UU clergy, laypeople part of interfaith ‘Moral Day of Action’ at thirty state capitols.
Unitarian Universalist clergy rally with interfaith partners on the steps of the Massachusetts State House on September 12 as part of a nationwide Moral Day of Action. (© 2016 Christopher L. Walton/UUA)
In support of a “moral revolution of values” challenging extremist politics and policies that benefit the few at the expense of the many, hundreds of Unitarian Universalists joined in the National Higher Ground Moral Day of Action, a coordinated action at state capitols on September 12.
In thirty states, UU clergy and laypeople marched alongside faith leaders from many traditions and people affected by poverty and injustice to promote an antiracist, antipoverty, pro-justice, and pro-equality political agenda. Inspired by the work of the Rev. Dr. William Barber II, leader of the North Carolina Moral Mondays movement, and Sister Simone Campbell, leader of Nuns on the Bus, the actions took place at 11 a.m. in each time zone across the country.
In each state, groups delivered the “Higher Ground Moral Declaration” to governors and other elected leaders. It reads, in part: “Our moral traditions have a firm foundation upon which to stand against the divide-and-conquer strategies of extremists. We believe in a moral agenda that stands against systemic racism, classism, poverty, xenophobia, and any attempt to promote hate towards any members of the human family.” This summer, religious leaders delivered the declaration to the offices of the Republican and Democratic National Conventions; UUA President Peter Morales helped deliver the declaration to the RNC headquarters in July.
The day of action called on people to vote for candidates most likely to advance moral public policy agendas. It also urged faith leaders, on the two weekends prior to the presidential election, to preach about “economic liberation,” access to quality education and healthcare, criminal justice reform, and ensuring that people in historically marginalized communities have equal protection under the law.
As a coordinated national effort, the Moral Day of Action was very effective in “bringing people together,” said Susan Leslie, congregational advocacy and witness director at the Unitarian Universalist Association, “but instead of one issue at a time, it’s paving the way for a more transformative, intersectional justice movement from the faith side.” Leslie served on the national planning team and also helped connect UUs with local partners in each state.
In Boston, more than 500 people took part, said Leslie. About a third of them were UUs, she said. UUA President Peter Morales was one of several clergy who led the group in a call-and-response litany.
In Springfield, Illinois, the action included 120 people from five faith traditions from across the state. In addition to clergy from other faiths and speakers from a number of social justice groups, several UU ministers and a large number of laypeople marched and chanted, many wearing Standing on the Side of Love T-shirts.
UUs were involved in actions in all thirty states, Leslie said.
The format was the same in every state, including using the same opening and closings songs and the same chants as the groups walked around their respective capitol buildings. Clergy read aloud the declaration, which has been signed by thousands of faith leaders and people of many faith traditions. People impacted by various issues described in the declaration—from poverty to access to healthcare—briefly shared their stories.
The day of action is part of The Revival: Time for a Moral Revolution of Values, whose leaders, in addition to Barber and Campbell, include the Rev. Dr. James A. Forbes and the Rev. Dr. Traci Blackmon. Upcoming revivals are scheduled in Kansas City, Missouri, on September 19; Richmond, Virginia, on September 26; and Ferguson, Missouri, on September 27.
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Elaine McArdle is a UU World senior editor and a member of First Unitarian Church in Portland, Oregon. An award-winning journalist with more than 20 years of experience, she has also written for the Boston Globe, Harvard Law Bulletin, and others.
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