individual members to make all housing, urban and suburban, new or old, which they control as owners, dealers, brokers, builders, or mortgagors, available to any qualified person, without regard to race, color, creed or national origin; and should call upon all real estate dealers, brokers, and mortgagers, to do the same. Educational programs and other activities should be encouraged to promote equality of opportunity in housing.
Churches and fellowships should take the initiative in their communities to use funds provided in Section 221(d)(3) of the Federal Housing Act. This enables nonprofit groups, including churches and fellowships, either to build low-cost-housing open to all groups or to renovate slum dwellings.
There is promise in the proposal of some urban authorities to slow down the building of mass low-cost public housing in or adjacent to racial ghettoes, thus reinforcing patterns of de facto segregation and instead to scatter new low-cost housing in upper and middle-income white residential areas, thus integrating both neighborhoods and schools. To be commended also is the new federal program to subsidize the purchasing and rental of a percentage of publicly subsidized middle-income housing for low-income families. Plans for the renewal of present ghetto areas should ultimately include provision for their integration. Unitarian Universalists should be involved in helping to win acceptance and support of such programs.Employment Discrimination in employment stifles individual initiative and wastes valuable human resources. Government at all levels should enact strong legislation to assure equal opportunity in employment in the conditions of labor and in hiring and firing procedures and in training and apprenticeship programs. Compensation should be nondiscriminatory. No person should be discriminated against on the basis of race, religion, national origin, or sex.
The Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, activated in July 1965, should be given the power to issue cease and desist orders against employers who practice job discrimination. In the meantime, the Department of Justice should move to use its power under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 of filing suits to secure equal opportunity, where it finds a pattern or practice of discrimination. The Department of Defense and other government agencies should be urged to use, whenever necessary, the powers granted under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, to bar bidding on contracts, or otherwise withhold funds, from those who practice racial discrimination in employment.
Unitarian Universalists as employers, should practice equality of opportunity, both in private enterprise and in public positions they may hold; and churches and fellowships are encouraged to hire members of minority races or nationalities in their institutions.Public Accommodations and Facilities Freedom of access to places of public accommodation and public facilities is an essential condition to fulfillment of the ideal of human dignity. The individual must be free to seek food, drink, and lodging, to enjoy equal access to the marketplace, and to find recreation and nourishment.
Members of Unitarian Universalist churches are urged to use their personal influence in their local communities to secure service without discrimination in all places of public accommodation.
Progress has been made since the first student sit-ins of 1960 and since passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, in generally opening to all races, hotels, motels, restaurants and lunch counters, public libraries, museums, hospitals, parks, sports arenas, and theaters. However, in the 1964 Act, retail businesses, as such, are exempt from coverage, unless they have eating facilities, and clothing stores and barber shops are exempt unless they are part of a hotel facility. Spectator sports are covered, but consumer sports such as bowling lanes, swimming pools, tennis courts, golf courses, and golf ranges, privately owned but open to the public for profit, are also not covered. Legislation should be enacted at all levels of government to correct these weaknesses in the federal law.Federal-Aid Programs The federal government, which has been moving steadily forward in advancing the rights of its citizens, through a series of legislative acts and court decisions, should not continue to subsidize segregation and discrimination through its federal-aid programs.
A powerful weapon for enforcement of civil rights is Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits discrimination in all federally-assisted programs. This section should be used less timidly and sparingly. Unnecessary delays in compliance are countenanced by the regulations issued by a number of departments and agencies. This part of the Civil Rights Act should be revitalized.
The use of executive orders to direct all federal agencies to administer federal programs without discrimination should be extended; the federal government should withhold the expenditure of federal funds from such state or local programs and agencies which discriminate against persons on the basis of race or religion in the granting or disbursement of their facilities, property, finances, or services.
Federal hospital and nursing home construction funds provided under the Hill-Burton Act should be withdrawn from institutions that practice discrimination against minority group persons.Demonstrations and Civil Disobedience The people have the constitutional right to assembly to petition for redress of grievances. Every protection of the law should be extended to secure this right for civil rights demonstrators and to protect them against individual, mob, or police violence. Injunctive power should be granted to the Attorney General to protect the constitutional rights of petition and assembly.
Individuals should be defended in their right to engage in nonviolent demonstrations and should be supported in the exercise of their moral choice to engage in responsible civil disobedience for greater racial justice.Inter-Racial Marriage and Adoption Marriage between two persons is a sacred human institution. Persons who enter into the marriage bond should be able to do so with complete freedom of choice, since the choice of a marriage partner is a personal, not a public, decision. All laws which prohibit, inhibit or hamper marriage or cohabitation between persons because of different races, religions, or national origins should be nullified or repealed.
Adoption agencies are evidencing a more open attitude regarding the adoption of children of races other than that of the adoptive parents. This new attitude is commendable, especially in view of the pressing need of adoptive homes for children of mixed or minority races.Personal Associations All Unitarian Universalists should refrain wherever possible from joining any and all organizations which discriminate on the basis of race, creed, and national origin and all individuals should work for the elimination of discrimination in any organization of which they are already members.
Individuals should work in human relations councils and similar groups formed to further better understanding among people and should improve their practices in all areas of human relationships.Integration of the Churches and Ministry The Commission on Religion and Race shall continue to explore, develop, stimulate, and implement programs and actions to promote the complete integration of Negroes and other minority persons into our congregations, denominational life and ministry and into the community.
The Unitarian Universalist ministry should become integrated as rapidly as possible. This goal is essential for the denomination as a whole, for the individual churches, and for individual laymen as well as for the clergymen involved. This goal can be reached through special efforts in the recruitment, training, and settlement of Negroes and members of other minority groups. The denomination — its departments, churches, and agencies — should give this goal a high priority. The denomination needs the services of trained Negro ministers as much as, and probably more than, these ministers need opportunities within the denomination.
Integration of our congregations is a continuing goal. Efforts beyond the mere declaration of open membership may be necessary if congregations are to become truly inclusive: use of the communications media, including the ethnic press, personal invitations to friends to attend services and meetings, and most importantly, the active involvement of the congregation and minister in the human rights movement.
The sincerity of our commitment to racial justice will be proven by our response, as a denomination and as members of churches and fellowships, to a variety of tests. Congregations are urged to include members of ethnic minorities in leadership positions on church boards, committees, religious education and youth programs, and other church activities. The content of programs for youth and adults should reflect our concern for human brotherhood. Particular attention should be paid to the religious education curriculum so that textbooks and instruction promote the goal of integration. Exchange programs with Negro churches, groups and individuals should be encouraged. Employment of staff, purchase of supplies, contracting for building, purchase, sale, rental, or use of property, should all be done with the church or fellowship always making the stipulation that it practices integration and that it does business only with firms which practice integration in their hiring and other policies. Each church or fellowship should examine its investments and loans and do business only with firms which are non-discriminatory and integrationist in their employment practices. Churches and fellowships should patronize places of public accommodation which are open to all.
This consensus is adopted by the 1966 General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association, consisting of a broadly representative group of laymen and ministers. This consensus reflects a substantial preponderance of opinion, although not necessarily unanimity on all points, of the majority of individuals present at the General Assembly and presumably of a substantial majority of members of our local churches and fellowships. Since this denomination cherishes and recognizes the freedom of individual members, this consensus does not presume to speak for all delegates to the General Assembly or all members of our Unitarian Universalist churches and fellowships. We recognize that strong differences of opinion may exist on specific questions among sincere and thoughtful Unitarian Universalists notwithstanding their common religious affiliation.