Social Justice in Unitarian Universalism
Why engage in social justice work?
Many Unitarian Universalists trace their Universalist roots back to Hosea Ballou's Treatise on Atonement, published in 1805. This manifesto argued that it was not a fear of eternal damnation that led people to do good on earth, but an understanding that paradise is here and now.
Historically, both Unitarians and Universalists have been active in seeking justice:
- The Unitarian Henry Bergh founded societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals and children.
- The Unitarian Robert Gould Shaw led the first regiment of free blacks in the Union Army during the Civil War.
- The Universalist Church was one of the first religious groups to formally oppose slavery in 1790.
- The Universalist Church was the first promote women into clergy in the 1800s.
This tradition has had a lasting impact on Unitarian Universalism. Social justice work is incorporated into our seven Unitarian Universalist Principles, which all member congregations affirm and promote. These Principles are also a part of UUA Bylaws, which govern the work of our Association.
The Social Witness Process
The social witness process is the way that our Association comes to understand and act on the social issues of our times. This process has been an integral part of our faith since the merger between Unitarians and Universalists in 1961. The process is congregationally driven and facilitated by the Commission on Social Witness.
Issue Priorities and Social Witness Statements
One outcome of the social witness process is the determination of the issue priorities upon which our Association focuses its limited resources. Those include:
- Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Equality
- Environmental Justice
- Immigration Justice
- Reproductive Justice with a focus on Comprehensive Sexuality Education
Another outcome is the formulation of official statements on social justice issues. We invite you to search our database of social witness statements to learn more about the commitment of Unitarian Universalists to making this world a better place. These statements also serve as grounding for sign-on letters of endorsement and Amicus Curiae briefs.
Social Justice and General Assembly
The social witness process usually culminates in a vote at our annual General Assembly. In 2011, in response to harsh legislation passed in Arizona targeting immigrants and their families, a majority of Unitarian Universalists voted to make our 2012 General Assembly, to be held in Phoenix, Arizona, a Justice General Assembly.
Standing on the Side of Love
Our commitment to justice also led to the creation of a powerful public advocacy campaign to oppose oppression in its many forms and counter hate with the love.The Standing on the Side of Love campaign grew out of the Unitarian Universalist community’s response to a shooting at a UU congregation in Knoxville, TN. Since then, the movement to challenge identity-based oppression, exclusion, and violence continues to grow.
For more information contact info @ uua.org.
This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations. Please consider making a donation today.
Last updated on Wednesday, October 10, 2012.