Unitarian Universalists Support Immigrants, Transgender People: Human Rights Issues Dominate Annual Meeting
The 2010 General Assembly (GA) of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) closed last night in Minneapolis, Minnesota, with delegates making strong commitments to human rights and social justice work. Close to 4,000 people attended the annual gathering and business meeting of the association of more than 1,000 congregations.
Delegates at GA 2010 overwhelmingly endorsed a resolution to hold a special “Justice General Assembly” in Phoenix in 2012. The resolution called upon the UUA Board of Trustees to transform the usual annual gathering, scheduled several years ago for Phoenix, into a unique justice-oriented meeting. It also asked the UUA administration to work with leaders in Arizona Unitarian Universalist (UU) congregations to establish an Arizona immigration ministry. The resolution was drafted in response to outrage over Arizona’s new anti-immigrant law, SB1070. An invitation from leaders of Puente and National Day Laborer Organizing Network to develop a partnership with the UUA included a vision of a transformed annual meeting in Phoenix. Delegates decided that the justice gathering would be a more effective response than boycotting the state altogether.
Support for immigrant rights dominated the annual meeting, and bold commitments were made in all forums where voting occurred. Delegates selected as a four-year congregational Study/Action Issue on the topic, Immigration as a Moral Issue. The topic was chosen from among five final options and will be studied extensively through 2014. In addition, an Action of Immediate Witness called on Unitarian Universalists to “Oppose Anti-Immigrant Measures at the State Level and Hasten Federal Immigration Reform.” A short video celebrating UU work for immigration reform in Arizona was shown to an enthusiastic crowd.
In her report to the Assembly, Moderator Gini Courter said, “The work is just beginning on our part. Please take home a sense of urgency to your own congregation to stand in opposition to systemic racism and oppression.” She continued, “We are the best hope for democracy and inclusion in this country.I would say not just that we can; I would say that we must.”
The Assembly also passed a responsive resolution supporting the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a bill now in Congress that would prevent discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Allison Woolbert, a transgender female, shared some of her own story about losing business clients because of her gender identity. “People don’t get fired for being straight,” she said. “Employment shouldn’t be based on who you are or who you love. It’s important that we have employment equality for all.”
Other Responsive Resolutions called for the UUA to revitalize youth ministry, to advocate for “Gulf Coast Environmental and Economic Justice,” and to “Clean Up the Clean Energy Bill.”
Attendees joined the Standing on the Side of Love campaign at the Twin Cities Pride celebration. The campaigners wore bright yellow “Standing on the Side of Love” t-shirts, and their procession was led by two new brides in white gowns pulled in a festive chariot. UUA President, Rev. Peter Morales, told the crowd, “The religious point of view has too often been ceded to those who use religion to shut people out, but American history would not have progressed on any social issues without people of faith who struggled for justice and who continue to do so. The time has come for incremental steps towards equality to grow into giant strides.”
US Representative Keith Ellison (D-MN), admired the yellow shirts with the uplifting message of inclusion. He addressed the Assembly in a stirring speech celebrating the power of love to advance social justice. US Senator Al Franken (D-MN) also addressed the Assembly, sharing a funny and touching story about his father’s final illness and the spiritual lessons Franken learned from him.
Environmental justice was also an important theme at the 2010 GA. Delegates passed a resolution calling for a “Green Revolution” throughout the organizations and congregations that make up the UUA. Activist and author Winona LaDuke delivered the annual Ware Lecture. LaDuke urged the audience to take action for sustainability in all areas of their lives.
During the five-day meeting, attendees volunteered at Hope Community, a Minneapolis neighborhood that includes housing for low-income families and provides a number of community services. UUs painted walls and performed landscaping work. The Assembly also raised more than $40,000 dollars for Hope Community.
Detailed coverage of the business agenda, justice work, and worship at GA can be found on the UU World’s General Assembly Blog.
The Unitarian Universalist Association is a faith community of more than 1000 self-governing congregations that bring to the world a vision of religious freedom, tolerance and social justice. For more information on the UUA, including recent press releases and news articles, please visit our online pressroom.
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