A prayer for the Alabama Legislature

Tomorrow, Faith leaders from across the state will be holding a press conference in Montgomery on the steps of the State House and will be praying for the legislators as they debate HB 56, the bill passed last year that is projected to cost the state $11 Billion in economic loss, not to mention the hundreds of  millions of dollars combined in litigation costs and county, city, and state taxes. Each faith leader has been asked to deliver their prayers for the legislature as part of this event.

Here is the prayer I will be delivering to my legislators:

Holy One, who incarnated the world with love, your messenger stated the greatest leader among us was the one who served the poor, the weak, the infirmed, and the stranger.  We have strayed from that purpose and have sought instead to align ourselves with the privileged, the powerful, and the wealthy in the vain hopes that we might share in that privilege, that power, that wealth.  In this striving we have failed to serve the least of these who are most vulnerable; the children and elderly, the poor and the working poor, and the sojourner.  We have failed to see that what we do to the least of these we in turn do to ourselves and to all that is sacred. When we enact laws that tear apart families, we are tearing apart the sacred tapestry established from the beginning of life.  Such actions grieve the Spirit that weaves together the human family.  Help us to know that such actions result in pain and suffering in other seemingly unrelated arenas of our state.  Help us to know and feel that grief that cries out for redress are as the cries from the Hebrews who sojourned in Egypt.  The suffering cries out to the heavens for redress of their injustice.

Turn us away from our self serving actions.  Guide us back to being the servants of the people who are disenfranchised and made vulnerable to exploitation and abuse by an unequal system.  Teach us again the meaning of the Samaritan, the one disenfranchised and hated by society turned out to be the one who was incarnated by the Spirit of Love.  May we humble ourselves before the Sacred that lives within each of us.  May we seek to honor the holy within each of us by enacting laws that strengthen the human family by nurturing our resident’s potentials and receiving our resident’s gifts rather than castigating their presence among us.   In the Spirit of the Holy One who calls us to give voice to the voiceless, to lift up the downtrodden, and to offer hospitality to the sojourner, Amen.  Let it be so.

 

Rev. Fred L Hammond

Minster, Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Tuscaloosa

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Is The Republican Platform Compatible with Unitarian Universalism?

Republicans traditionally have been a minority in our Unitarian Universalist congregations.  I have generally sought to be tolerant of republican ideology because my grandfather and great grandfather were both republican politicians having served as Town Supervisor and Mayor. Their achievements in these roles are ones I have been proud of and continue to be so.  However, what I have been observing in the  political arena of late is not my Great Grandfather’s or even my Grandfather’s Republican Party, the party of Lincoln.

This has been a very difficult year politically. In a spirit of full disclosure, I am currently a registered Democrat.  I am moving my affiliation to Independent because the values I am also seeing expressed in the Democratic Party are also not my values. However, I am even more uncomfortable with the values I am seeing expressed by the Republican Party.  My discomforts in these two parties lie in my convictions to embody Unitarian Universalist values.

We all  come to this faith from some place on the political spectrum, even those who are born into this faith have a socially constructed political framework in which they operate.  However, if we are serious in engaging our faith as Unitarian Universalists, I do not believe we can stay in the same place we were in when came to this faith. We must engage our political framework with the same fervor that one might engage one’s privilege or racism, as the  political framework in this country is tied into the matrix that supports privilege and racism.  Ours is a transformative faith if we allow it to be so.  While on the one hand, I would want to create a space to allow republican ideals, such as my grandfather and great grandfather expressed them, within our congregation; I am on the other hand increasingly concerned that the platform of the Republican Party is not compatible with our faith values and is in fact dangerous in our desire to dismantle privilege  and racism.

The Democrat party also has its play in seeking to maintain privilege and racism in our country, so  I am not ignoring the incompatible values of this party.  It seems current and past administrations have adopted the policy of democratizing the world by force and ironically are punitive when democracy is spontaneously expressed here at home.  Democracy is one of our Unitarian Universalist principles but it has a caveat attached to it; the right of conscience.  This speaks to me of the freedom for a people to choose their own democracy structure even when it does not support American corporate interests.  American foreign policies have been based on privilege, on a belief of American supremacy, and on the false assumption that America is God’s chosen nation to police the world.  An example of this is the Joint Special Operations Command, or JSOC, the secretive force that assassinated Osama Bin Laden.  Regardless of America’s ethical justification about this particular mission, the JSOC operates through out the world with little to no accountability, not even to the Commander in Chief[i].  This stance of our nation is antithetical to Unitarian Universalist values as I understand them. Both parties are guilty in adhering to values that represent ultimately in sustaining America’s shadows.

However, The Republican Party has expressed an agenda that is anti-woman, anti-worker,  anti- immigrant, anti-religious freedom, anti-elderly, and racist.  I do not understand how any Unitarian Universalist, who is seeking to honor the principles of inherent worth and dignity of every person; Justice, equity, and compassion in human relations; and the right of conscience and the use of the democratic process can in good conscience continue to support a party that is actively working to devolve American society back to a repressive and oppressive era, more reminiscent of 1812 rather than 2012.

Recent laws that have been passed or proposed in our country by our Republican leaders support my thesis.   Several states have passed or are in the process of passing a personhood amendment, where the rights of personhood are conferred at the moment of conception.   This law would make abortions for any reason—be they economic, life preserving, or rape induced–illegal.  It would make many contraceptives illegal because these contraceptives work in preventing the fertilized egg from attaching to the uterine wall and thereby aborting the pregnancy.  Virginia’s republican leaders just passed a bill that would force women who are considering an abortion to have a transvaginal ultrasound[ii], a very intrusive forced procedure.  The republican governor has stated he will sign the bill into law.  In this sense, the Republican Party is legitimizing rape by forcing women to an intrusive, medically unwarranted probe procedure against her will.

The current brouhaha by republicans over health plans requiring contraceptive coverage is being called an attack on religious freedom; however, these proposed laws are an attack on religious freedom by forcing non-believers to adhere to another’s faith dogmas.

Further, a recent hearing on the contraceptive insurance issue[iii] excluded women from testifying on the issue that directly affects them, further proof that the current Republican party is anti-woman.  To quote a banner from an earlier time in our history, “No self -respecting woman should wish nor work for the success of a party that ignores her sex.[iv]

The Republican Congress majority just voted to not reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act because it has provisions that offer “protections for LGBT individuals, undocumented immigrants who are victims of domestic abuse and the authority of Native American tribes to prosecute crimes.”[v] This stance by the Republican Party is against the Unitarian Universalist principle of justice, equity, and compassion in human relations. These laws are incompatible with Unitarian Universalist principles.  These laws are an attempt to return women to an era of bare-foot and pregnant, and therefore to a subservient status of a previous century in order to curtail their freedom and growing power.

In Indiana, the republican senators have introduced a bill  to empower that state to withdraw from Medicare and Medicaid,thereby leaving the elderly, disabled, and the poor who need these services for their own quality of life.   This is an act of war on the marginalized in our country.  This is not a political party that has the interests of its constituents at heart but rather interested in maintaining the privilege of the elite.  This action does not reflect the values of Unitarian Universalism.

It has been said, the greatest threat to any nation is not the threat from abroad but rather the threat from within.  The Republican Party has been active in promoting that this threat exists.  They have chosen to give this threat a name:  the illegal immigrant.  However, factions within the Republican Party have expanded this threat to the immigrant, with or with out documentation[vi].   The laws that have been passed against immigrants, while claiming to be racially unbiased have in fact used race and foreign language usage to be criteria for asking for documentation.  Proof of racism by the Republican Party is in the response of republican legislators in Alabama who refused to see constituents who were Latino at a recent lobbying day sponsored by Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice.  White constituents were allowed in to see their legislators but when the white constituents wanted to include their Latino friends, the Latinos were denied access[vii].  There have been republican attempts to pass legislation to prove presidential nominees are birthright[viii] American citizens which is a racist response to the Obama presidency. No amount of legitimizing the concern can convince me that these legislative moves are not racially motivated.

The Republican Party is anti-LGBT.  The Republican Party has publicly endorsed their opposition to same gender[ix] marriage[x], gays in the military[xi], adoption by gay parents[xii], and support for protecting anti-gay bullies,[xiii] and support for the discrimination against gays.[xiv]  The Unitarian Universalist Association has since 1970[xv] fought for the inclusion of sexual minorities in the citizenship of this country.  This anti-gay stance by the Republican Party is in direct opposition to Unitarian Universalist values of inherent worth and dignity of every person.

The Republican Party is anti-worker.  Unitarian Universalists since our consolidation of our two denominations have made strong resolutions for worker rights and economic justice[xvi].  The Republican Party however has opposed worker [xvii]rights and worker [xviii]organization by passing bills[xix] that diminish [xx] labor[xxi] protections  and the worker’s ability to survive economically.  Again, these measures by the Republican Party go fully against the positions that Unitarian Universalists have consistently made at General Assemblies for the past 50 plus years.  Passing legislation that would create and enforce an extreme power imbalance between worker’s rights and corporate interests flies in the face of our principle for justice, equity, and compassion in human relations.

For these reasons, I have concluded that the Republican Party platform as it stands now is antithetical to being Unitarian Universalist.  One simply cannot live Unitarian Universalist values and remain to be a Republican in this day and age.  I realize this will be seen as an offensive statement to those who identify as Unitarian Universalist Republicans but if you are still reading, I would encourage you to contrast your values to the values of the Republican Platform.  The number of  incompatible positions by the Republican Party are far too many to overlook to enable Unitarian Universalists to assent to its platform.   I recognize that there are some aspects of the Republican Platform that a Unitarian Universalist could easily assent to but in my mind they have become too few in order for a Unitarian Universalist engaged in embodying our principles to live in harmony with Republican values.