Leaders of Unitarian Universalist Association, United Church of Christ deliver 73,000 signatures to Congress.
The contingent, including the UCC’s Rev. Linda Jaramillo, executive minister for justice, as well as representatives from both denominations’ offices, visited the offices of Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA); Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid (D-NV); and House Republican Leader, John Boehner (R-OH) to deliver the petitions along with a cover letter.
The petition response was “arguably the largest single advocacy action ever taken by Unitarian Universalists,” Sinkford said in the letter accompanying the petitions. “That so many of us—with our colleagues in the United Church of Christ—have chosen this issue, at this time," he wrote, “demonstrates just how frustrated we are by the ongoing violence in Iraq and the lack of substantive policy change here at home.” Among the signatories were 13,000 UUs and 60,000 members of the UCC.
The petition reads in part: “I call for an end to the war in Iraq, an end to our reliance on violence as the first, rather than the last resort, an end to the arrogant unilateralism of preemptive war” (see related resources for full text).
Signatures came from at least 200 congregations in all 50 states, said Adam Gerhardstein, legislative assistant for international issues at the UUA’s Washington Office for Advocacy and Witness, with more than 400 clergy signing the petition. The Washington Office for Advocacy and Witness began the petition drive September 20, joining the UCC, which had initiated the project in August.
“This is the first time I can recall that the leaders of the two denominations have together engaged in such a high profile action,” said Rob Keithan, director of the Washington Office. The UUA has worked with the UCC on sex education advocacy with the group Advocates for Youth. The two denominations have collaborated on the development of the Our Whole Lives lifespan sexuality education curricula and have worked together on other issues through interfaith organizations.
In accepting the petitions, the representatives from each office expressed appreciation. David Schnittger from the House Republican Leader’s office said, “While Congressman Boehner probably wouldn’t agree with all of the views expressed, he would say that he has respect for your views and the views of those you represent.”
In another action later on October 10, Thomas and Jaramillo were arrested in an act of civil disobedience in front of the White House when their request for a meeting with the White House’s public liaison office was refused.
The UUA passed resolutions calling for a swift and peaceful resolution to the war in Iraq at its annual General Assemblies in 2004, 2006, and 2007. In 2006, the General Assembly adopted peacemaking as a four-year study/action issue in which congregations are encouraged to focus on peace-related issues.
Sinkford sent a letter on March 9, 2007, to all members of Congress, asking that the legislature stop funding the war. A “moral balance sheet” attached to the letter listed the war’s costs to the nation in terms of deaths, homes not built in New Orleans, meals for children not provided, and environmental progress not made.
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Jane Greer is a former senior editor of UU World magazine.