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Nondiscrimination Clause: Writing Congregational Bylaws

Many congregations are beginning to include (or add) nondiscrimination clauses to their bylaws. Others argue that in the absence of any specific restriction, no basis on which to discriminate exists in congregational operations. However, many congregations now believe that it is important to include an affirmative statement that they will not discriminate on the basis of several definable characteristics. The specific naming and affirming of historically marginalized groups in a nondiscrimination clause is important to the individuals in such groups, as well as others who desire to be part of a congregation that is intentional and active about nondiscrimination.

Congregations need to determine whether their bylaws will list specific classes/factors or whether a general statement will be sufficient. Some congregations include general nondiscrimination language in their purpose section, whereas others include a more detailed clause elsewhere in their bylaws. Congregations need to consider whether the nondiscrimination provisions apply to people seeking membership, elected office, and employment. The Welcoming Congregation program of the UUA (Unitarian Universalist Association) recommends the inclusion of a nondiscrimination clause in the bylaws. In particular, in recent years congregations have begun to add "gender identity and expression" to their sexuality and gender-based provisions for nondiscrimination.

Sample Provisions

Example 1: It is especially understood that membership and programming is open to all adults. Hiring shall be based on character and abilities, not such things as ethnic background, age, sexual/gender orientation and disabilities.

Example 2: All employees of this society shall be hired without regard to race, color, creed, sex, gender, sexual preference or orientation, disability, or national origin.

Example 3: This congregation affirms and promotes the full participation of persons in all our activities and endeavors including membership, programming, hiring practices, and the calling of religious professionals, without regard to race, color, gender, physical or mental challenge, affectional or sexual orientation, class or national origin.

Example 4: It is specifically understood that membership in this congregation is not, and cannot be, predicated upon race, color, sex or sexual orientation.

As of 2004, the Unitarian Universalist Association's nondiscrimination clause is as follows:

Section C-2.3. Non-discrimination. The Association declares and affirms its special responsibility, and that of its member congregations and organizations, to promote the full participation of persons in all of its and their activities and in the full range of human endeavor without regard to race, color, sex, disability, affectional or sexual orientation, age, or national origin and without requiring adherence to any particular interpretation of religion or to any particular religious belief or creed.

For more information contact growthresources @ uua.org.

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Last updated on Thursday, February 7, 2013.

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