A weekly guide to stories about Unitarian Universalists from other media sources.
Tim Byrne and James Curran, staff members of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), were violently mugged last year by four young men while in New Orleans for the UUA’s annual General Assembly. When the case came to trial, both Byrne and Curran wrote letters to the sentencing judge asking for leniency for the four men. In his letter, Byrne affirmed that a “harshly punitive approach won’t bring us peace or comfort and, equally important, is unlikely to turn damaged young men into productive citizens.” The judge took these appeals into account in issuing her sentence, but each youth still received multiple-years-long prison sentences. In delivering her sentence, Criminal District Court Judge Camille Buras said, “I hope each and every one of you takes as much interest in your future well-being as the victims have, and as the community that appears in court and writes letters on your behalf has.” (The Advocate - 5.22.18)
Leslie Runnels is a member of a New Orleans congregation. She remembers learning about the violent attack on UUA staff members in her church the morning after it happened. She has been part of a local group of Unitarian Universalist committed to supporting a just outcome for the young men on trial and working in coordination with Byrne and Curran. Runnels noted that neither of the victims wanted to see their attackers serve long sentences and hoped instead to pursue a restorative justice approach. “The systems have been working on young black men for a long time, and they’ve been funneled through the system. We want to break the system,” said Runnels. (WAFB.com - 5.23.18)
“Four plead guilty to brutal robbery, attack of French Quarter tourists” (WGNO.com - 5.22.18)
“4 plead guilty in French Quarter attack on Boston tourists, who asked for leniency in the case” (The Times-Picayune - 5.22.18)
In June, the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Saratoga Springs, New York, will host a gun buyback event for the local community. Working with the mayor and public safety commissioner, the congregation’s minister, the Rev. Joe Cleveland, said of the planned event, “It shows the strength of the community that we’re coming together around this issue to increase the safety of everyone in town.” Cleveland said, “It’s a great example of how the city and the private sector and religious groups come together to work for the common good.” (Saratogian News - 5.21.18)
The Unitarian Congregation of West Chester in Pennsylvania became the third church in their county to display a t-shirt graveyard on church grounds called the Memorial to the Lost. Created by a Philadelphia-based faith group advocating for stronger gun laws and safety, the display is intended to spread the message of the importance of gun violence prevention. Volunteers who were connected to local victims of gun violence helped place the t-shirts and then joined in a ceremony afterward to honor all 57 victims of gun violence in Chester County over the last 10 years. (Daily Local News - 5.21.18)
“Pitt County Students Call For Stricter Gun Laws At Vigil For Santa Fe Victims” (Public Radio East - 5.23.18)
Eighteen people were arrested for trespassing in the Topeka, Kansas, office of Secretary of State Kris Kobach. Among them was Unitarian Universalist minister the Rev. Sarah Oglesby-Dunegan, who said she took the decision to be arrested very seriously and did so in part as a way to express her opposition to Kobach’s anti-immigrant and voter suppression policies. (The Topeka Capital-Journal - 5.23.18)
Memphis, Tennessee, area Unitarian Universalist minister the Rev. Edith Love joined the second week of protests with the Poor People’s Campaign and joined hundreds who blocked traffic while marching to the state capitol in Nashville. She was motivated to participate by interactions she’s had with young people experiencing tragic circumstances because they are poor and she’d been trained in non-violent direct action the year before through Rev. Barber’s group. (Commercial Appeal - 5.19.18)
“Poor People’s Campaign delivers hope, reinforcement of anti-poverty fight” (Worcester Telegram - 5.19.18)
“Eighteen Arrested in Deportation Protest on Blue Line” (Mass Transit - 5.23.18)
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Rachel Walden is the communications specialist in the UUA Office of Information and Public Witness.