Media roundup: For sanctuary church, religious freedom means 'we decide' who comes into our space

Media roundup: For sanctuary church, religious freedom means 'we decide' who comes into our space

A weekly guide to stories about Unitarian Universalists from other media sources.

Rachel Walden


The Rev. Schuyler Vogel, senior minister at Fourth Universalist Society in Manhattan, New York, affirmed that his congregation understands the real risk to themselves and the church as a result of their recent decision to take a mother of two into sanctuary on church grounds. Aura Hernandez was forced to take sanctuary after the Department of Homeland Security refused to certify her U visa, a special category of visa issued to victims of certain crimes who cooperate with law enforcement. Hernandez has been cooperating with authorities investigating her claim that she was sexually abused by a border patrol agent while detained in 2005. When asked if he would allow Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or police agents into the church if they demanded it, Vogel said, “No... For us, religious freedom means the ability to decide who comes in and out of our sacred space. We get to decide that. It is not the government’s decision of who decides and how we get to practice our religion.” ( Democracy Now! - 3.29.18)

Watch the interview with Aura Hernandez to learn more about her journey to sanctuary at Fourth Universalist.

The Rev. Tom Goldsmith of First Unitarian Church in Salt Lake City said that taking Vicky Chavez, a mother of two facing deportation, into sanctuary in the church “has provided us with a tremendous sense of purpose. It is social justice work that is really tangible.” So far, they have not seen any members of ICE near the church and they hope it stays that way. ( - 3.25.18)

Get a look at Vicky Chavez’s life inside First Unitarian in this video from RadioWest.

More coverage:

“ICE Deports Man With Rare Genetic Condition Who Had Been In U.S. For 30 Years” ( Huffington Post - 3.22.17)

“Manhattan Church Shields Guatemalan Woman From Deportation” ( New York Times - 3.28.18)

“Sarno seeks to punish church offering sanctuary to illegal immigrant” ( The Reminder - 3.29.17)

Massachusetts judge rules pipeline protest was necessary to prevent further harm

In a historic climate justice ruling, a Massachusetts judge recently dismissed a case carrying criminal charges against 13 protesters who demonstrated against a fracked gas pipeline in the Boston neighborhood of West Roxbury. The ruling sets an important precedent in the fight for climate justice by acknowledging the protesters' “necessity defense,” meaning that the court agreed that it was necessary to act to disrupt pipeline construction in order to prevent greater harm. ( ThinkProgress - 3.28.18)

Several defendants in the case identify as Unitarian Universalist. Learn more about them from the Climate Disobedience Center.

More coverage:

“The Boston climate trial that might have been” ( CommonWealth - 3.28.18)

Youth lead March for Our Lives events across the country

In Tennessee, 1,000 people rallied in Knoxville to highlight the prevalence of gun violence and call for gun reform. Among the many young people who spoke at the rally, Zoe Brookshire-Riseley, a 17-year-old high school senior and survivor of the 2008 shooting at Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church, rallied the crowd with these words, “The moment we recognize our own power is the moment we become unstoppable. That is when a moment turns into a movement.” ( Knoxville News-Sentinel - 3.24.18)

More coverage:

“Gun reform rally draws huge turnout” ( The Republican Journal - 3.25.18)

“'We've got to take a stand. We've got to end all of this.' More than 300 join Manassas March for Our Lives event” ( Prince William Times - 3.24.18)

“Harford student recalls 'powerful' and 'emotional' March for Our Lives in D.C.” ( Baltimore Sun - 3.26.18)

“‘This is not normal’” ( Journal Inquirer - 3.26.18)