News brief: UUA president speaks at launch of Poor People’s Campaign

News brief: UUA president speaks at launch of Poor People’s Campaign

Susan Frederick-Gray condemns tax bill as part of ‘all-out violent assault’ on poor, working class, and middle class people; interfaith movement plans nationwide campaign of nonviolent civil disobedience.


Fifty years to the day after the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. launched the Poor People’s Campaign in 1967—the last protest movement he initiated before he was murdered in 1968—UUA President Susan Frederick-Gray joined other religious leaders in Washington, D.C., to launch the campaign again.

“What we are witnessing right in this moment is an all-out violent assault on our nation’s poor, on its working families, and what remains of the disappearing middle class,” said Frederick-Gray at the December 4 rally of leaders from an array of faith traditions. “What we are witnessing is an all-out assault on Mother Earth and on the gift of life that sustains us all.”

Standing between the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II and the Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, the conveners of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, Frederick-Gray said, “This administration and this Republican-led Congress is systematically trying to provide a massive financial windfall for the wealthiest Americans and the largest corporations. And this windfall will be paid on our backs and on the backs of our children and our grandchildren.”

Frederick-Gray called the tax bill that the Senate had just approved immoral. “It violates our moral responsibility to care for one another. This proposed tax bill is a threat to the economic wellbeing of this country. It is designed to prop up the walls of greed and the borders of oppression that are killing us all.”

She said she was “proud to stand with the Poor People’s Campaign . . . on behalf of Unitarian Universalists. Together we will hold our leaders accountable.”

The Poor People’s Campaign is planning a nationwide nonviolent civil disobedience campaign, building on the model of the Moral Mondays movement in North Carolina and on the Poor People’s Campaign the Southern Christian Leadership Conference was leading in 1968 when King was assassinated.

Watch her full statement (Facebook 12/4/17) or read her briefer prepared remarks ( 12/4/17). The Unitarian Universalist Association adopted a Statement of Conscience in 2017 entitled “Escalating Economic Inequity,” which declares that “Challenging extreme inequity locally and globally is a moral imperative.”

Top officials of several other faith communities also spoke at the event, including representatives of the United Church of Christ, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the Presbyterian Church (USA), and the Union for Reform Judaism.

Selected media coverage of the Poor People’s Campaign:

Commentary about the Poor People’s Campaign:

  • William J. Barber II and Liz Theoharis,  TIME, 12/5/17
  • Katrina vanden Heuvel,  The Nation, 12/5/17
  • Sarah Anderson,  The Nation, 12/4/17


An earlier version of this story misstated the title of the UUA’s 2017 Statement of Conscience. Although the Congregational Study/Action Issue that culminated in the Statement of Conscience was called “Escalating Inequality,” the final version of the statement itself uses the word "inequity” in the title.