Imagine being in church on a Sunday morning when a group of children are about to present a musical. They have learned songs and lines and rehearsed and are ready to go. Excitement fills the air. Suddenly, all the celebratory spirit comes to a crashing halt as a stranger opens fire in the sanctuary. This is the situation that confronted church-goers at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church on July 27, 2008. Some of them responded quickly, tackling the shooter, though one of them—Greg McKendry—died in the process.
Hatred of liberal religion and gay and lesbian people motivated the shooting. During the aftermath members and friends of the congregation experienced not only private grief, pain, and mourning but also national attention which called for a response to the media. Unitarian Universalist Association leaders saw a need to find a way for Unitarian Universalists to take action not only when tragedy strikes our own congregations, but also when our values call for a response to events and challenges in the broader community and world. The UUA adopted the phrase "Standing on the Side of Love," which was already associated with activism related to equal marriage, as an umbrella slogan to name all the ways in which Unitarian Universalists support justice for all people, including responding to hate crimes, advocating for immigrants and their families, and supporting full equality for bisexual, gay, lesbian, and transgender people. The Standing on the Side of Love public advocacy campaign, sponsored by the UUA, seeks to harness love's power to stop oppression.