Allan Lindrup, Chicago, IL
I am writing to express my concern over violations of our UU Principles, particularly the 4th, 5th and 1st Principles, by the UUA, regional staff, and sometimes local congregations.
I will start with the 4th Principle: A free and responsible search for truth and meaning. This does not say that one may search for the truth and its meaning to our lives, but one should not share one’s views with others on what one has found or concluded. If that was the case our faith would be like dogmatic faiths where one is free to think heretical thoughts so long as they are not expressed. So each of us, whether a minister or lay person, should feel supported in searching for the truth and its meaning to our lives and the sharing of our conclusions with others in our congregations or other UU gatherings. Obviously, the treatment of Rev. Eklof at the 2019 General Assembly by many his fellow ministers, and later by the censure of the UUMA, was a violation of the 4th Principle.
Another example, at the First Unitarian Society of Chicago, where I am a member, was the banning, in the spring of 2019, of the offering of a course called The Nature of Racism, on the grounds that it does not align with the UUA’s views on racial caucusing and White Supremacy Culture. I have filed a request that the Board of Trustees reconsider that decision. If their position remains inflexible my conscience dictates that I will have to resign from that congregation and seek another UU congregation that is fully supportive of our UU Principles.
Next I will address the 5th Principle: The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large. While this Principle jumps from our congregations to society at large, without addressing the UUA and its district and regional structures, I believe most UUs understand that it should apply to the various parts of the UUA beyond the individual congregations.
Prior to 2020, the MidAmerica Region would have exhibit booths at its Annual Regional Assembly. The U.U. Multiracial Unity Action Caucus (www.uumuac.org), of which I am a Board member, applied to have an exhibition booth at the 2019 MidAmerica Annual Regional Assembly and paid the applicable fee. A few weeks later, before the assembly, we were informed by MAR staff that UUMUAC could not have a booth, as it did not support the concept that the UUA and its member congregations were a White Supremacy Culture. The fee for the booth was refunded. This was a violation of our right of conscience to oppose the use of White Supremacy Culture language to characterize the UUA and its member congregations.
As has been pointed out by the 5th Principle Project, the loss of representation by districts or regions on the UUA Board of Trustees has made that body less democratic and more out of touch with grassroots UUs.
Another example of lack of democracy was when the UUA Board of Trustees voted to call for a multi-million dollar fundraising campaign for BLUU, including promising to use UUA endowment funds to make up any money not sent in by the UU congregations, without putting that proposal to the following General Assembly for discussion and a vote by the delegates.
Last, I turn to the 1st U.U. Principle: The inherent worth and dignity of every person. To me this means that we should fight to end all discrimination and oppression, with the goal of having everyone on a level plane, with each person having equal access to opportunity and influence. To me the phrase “decentering whiteness” should mean that the historical preferences for whites, and particularly white men, should end and all people should be in the same place, with equal access to opportunity and influence. Unfortunately, the UUA seems to understand that phrase to mean that Caucasians in general, and cisgendered white men in particular, should have less worth and dignity than others, particularly people of color. One can see this in who is invited to give the Ware lecture at General Assembly, where no cisgendered white male has been invited to speak since 2002. It is also seen in the nominations to the UUA Board of Trustees, where it is rare for a cisgendered white man to be nominated.
At a recent MidAmerica Region training session, the staff person who was leading the session asked the audience to report back to them if anything they said was a micro-aggression. After the training session I emailed the staff person who had given the training to report that I considered her use of “white supremacy culture” as a micro-aggression. She replied that she would have to disregard my views as the UUA’s black partners had asked that staff use that phrase. Would my views have been disregarded if I was other than a cisgendered white man?