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

Alternate Activity 2: The Right Not to Speak

Activity time: 15 minutes

Materials for Activity

  • Timepiece (minutes)
  • Bell or chime

Preparation for Activity

  • Write on newsprint, and post:
    • Have there been times in your life when you felt pressured to support something you did not agree with? When?
    • Where did this pressure come from (work, family, congregation, society)?
    • How did you respond?

Description of Activity

Introduce the activity with these or similar words:

Often when we think of "free speech" we think of the right to say what we want without government censorship or retribution. But free speech is also about the right not to speak, the right to refuse to support the government's actions, to incriminate ourselves, or to endorse a document with which we disagree. In the case of the McCarthy hearings, people were imprisoned for what they did not say. The refusal to cooperate with the Committee was interpreted as "contempt" and brought jail sentences of up to a year for witnesses who would not name associates. In the case of the Levering Act, the refusal to sign the loyalty oath brought the congregation in Los Angeles into conflict with the state.

Call attention to the posted questions and invite participants to break into groups of three to respond. Allow 10 minutes for small group sharing. Sound the chime when 10 minutes have passed.