Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Resistance and Transformation: An Adult Program on Unitarian Universalist Social Justice History

Activity 2: The Levering Act

Activity time: 30 minutes

Materials for Activity

Preparation for Activity

  • Copy Handouts 2 and 3 for all participants.
  • Read the short biography of Rev. Stephen Fritchman on the Harvard Square Library website.
  • Read Leader Resource 2 and prepare to present it to the group.
  • Post two sheets of newsprint, one titled "Key Players" and the other "Key Terms."
  • Pre-arrange for a co-facilitator or a participant volunteer to scribe while you lead the discussion.

Description of Activity

Indicate the two sheets of newsprint you have posted. Share Leader Resource 2, The Levering Act with the group as your co-facilitator or a volunteer records items from the reading that belong under the newsprint headers. For example, "Rev. Fritchman" will be listed as a key player and "tax-exempt" as a key term. Pause as you are reading, to allow the group and scribe to make note of these pieces of information.

After the reading, invite participants to suggest additional items for the two lists.

Invite participants to form two groups, calling them Group A and Group B. Groups need not be equal in number, as long as there are some people in each. Once participants have moved into groups, explain that they will stage a mock board meeting at a congregation faced with signing the California Loyalty Oath.

Distribute Handout 2, The California Loyalty Oath. Explain that the "board" must decide at this meeting whether or not to sign. Individuals in Group A will argue against signing, and individuals in Group B will argue in favor of signing. Explain that they will not act as a team, but rather as a group of board members with differing opinions and perspectives. Invite participants to take a few moments to read the handout and think over their positions; suggest they use the newsprint lists as a guide.

Begin the mock board meeting by reading aloud Handout 2, The California Loyalty Oath. Invite participants to express their assigned opinions and make arguments to justify their positions. Act as the board chair, keeping discussion moving and inviting all to participate. Be sure these points are considered in the course of the discussion:

  • How will the congregation pay for the taxes?
  • What about the legal fees?
  • Is there community support?
  • What if the minister disagrees with the board's decision?
  • What are the ramifications of our signing this oath? For example, would groups renting the space also have to comply?
  • What about moral and ethical responsibilities? Would signing this oath harm anyone?

After ten minutes of discussion, call for a vote and end the meeting. Invite reflection on these questions:

  • What did you think were the most persuasive arguments on either side?
  • What do you think was accomplished with the final vote?
  • What, if anything, was sacrificed?

Distribute Handout 3, This Could Happen Here. Explain that the First Unitarian Church in Los Angeles used this brochure to raise money for their fight against the loyalty oath. Invite participants to comment on the brochure.