New address: 24 Farnsworth Street, Boston, MA 02210-1409.
In the fall of 2005, a subcommittee of the Social Justice Council (SJC) of the
Albuquerque First Unitarian Church formulated a resolution to end the occupation
of Iraq. After discussion with the board of directors, it was discovered that
our church had no policy for handling resolutions from church members. The
subcommittee then considered using an existing policy requiring the board to
call a meeting through a petition process.
However, upon learning of the National Religious Coalition Against Torture
(NRCAT) and realizing that a resolution against torture might have a better
chance of succeeding, we shifted our focus. In the meantime, the board
approved a policy for processing member-initiated resolutions that, if approved
by the congregation, would culminate in the church taking a public position.
After the board decided to implement the new policy, Renee Wolters and Ann
Harrison came out of the meeting and Harrison said, "We have to put this policy
to the test, and torture is the perfect issue as no one can really be for
torture, at least in our church." Our minister suggested requirements to be met
in educating church members and publicizing our efforts.
We launched a
promotional campaign that included showing videos about the war and torture,
with discussion afterward. We arranged three congregational "town hall" meetings
in early 2007 to present the case for joining NRCAT, based on our church’s
mission statement and the principles of Unitarian Universalism. The high school
youth group, at a "con," asked us to present our ideas, which resulted in
thoughtful and heartfelt discussion. The following Sunday, they also displayed
t-shirts with anti-torture slogans on a clothesline.
We held informal "round
table discussions" during Sunday coffee hour to answer questions and we asked
members and friends to sign our petition in favor of joining NRCAT. UUA President Rev. William
Sinkford and the Mountain Desert District (MDD) Justice Ministries also inspired us. These efforts culminated in a unanimous congregation vote, in April of
2007, to join NRCAT as an endorsing member.
During the Unitarian Universalist Association’s General Assembly 2007 in
Portland, OR, one of us proposed an Action of Immediate Witness (AIW)
against torture, gathered the requisite number of signatures from delegates, and
presented the petition to the full assembly. The AIW was passed.
To publicize our efforts and to gather support for NRCAT, we wrote to the MDD
member congregations, and were in touch with the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee
(UUSC). The Unitarian Church of Santa Fe, NM, requested an in-person
presentation and subsequently became a member of NRCAT. We are in the process of
identifying contacts in MDD congregations with whom we can continue to discuss
The First Unitarian Church’s social justice council purchased a black banner
from NRCAT with the slogan “Unitarian Universalists say Torture is Wrong”
written in white lettering. We carried the banner in a march commemorating the
fifth anniversary of the war in Iraq. The banner garnered attention and
admiration, and honks from drivers passing by.
In June 2008, we hung the banner in the church. We also hung the banner at
the October 2008 MDD conference held in Albuquerque. The hotel staff helped us
display the banner where the guests entering the hotel’s restaurant couldn’t
In closing, it is important to remember that First Unitarian Church
This article was written by Ann Harrison, past SJC chair, and Jane Ronca-Washburn, SJC member. Other significant contributors to FUC’s anti-torture advocacy include Liz McMaster, SJC member; Tiska Blankenship, past SJC co-chair; and Renee Wolters, past SJC chair.
Ann is currently a member
of the NRCAT Program Council and is working with
the NRCAT Editorial Board. She
also received the 2006 MDD Award for
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Last updated on Friday, May 3, 2013.
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