General Assembly Booth Denied

On March 24, 2021, we received an email from the Director of the General Assembly & Conference Services indicating that the Fifth Principle Project’s booth application at the June virtual General Assembly had been placed “on hold.”

The email indicated that the hold was motivated by the receipt of three emails “expressing concern about the presence of the Fifth Principle Booth.”  The three emails were generally non-specific criticism of the Fifth Principle Project and the projection that the booth would be a “disruptive presence.”  See a review of that letter by Jim Aikin, Something Wicked This Way Comes.

We later discovered more critical emails had been received.  We ask, therefore, that supporters send emails expressing their support for the Fifth Principle Project booth at General Assembly.  See Make Your Opinion Known (below).

Zoom Meeting

The issue of the booth’s application was discussed at a Zoom session held on April 7 with the Director of the General Assembly & Conference Services, the UUA Executive VP and an Assembly Planner.  The Zoom meeting was professionally conducted, but it was clear that the booth’s application was not moving forward due to the booth’s name, Fifth Principle Project.

It did not take much to read between the lines that there is a cabal of individuals wishing to silence the Fifth Principle Project.

That effort may have succeeded if it had not been for Jay’s candidacy for a UUA Board of Trustees position.  We requested the booth (a) to inform GA attendees of the Fifth Principle advocacy group and (2) alert GA delegates of Jay’s candidacy.

We were “invited” to change the name of our booth. We declined the invitation.  The objections to the booth’s name were based solely on the criticism raised in emails we never saw or had an opportunity to dispute.  Nonetheless, it was implied that such a position would most likely negatively impact our booth’s application.

At the time of the posting of this Discussion, it is not known if our GA booth application will move forward.

We took an action item from the meeting to devise a solution that would both satisfy the UUA and preserve the intent of the booth.  See Letter to UUA and General Assembly Staff below.

Make Your Opinion Known

Since a number of detractors have deemed it appropriate to contact GA and UUA officials, we ask that supporters of a Fifth Principle Project equally share their opinions.  It is important that a balanced view be presented to decision makers with emails from supporters.

Contact

Letter to UUA and General Assembly Staff

April 8, 2021

We very much appreciated the opportunity to meet on April 7, 2021 via Zoom regarding your concerns about our General Assembly booth application. We have discussed your request that we change the name of our booth, currently the Fifth Principle Project, as a condition for granting permission for the booth application to move forward.

Our understanding is that your strong preference is for us to ignore any reference to our advocacy group, the Fifth Principle Project. You have requested this booth name change, as we understand it, because you have received some objections to our presence at General Assembly. We have tried to allay your concerns by reiterating our purposes for requesting the booth—to advocate for a renewal of our Fifth Principle within our denomination and to support Jay’s candidacy.

We remain mystified as to why such advocacy has been met with any objection at all, much less the level of objection you described during the meeting. This advocacy is, however, the rationale for Jay’s putting himself forward as a candidate for the UUA Board. It is the platform on which he will run his campaign. While this has been described by us as the reasons for our booth, the two are unified by Jay’s rationale for running. During his campaign he will articulate the Fifth Principle Platform. It is because of this that we want to follow LaTonya’s suggestion that the name be changed from the Fifth Principle Project to Jay Kiskel, Fifth Principle Candidate for the UUA Board.

Please kindly respond quickly to this suggested change and tell us if this meets your demands and allows for our booth application to move forward.

Sincerely,

Jay and Frank

Join The Fifth Principle Project

Join the Fifth Principle Project (it’s free) so you can stay connected with others who want to reinvigorate the right of conscience and renew the democratic process in the governing of our denomination.

Used to Be UU

Our book Used to Be UU is available on Amazon.com (search by the book title).

Painstakingly researched and engagingly written, Used to Be UU is a vitally important book for all of us who feel we’ve found our spiritual home in Unitarian Universalism.

This book is a remarkable analysis of the dangers to Unitarian Universalism (UU) by the increasingly authoritarian governance by the leadership of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) and the Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association (UUMA).

The amazing thing is how well the authors succeed in laying out what is happening: the gradual grabbing of institutional power by the few and the gradual movement which turns a body whose purpose is to serve individual churches with their own self rule into a body that increasingly controls the churches and deprives them of the means to access one another and work together apart from oversight from above

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Mariah Springstead
Mariah Springstead
3 months ago

I copied and pasted this entire email to my entire congregation. I’ll catch “hell” for it I’m sure, but I’m really upset that the minister and a handful of powerful congregants are suppressing any mention of this.

Mariah Springstead
Mariah Springstead
3 months ago

Yeah. Right now I’m getting a few (quite) “thanks” and some very loud, very public, condemnation. We’ll see what this looks like tomorrow.

Frank Casper
Frank Casper
3 months ago

In response to what?

Mariah Springstead
Mariah Springstead
3 months ago
Reply to  Frank Casper

I sent this article about the booth denial to my congregation. One person said thank you and that he had sent the emails asking that the powers that be reconsider. Another person said I was spreading hate and now she’s scared because she’s LGBT+ (It’s worth noting that she and I are, or were, friends and she’s babysat my kids.) There is now a row going on about what a terrible person I am because of that. Then there’s the other friend who is screaming into the internet that no one should talk about any of this publicly and it… Read more »

Frank Casper
Frank Casper
3 months ago

I’m grateful for your bravery.

Mariah Springstead
Mariah Springstead
3 months ago

This is a friend of mine. I don’t want to laugh at her, I want a real conversation that fixes this.

Sally G
Sally G
3 months ago

I have had a trans individual express concerns for their safety in being included in e-mail chains with individuals whom they do not know. So I understand to some degree your friend’s concern, but I believe that it is excessive. OTOH, as a cis woman, I have never felt such fear (maybe some sexist remarks, but not actual concern for physical safety)—I am sure that there is a lot of tension, especially after 4 years of Trump and only a narrow repudiation of same. Look at all the voter-suppression laws being passed—people are sensitive, perhaps overly so (perhaps not), and… Read more »

Sally G
Sally G
3 months ago

No, she read about the death threats that people have received, even among UUs—I was a virtual observer at a UUA board meeting when one was received; it was scary even from hundreds of miles away. The hate is real, and as we try to combat it without swinging the pendulum to the other side, I think we must be gentle with the fearful

Last edited 3 months ago by Sally G
Tom Clowes
Tom Clowes
3 months ago

I don’t have a good idea of who 5PP people are and what they stand for because they’ve denied my request to join their closed FB group. It’s hard for me to take seriously a concern that they’re being denied a chance to take part in the conversation when they’ve denied me a chance to take part in the conversation.

Tom Clowes
Tom Clowes
3 months ago
Reply to  Tom Clowes

What is the reason for the closed FB group?

Frank Casper
Frank Casper
3 months ago
Reply to  Tom Clowes

I already told you. You’re not listening. And I must inform you that your persistent whining about that FB group is getting tedious. I urge you to just drop it.

Tom Clowes
Tom Clowes
3 months ago
Reply to  Frank Casper

I re-read the thread from earlier, but I still don’t know what would be lost from opening the FB group. What would be lost by opening the FB group?

Sally G
Sally G
3 months ago
Reply to  Tom Clowes

Agreed, I was not part of what was presumably a private conversation. I am not a fan of doing things on Facebook, but its one feature for me (others may differ, of course), is its wide reach, not its use for closed discussion. (Possible exception being a place for administrators of a public Facebook group to chat; I have that situation in one of my groups). Actually, I just thought of the other, exemplified by a secret group that I started years ago when the institution that was carefully alluded to, but not named, in the secret group’s name, refused… Read more »

Frank Casper
Frank Casper
3 months ago
Reply to  Sally G

The members of the FB group have been adamant about membership only for supporters of 5PP. The group will not be opened to those who only seek to impede or oppose our purpose. This is non-negotiable.

Sally G
Sally G
3 months ago
Reply to  Frank Casper

O.K., that is clear, and I guess I understand, though I find Facebook an odd choice for such a group. In any case, that is a rational method of defining group membership, regardless of platform.

Last edited 3 months ago by Sally G
Tom Clowes
Tom Clowes
3 months ago
Reply to  Frank Casper

You decided to keep the FB group closed because it is the popular thing to do? I just don’t understand how it aligns with your values. I guess I never will.

Frank Casper
Frank Casper
3 months ago
Reply to  Tom Clowes

I want to thank Tom for supplying a first rate example of just why that FB group is closed to people like him who cruise for every opportunity to twist and pervert what people say. There’s plenty of opportunity for that on the other UU FB groups. Join them. If you do it again here, I’m going to drop you from this page.

Tom Clowes
Tom Clowes
3 months ago
Reply to  Frank Casper

This gadfly has read several comments saying that Fifth Principle Project is a home of racist and/or transphobic beliefs. It’s challenging for me to give you the benefit of the doubt in response to those accusations because your Facebook group is closed, a decision about which your members are “adamant” and yet seems more in line with protecting unpopular beliefs from criticism than the seemingly opposite goal of promoting vigorous, transparent public debate among UUs. Now you say you’re going to “drop me” from this page. Again, this decision seems more in line with protecting your organization from criticism than… Read more »

Sally G
Sally G
3 months ago
Reply to  Tom Clowes

You do seem to be deliberately provocative, if not exactly trolling, so it is hard for me to give you the equal benefit of the doubt. Rather than focussing on one Facebook group—a platform that I, for one, use only with reluctance and only for materials that I want to be widely broadcast—I would like you to focus on this page and the merits of the items being discussed here. To me, that would be more productive; but you are of course free to choose your own focus. What have you seen *on this page* that would rebut/confirm those accusation?… Read more »

Last edited 3 months ago by Sally G
Frank Casper
Frank Casper
3 months ago
Reply to  Tom Clowes

I said that I would drop you if you persist in misrepresenting what others here say. That has nothing to do with your self admiration as some kind of gadfly. And I think Sally G is correct. You’re not a gadfly, you’re a troll, and your obsession with using that FB group as grounds for suggesting the worst about 5PP is a case in point. I’m warning you. I won’t put up with much more of this behavior from you.

Tom Clowes
Tom Clowes
2 months ago
Reply to  Frank Casper

Frank, when you said, “The group will not be open to people who seek to impede or oppose our purpose,” was that your explanation for why the group is closed? Because you think people like me are seeking to impede or oppose your purpose? When you responded to my question about why the group was closed, you responded saying that members are adamant the FB group stay closed. I took that as the rationale for why it was closed: because it was the popular choice; it was what the members wanted. I think you then thought I was trying to… Read more »

Frank Casper
Frank Casper
2 months ago
Reply to  Tom Clowes

Yes. I believe you are among those who do not support the purposes of 5PP. Your posts are in evidence as most of it all of them imply the worst about us. That we are not really who we say we are, meaning we are lying about our purpose, all because you’re excluded from our FB group. Further, that you’ve read elsewhere that some regard us as racist and transphobic, and you’re having trouble giving us the benefit of the doubt because, again, of that FB group. By way of that, you freely converse here while providing absolutely nothing from… Read more »

Frank Casper
Frank Casper
2 months ago
Reply to  Frank Casper

that should have read most or all of your posts here.

Tom C
Tom C
3 months ago
Reply to  Tom Clowes

At blacklivesuu.com

“Thank you for your interest in becoming a BLUU Beloved. We are thrilled you are here! BLUU Beloved is an opportunity for Unitarians who are Black/People of African descent to further connect, build community and develop leadership within the work of BLUU and our connection to broader liberation movements.If you do not identify as Black or of African descent, please do not complete this form.

Why is exclusivity OK for BLUU but not for the Fifth Principle Project?

Tom Clowes
Tom Clowes
2 months ago
Reply to  Tom C

Dear “Tom C” –
Black Lives of UU is a group for and of Black UUs. Limiting membership to Black UUs, whether you agree with that decision or not, is at least consistent with their stated objective. Fifth Principle Project is ostensibly dedicated to free and open debate on matters of UU governance, but in practice limits who can participate in its own discussions. If Fifth Principle Project or its anonymous supporters like “Tom C” believe BLUU should be open to anyone, it’s even more inconsistent for FPP to have a closed Facebook group with vetted membership.

Sally G
Sally G
2 months ago
Reply to  Tom Clowes

Marian replied in this discussion that their open groups have been invaded in the past, so that one group is closed. Why is that so hard to understand or accept? Are there not closed executive sessions in most, if not all, of our UU boards, even as the public portions of meetings are open to members? Why should this group work differently? Yes, I would not host my executive-meeting-type discussions on Facebook, but there is nothing inherently undemocratic in doing so, as I see it.

Tom C
Tom C
2 months ago
Reply to  Tom Clowes

I am not criticizing BLUU for being closed. I am pointing out the double standard. From reading the response from Frank, it seems to me the group is closed to create a safe space. Perhaps that is why BLUU is closed.

Sally G
Sally G
2 months ago
Reply to  Tom C

How is this open forum not what you are requesting? This is getting tiresome.

Tom C
Tom C
2 months ago
Reply to  Sally G

Are you confusing me with Tom Clowes. This forum is fine as well as the closed Facebook group.

Sally G
Sally G
2 months ago
Reply to  Tom C

Yeah, probably so; sorry!

Sally G
Sally G
2 months ago
Reply to  Tom C

I am not sure what FPP as an organization thinks about BLUU being closed (if indeed it has taken a consistent position; in almost all UU groups, diversity of opinion reigns), but that has little bearing on what FPP itself does.
This is an open forum, in which everyone can post, providing only their e-mail address and their name. The fact that the group also has a closed Facebook group is not really germane to the discussion.

Sally G
Sally G
3 months ago
Reply to  Tom Clowes

Not about popularity, about a group with a specific purpose deciding what works for their goal, not wanting to be distracted.

Sally G
Sally G
3 months ago
Reply to  Sally G

Agreed, I do not see the rationale as odd just the choice to host that on a platform such as Facebook, which is so accessible to so many. I would probably choose something like slack for such a discussion group, but I have no problem with the closed group given the reason that it was established as private.

Marian Elizabeth Hennings
Marian Elizabeth Hennings
3 months ago
Reply to  Sally G

Sea lions have invaded some other FB sites in the past, so there was a need to have some sites closed.

Donna Templeton
Donna Templeton
3 months ago
Reply to  Tom Clowes

Read my post which explains who I am and why I joined the Fifth Principle Project.

Robert South
Robert South
3 months ago

I read this book. It agreed with my own instincts and troubled me. I have been reading further, including Cynical Theories. “What to do” was a big skimpy. I think it may be too late. We’ll become the Church of Social Justice Theory. After COVID the General Assembly delegate population will consist of the well financed and highly motivated who can travel across the country to play for a week. Evolution over time may change things, and congregations may survive with some degree of independence, but perhaps it’s time to start designing a better equivalent of association for congregations to… Read more »

Frank Casper
Frank Casper
3 months ago
Reply to  Robert South

Thanks Robert. Excellent remarks, particularly your view that you’d prefer pluralism as opposed to a church for agnostics. I would add atheists, but I get and support that view.

Lee N.
Lee N.
3 months ago
Reply to  Robert South

It is possible that my background and experiences are too far from yours for me to understand easily, but I am trying. I Googled “Social Justice Theory takeover” and found a book by Critchlow. Reading the blurb on Amazon.com it seems to be trying to cast progressives as malicious actors. However, a sign that my background is very different from Critchlow’s is that many of the supposedly damning points sound like positives to me. To me it sounds like progressives have successfully persuaded others of the merits of their ideas and many of those ideas have been implemented. I suspect… Read more »

Frank Casper
Frank Casper
3 months ago
Reply to  Lee N.

Allow me to strongly suggest you read our book. It would help greatly with your contributions here.

Lee N.
Lee N.
3 months ago
Reply to  Frank Casper

Unfortunately, there is a sort of a Catch-22 here. If there is a chance that the book is supporting intolerance then I do not wish to financially support it any way. But how can I know the extent to which it supports intolerance if I haven’t read it?

Frank Casper
Frank Casper
3 months ago
Reply to  Lee N.

Well then, you could say that about most any book or essay ever written about theology, religion, and politics. Seems like a good way to derail a good liberal arts education, not to mention your own capacity for discernment and sound judgment. One other remark in response to that key piece of information you say is missing. It’s missing because UU leadership has not supplied it. They never supplied any specifics to Todd Eklof, or to Kate Rohde. So, if you find information about the specifics of offending language missing, that’s because it is in fact missing.

Lee N.
Lee N.
3 months ago
Reply to  Frank Casper

There is a lot of mention here of how people, groups, and ideas were suppressed by other people, groups, and ideas, but little to nothing that allows me to evaluate for myself what happened. What did Todd Eklof, Kate Rohde, etc. say or write? And if the UUA gave a response longer than “no”, what was it?

Although I have almost nothing to go on, I suspect it is a language difference, much like our discussions of “accountability” here; that the members of the first group used words that mean racism to the second group.

Sally G
Sally G
3 months ago
Reply to  Lee N.

I am not sure why you would presume that a book that purports to support democracy would support intolerance? That seems counterintuitive to me.

Lee N.
Lee N.
3 months ago
Reply to  Sally G

Yes, you are right, the reason is outside of that. There is a group of characters, some of whom I trust, who have advised me to be wary of the 5PP. I want to see for myself, but not at the risk of enabling harm.

Sally G
Sally G
3 months ago
Reply to  Lee N.

Understood; the people who have expressed concerns to me did so after I knew some of the people here (after GA Spokane), and I considered them to be overreacting/misinterpreting. Without prior knowledge, I would have been more inclined to accept their perspective, so kudos to you for checking out for yourself.

Sally G
Sally G
3 months ago

Are there others running for the UUA board? Do they have booths under their name or that of their organization?

Donna Templeton
Donna Templeton
3 months ago

This is the letter I wrote to Carey Richardson and LaTonya McDonald. I also sent a copy to members of my women’s circle who will be meeting Monday night to discuss the 8th Principle. It will be interesting to see what reaction I get. I am writing to voice my support for having a Fifth Principle booth at the 2021 GA and also expressing my concern that there seems to be some reluctance to allow it. I am a member of First Unitarian Church of Portland, OR and also a member of the Fifth Principle Project. I would like to… Read more »

WebMaster
WebMaster
3 months ago

Donna, thank you for your thoughtful comments. In 2022 there is a scheduled vote at GA regarding changes to our Principles. Those changes are being drafted by the Article II Study Commission. We requested that the Fifth Principle Project be a stakeholder in the planned spring conversations. Will update all on this website when we learn more about the ability of members of the Fifth Principle Project to participate.

Sally G
Sally G
3 months ago
Reply to  WebMaster

Is there a booth in support of the Eighth Principle? If so, by analogy, there should certainly be one in support of any of the principles (though I guess once established, there is not a perceived need?).

Frank Casper
Frank Casper
3 months ago
Reply to  Sally G

My understanding is that will be a group for both the eighth and the first principle. But at our recent meeting with those in charge they could not confirm that. But it doesn’t matter. There is no earthly reason for UU authorities to ban groups advocating for any or all of the principles.

Sally G
Sally G
3 months ago
Reply to  Frank Casper

I agree; did not mean to imply otherwise—this just makes it if anything less defensible. I am probing for weak spots in their positions and in my potential arguments.

Lee N.
Lee N.
3 months ago

Thank you, Donna Templeton for thoughtfully expressing your thoughts. They help me to understand the Fifth Principle Project. I like the Eighth Principle. I don’t represent the Eighth Principle Project but nonetheless I will write my thoughts here in case you find them helpful.   You express concern about “by our actions that accountably dismantle racism” and ask to whom are we accountable and how is it measured. I would say that the answers are as with the other seven principles. Ultimately, there is none but myself to hold me accountable to the principles, and likewise it is up to me to measure myself by… Read more »

Lee N.
Lee N.
3 months ago
Reply to  Lee N.

@David, thank you for you helpful words. Here are my additional thoughts in case they help to bridge the gap of understanding. Indeed, dismantling democracy would be something to object to. Having talked with others who support the Eighth Principle, I do not see anyone who would dismantle democracy. “Freedom of expression,” to choose one example from your list, is one of those phrases that means very different things to different people. Freedom to be a transgender person is very different from freedom to express intolerance of transgender people. The latter quite literally leads to death in terms of suicides… Read more »

Lee N.
Lee N.
3 months ago
Reply to  Lee N.

Thank you for “The concern is the UUA and UUMA now suppress and punishes even legitimate ideas and theories that do not conform to their strict orthodoxy” — it helps me to understand your position. I am not aware that the UUA or UUMA has any power to punish or suppress my congregation or any member of it. Yes, they do have power over their own publications. I don’t actually read them much — which I suspect is the norm — but I am guessing that some article was rejected on the grounds that it was deemed hateful — do… Read more »

Sally G
Sally G
3 months ago
Reply to  Lee N.

The concern is that the accountability language would provide that power, which you are right does not currently exist. Tim Bartik gave a really good explanation recently in a post further down the list.

Lee N.
Lee N.
3 months ago
Reply to  Sally G

Even without the Eighth Principle, the UUA has control over its own staff, publications, and events. Is it your belief that the ratification of the Eighth Principle will enable the UUA to control my congregation’s staff, publications, and events?

Frank Casper
Frank Casper
3 months ago
Reply to  Lee N.

Lee, if you read our you’d know that your notion here of holding yourself accountable is not at all what leadership has in mind when they use the term “accountability.” What they mean is contained in the COIC report and we already have numerous examples of what it means in terms of some of its victims. So contrary to your views here, the word accountability makes the eight principle not a principle at all, but more a directive that carries punitive consequences.

Frank Casper
Frank Casper
3 months ago
Reply to  Frank Casper

Sorry. Dropping the word “book” from my first sentence.

Lee N.
Lee N.
3 months ago
Reply to  Frank Casper

Thank you @Frank Casper for your reply. I don’t have the book and so I don’t know precisely what you are getting at. I do have Widening the Circle of Concern and see the word “accountability” used multiple times there. I didn’t examine every occurrence, but the general pattern is that the report urges us to not merely be passive non-racist bystanders but active anti-racist advocates. So, yes, in addition each person’s thoughts about each principle, there are also thoughts from that report and multitudes of other sources. I agree that it is wise to consult multiple sources, but ultimately… Read more »

Sally G
Sally G
3 months ago
Reply to  Frank Casper

I wonder if the wording would work better in the purposes section, as has been suggested by others, including Rev. Craig Moro. It is not really a principle as a goal we want to accomplish, and in that location would be between a statement of special responsibility to promote the full participation of all persons and a statement of support for individual freedom of belief. This would keep it active and clearly state our intention to be antiracist, but would limit, or even eliminate, the potential for punitive use.

Tim Bartik
Tim Bartik
3 months ago
Reply to  Lee N.

Lee: You might interpret “accountably” as being accountable to your individual conscience, but that is NOT what is intended by the people who have written and promoted the Eighth Principle. My understanding of their intent is that the UUA, and individual UU congregations, should be accountable for dismantling racism to particular race-based groups. Here is what the 8th Principle Project says at one of their explanatory pages: “WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE ACCOUNTABLE? White UUs hold themselves accountable to communities of color, to make sure whites do what they say they will do. In practice, that can mean having a… Read more »

Sally G
Sally G
3 months ago
Reply to  Tim Bartik

Tim, thank you; that is a really good explanation of the concerns.

Frank Casper
Frank Casper
3 months ago
Reply to  Tim Bartik

Thank you Tim. That is as good a summation as I’ve seen of the intent of UU leadership. This is well covered in our book, which is among the reasons I urged Lee to read it. What you summarize here is contained in an explicit series of recommendations of the COIC report, so there is no denying the intent of the word “accountability” when it is used by UU leadership and the eighth principle.

Lee N.
Lee N.
3 months ago
Reply to  Frank Casper

Thank you @Tim Bartik, that is very helpful. Maybe it boils down to … I think that you are using “accountable” differently from supporters of the Eighth Principle. From the language you quote, the power that the People of Color Caucus has is merely “to discern and express needs and concerns.” That’s a far cry from dictatorship, stomping out democracy etc. Yes, the UUA would listen to these reports. Yes, the UUA is also accountable to other groups and UUs in general in the same way. It is much as with the slogan “Black Lives Matter” where the implicit but… Read more »

Tom C
Tom C
3 months ago
Reply to  Lee N.

Here we are, on this website, a website created as a response to concerning behavior by the UUA and UUMA. Here we are, commenting on a post, about how the UUA is in the process of denying the Fifth Principle Project a booth at GA. So how is it that diversity of opinion is not being squashed? And as for the 8th principle, language matters. I don’t find it comforting that supporters don’t really mean “accountable” as defined. After witnessing how Mel Pine, Richard Trudeau, Kimberly French, and Todd Eklof have been treated, I can guess what accountability will look… Read more »

Lee N.
Lee N.
3 months ago
Reply to  Tom C

Thank you @Tom C for raising these questions. My attempt at a response: As stated in this space already — including by supporters of the 5PP — freedom of expression does have limits. We don’t tolerate suggestions that Jews should be gassed; we don’t tolerate verbal abuse of transgender people; and so on. It is intolerance itself that the UUA, UUMA, and UUs generally do not tolerate. The proposed Eighth Principle is not the only principle that guides us to this end. So, a key factor here is the extent to which the rejected Fifth Principle Project article for UU… Read more »

Tim Bartik
Tim Bartik
3 months ago
Reply to  Lee N.

You are using a straw man argument. The fact that UUism should not tolerate anti-Semitism does not mean that UUism should therefore not tolerate Todd Eklof. What I mean by this is very straightforward: I think UUism should be a “big tent” religion which tolerates many opinions that are broadly consistent with our principles, including opinions that I might disagree with. From reading the stories of Mel Pine, Richard Trudeu, Kimberly French, and Todd Eklof, I think that in these cases, their opinions should have been “tolerated” by institutional UUism, even though I do not think I am in full… Read more »

Lee N.
Lee N.
3 months ago
Reply to  Tim Bartik

I will Google their names.

Indeed, diversity of opinion is not only to be tolerated but celebrated, because it leads to deeper understanding, EXCEPT when that opinion causes harm; such as the various examples already given in these postings. I hope to find out what Mel Pine, etc. said or wrote so that I can judge for myself whether it falls into this exception.

Frank Casper
Frank Casper
3 months ago
Reply to  Lee N.

I’m going to insist now that you supply specifics about the harm you allege in these postings. I want quotes from specific posters.

Lee N.
Lee N.
3 months ago
Reply to  Frank Casper

I see nothing in this present discussion group that causes harm. I Googled Mel Pine and found https://meltingpotdharma.com/2017/04/12/my-faiths-crisis-my-faith-crisis/. My take: he was critical of people at the UUA using the power that is afforded their positions to do what they think is right. He called that a “coup.” He was critical of people who used their democratic voices to advocate for what they thought was right. Although the right to protest is fundamental to democracy he implied that it was wrong because it led to the resignation of elected officials. He claims further that the “faction” in control (by which… Read more »

Lee N.
Lee N.
3 months ago
Reply to  Lee N.

I omitted the punchline. From the white supremacy playbook is: when disenfranchisement of marginalized communities is no longer sufficient then disempower democratic institutions.

Following this white-supremacy tactic will get you a heightened response from those trying to dismantle racism. I don’t know Mel Pine’s motivations … but he stepped into some very treacherous territory.

Sally G
Sally G
3 months ago
Reply to  Lee N.

We learn and grow in treacherous territory, it seems, at least sometimes. I read Mel’s post and then the one written 4 days later: https://meltingpotdharma.com/2017/04/16/my-white-privilege/
I quote his closing words:

Racism is real. White privilege is real. Systematic white supremacy is real. But until we can all share our pain and our suffering and our imperfection with each other in compassionate and mindful ways, we are doomed to staying where we are.

How do we accomplish that sharing?

Lee N.
Lee N.
3 months ago
Reply to  Sally G

Yes, yes, yes, how do we accomplish that sharing? That’s the hard part and there are bound to be mistakes made. Again, I don’t know Mel Pine’s motivations, but the appearance is that he attacked the legitimacy of a democratic institution because he didn’t like a legitimate decision that it made. I think Mel Pine has something important to say and it would be good to hear it without that misdirection. Maybe he in fact did that in his later writings that have not read … but perhaps this explanation helps to explain why his initial writing met such resistance.

Frank Casper
Frank Casper
3 months ago
Reply to  Lee N.

Thanks for that. I want everyone privy to this exchange to grasp what Lee N. Has said here, that democratic institutions are a tool of white supremacy. This is what we argue that UU leadership and their supporters are in fact saying. It is why we write our book. It is what we’re asking all UU’s to understand and ask themselves if they can support. We at Fifth Principle Project find this to be fundamentally contradictory to Unitarian Universalism, not to mention the foundational values of our country.

Frank Casper
Frank Casper
3 months ago
Reply to  Frank Casper

Sorry. Wrote, not write.

Lee N.
Lee N.
3 months ago
Reply to  Frank Casper

Ah, perhaps this is another one of those places where we are using words differently. Let me try again to see if that helps. In situations where white supremacy has had the upper hand by disenfranchising members of marginalized communities, but then the marginalized get a significant amount of voting power, a common next step for white supremacy is to then disempower the institutions that they no longer control. I am not saying that white supremacists control the UUA, the Fifth Principle Project, or any other democratic institution. I am saying that if Mel Pine’s words undermine the legitimacy of… Read more »

Sally G
Sally G
3 months ago
Reply to  Lee N.

I don’t know that there is anything in the by-laws that provides for a presidential resignation, particularly so soon before the end of a term (and at a time of incredible turmoil: Peter Morales resigned in March, Moderator Jim Key in May [dying less than a month later, just weeks before GA]). Yes, policies were broken: a board member was considered for a staff position; hiring practices were not followed; severance payments were made in secret. Would there have been such chaos if everything had been done by the book in the hiring of the southern lead? Maybe not; but… Read more »

Lee N.
Lee N.
3 months ago
Reply to  Sally G

Of course, it is more complicated than I can write in a single post but I’ll try dividing deviations from the bylaws into three categories: Common practice deviates from the bylaws because the common practice makes more sense than out-of-date or impractical bylaws. It definitely is better to amend the bylaws before making this sort of deviation, but if we find ourselves in this situation, the remedy is to update the bylaws. Something was done wrong but it didn’t rise to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors. It should have followed the bylaws but it didn’t. Steps should be… Read more »

Sally G
Sally G
3 months ago
Reply to  Lee N.

The fact that severance payments that did not follow the established practice were made in secret, as I understand it either in response to threat of a lawsuit or to avoid the possibility, comes pretty close to #3. Regarding the history, when there have been contested presidential elections, there have always been booths for the candidates; this is the first contested board election in a decade, so no immediate precedent on that. However, for a denomination that holds democracy as one of its core principles to deny such a booth is gravely suspect. The Fifth Principle Project has been around… Read more »

Tom C
Tom C
3 months ago
Reply to  Lee N.

In a previous comment, you compared Todd Eklof to the Holocaust. What if I feel that comment is harmful? Should I not tolerate you?

Lee N.
Lee N.
3 months ago
Reply to  Tom C

Possibly, yes, though that wouldn’t be the very first step in all likelihood. How to go about it is up to individual preferences, but I’d start with telling the offender what happened — sometimes called an “ouch” response. Then if you have the energy, a dialogue can begin. If the dialogue is unsatisfactory then agreeing to call each other intolerant might be the outcome.

Tom C
Tom C
3 months ago
Reply to  Lee N.

I think you have it wrong. First you air your grievances on social media, make sure you make physical threats to that person who harmed you. And when they try to defend themselves, you insist they are inherently racist and you use your power to have them canceled.

Lee N.
Lee N.
3 months ago
Reply to  Tom C

Thank you @Tom C for your reply to my post. I want to detour slightly and note a wee bit of progress, maybe. We stepped away from asking why the UUA reacted to Mel Pine the way they did; we are instead examining how the UUA reacted to Mel Pine. While there is much for me to understand for the “how,” maybe this is an indication that we are starting to hear each other on the “why” question.

Tom C
Tom C
3 months ago
Reply to  Lee N.

If you read my first comment, my concerns about the 8th Principle were about how people have been treated. Reading what you have written, it seems to me you focused on why so you could justify that somehow Mel Pine deserved what he got. You focused on “coup” but gave Mel Pine’s critics a pass on their use of violent language. And you imply that being wrong is justification for canceling him.

Ouch…just fucking, ouch.

Lee N.
Lee N.
3 months ago
Reply to  Tom C

Thank you for expressing the “ouch.” That takes bravery because the response to an “ouch” is often additional painful situations. But when an “ouch” happens it helps me to understand; I thank you. I was focused on Mel Pine’s initial writing because I like to start at the beginning; that helps me to understand why and how things played out. I don’t know Mel Pine’s intentions so I would have trouble saying that he deserved what followed. Suppose that I am right that Mel Pine’s writing was interpreted as intolerance. Suppose that you are right that the UUA was intolerant… Read more »

Tom C
Tom C
3 months ago
Reply to  Lee N.

You imply that Mel Pine response to Peter Morales’ resignation was racist. How do you know that?

Anyway, the UUA doctrine doesn’t care about intent, only harm.

White supremacy culture…ouch. I feel like I am being called a Nazi.

Lee N.
Lee N.
2 months ago
Reply to  Tom C

One way of thinking of “white supremacy culture” is as an illness. The metaphor is not perfect by any means, but the idea is: We are not responsible for getting sick, but it behooves us to try to get better. It is not with malice that we commit microaggressions that harm others. It is not with malice that some of our usual ways of doing things don’t reach as many marginalized communities as they reach our usual friends. It is not with malice that we see as sensitive someone who is cut for the thousandth time by an insensitive remark.… Read more »

Tom C
Tom C
2 months ago
Reply to  Lee N.

So Mel Pine gets canceled for correctly using the word “coup” but the UUA gets to use language that is tied to Nazis and that’s OK?

And aren’t you being insensitive to people with chronic illness by comparing illness to racism? You should really work on your microaggressions.

Lee N.
Lee N.
2 months ago
Reply to  Tom C

I need to do some listening here. How is the use of “coup” correct? What language that is tied to Nazis was used by the UUA? I have never heard a person with chronic illness speak of this sort of microagression; if you know otherwise, please share.

Sally G
Sally G
3 months ago
Reply to  Lee N.

Thanks for that thoughtful reply. These things are indeed difficult!

Sally G
Sally G
3 months ago
Reply to  Lee N.

My first instinct also was to agree with the UUA, but the further I dug into the issue, the less sure I became. I still have not read The Gadfly Papers, and as I am boycotting Amazon I will have to find another source if I want to read Used to Be a UU. I have done a lot of internet searching, and I, while I cannot find the original item I found, I found 2 of interest: This one I had seen back when researching The Gadfly Papers and the controversy: https://bit.ly/3wRGM4e (O.K., I am also a Jersey girl,… Read more »

Last edited 3 months ago by Sally G
Katie S
Katie S
3 months ago
Reply to  Tim Bartik

I, too have concerns about the emphasis on accountability. It appears that a mechanism is being proposed for congregations to have periodic checks to see if they are “in covenant” or not, based on a particular anti-racism theory. This is part of a new mechanism based on the principles where accountability is mentioned. Instead of the UUA serving the congregations, the congregations would be accountable, or would be held accountable ultimately to the UUA. A covenant is something entered into willingly, not a mechanism for judgment. “Covenant” is another term that appears to be re-defined. As a decades-long UU I’ve… Read more »

Lee N.
Lee N.
3 months ago
Reply to  Katie S

What is the mechanism that concerns you? The one I saw mentioned is that the UUA will form a committee composed of marginalized community members and grant them the power to discern and express needs and concerns. That sounds like the committee is in a position to beg, not a position to dictate.

If you see mechanisms of accountability that are more than setting up committees that can beg, please share the details.

Sally G
Sally G
3 months ago
Reply to  Lee N.

I don’t see committees “begging”, but stating their concerns that would be accepted and acted on without debate. They could be the best suggestions in the world, and if concerns about those suggestions are not heard, then we have moved away from some level of democracy. I will agree that a long, drawn-out process is not acceptable—justice delayed is indeed justice denied—but that does not mean that there should be no discussion at all.

Lee N.
Lee N.
3 months ago
Reply to  Sally G

I have to agree with you on both sides; having a committee’s recommendation not subject to criticism is bad, as is having to duplicate every discussion that the committee has had, thus slowing everything to a crawl. How would you engineer the process to find the sweet spot in between?

Lee N.
Lee N.
3 months ago
Reply to  Lee N.

Sorry: “I have to agree with you” could sound like I am reluctant. I don’t mean that. I should have said simply “I agree with you”.

Sally G
Sally G
3 months ago
Reply to  Lee N.

Only recently has anything from the Article II Study Commission been published; they could have published earlier updates. I have not recently looked for Board minutes, but they also have been very delayed. Things like this engender mistrust, or at least give it grounds to grow.

Lee N.
Lee N.
2 months ago
Reply to  Sally G

Let’s push for more transparency and speed. These are pro-democracy and won’t be misinterpreted as trying to weaken democratic institutions.

Sally G
Sally G
2 months ago
Reply to  Lee N.

Absolutely, as we have been doing for years and continue to do. I realize that a lot of folks have not been as aware of what happens at the denominational level as others; my society (Central Unitarian, Paramus, N.J.: “CUC”) in particular tends to be isolated—I joined in 1998 and only learned about GA (that it existed, let alone that we had delegates) in 2008, when someone told me about the resolution passed in support of single-payer health insurance, which I was working on at the time. I have attended GA every year since, most often as a delegate, but… Read more »

Frank Casper
Frank Casper
3 months ago
Reply to  Lee N.

Two things. One, tell us about what mechanism you referred to above. Give us chapter and verse from where you saw that mechanism. Two, since you keep going on about it, tell us just what it is you find intolerant or objectionable in what Mel Pine wrote.

Lee N.
Lee N.
2 months ago
Reply to  Frank Casper

The only time I use the word “mechanism” on this page is to ask @Katie S “What is the mechanism that concerns you?” — so I’m not sure what you are asking there. Please clarify. coup: “a sudden and decisive change of government illegally or by force” faction: “a combination of persons using subversive or perverse methods of promoting selfish or partisan views or interests, especially in matters of state” Seemingly Mel Pine is not merely challenging the wisdom of the decisions made but the processes themselves. These are strong accusations that he attempts to justify by citing democratic processes… Read more »

Frank Casper
Frank Casper
2 months ago
Reply to  Lee N.

I think you’re reaching. The process by which we choose our board of the UUA is not democratic. This is well documented in our book which you won’t read, and by the UUA’s own 2009 commission on the Fifth Principle, which we repeatedly consult in our book. Perhaps Mel’s use of the term “coup” is inappropriate, but only because it it hyperbolic, which he went on to explain. He is in no way attacking democracy. He is, rather, lamenting its decline. Trying to suggest otherwise is a clear perversion of his purpose in those posts.

Frank Casper
Frank Casper
2 months ago
Reply to  Frank Casper

One other point. He in no way suggests or implies that protest is undemocratic. That insinuation is just silly.

Last edited 2 months ago by WebMaster
Frank Casper
Frank Casper
2 months ago
Reply to  Frank Casper

Edited to complete the sentence.

Lee
Lee
2 months ago
Reply to  Frank Casper

I can believe that Mel Pine had no intention to imply that protest is undemocratic. But what he wrote was “In a nutshell (pun not intended but appreciated now that I see it), a coup has disrupted the democratic process.The demands of one UU faction have led to the resignation of the denomination’s democratically elected president (three months before the natural end of his eight years in office), the resignations of the chief operating officer and a department head, and the decision by a parish minister to decline the leadership role to which he had been appointed.” If the word… Read more »

Lee
Lee
2 months ago
Reply to  Frank Casper

Thank you for “The process by which we choose our board of the UUA is not democratic.” Although I don’t know the details, this sounds like a very valid concern that needs to be discussed more by UUs.

But this concern wasn’t mentioned in Mel Pine’s article that I noticed. The language about a “coup” didn’t appear when the report about the UUA not being democratic did. The word “coup” appeared only once the UUA board did something that helped a marginalized community. It is very bad optics.

Sally G
Sally G
2 months ago
Reply to  Lee

I think you hit the nail on the head. Looking back, it was a poor word choice, but the concerns expressed are worth considering, as is UUA leadership’s responses both to the original situation and to criticism of their actions.

Lee
Lee
2 months ago
Reply to  Sally G

Thank you @David and @Sally G for your thoughtful responses. As I work through this chronologically, I see poor word choice at the very start. I see that that poor word choice hit a particularly sensitive vein; that of delegitimizing a democratic institution at the point that it does something for a marginalized community. What happened next? Was their an ouch conversation where someone told Mel Pine the pain the the article was (inadvertently) causing? Was Mel Pine given a chance to revise the text? How did that conversation go? I don’t know. I am guessing that if that conversation… Read more »

Sally G
Sally G
3 months ago

Thanks for those links; I will share with my Social Action Team, which includes some people who accepted the Gadfly Papers criticism at face value (I was one, until I started to hear more details and did some investigating on my own). The date on the article, as well as the content, should give them pause.

Lilith Marie Haas
Lilith Marie Haas
3 months ago

The book is great. We are dealing with some very radical people. I would like to share a blatant lie of revisionist history that blames the United States of inventing slavery I just found on the UU 8th Principle web page https://www.8thprincipleuu.org/why-the-uua-usa
It states:
Whiteness, and chattel slavery (structural racism) were invented in the US, at the same time that modern Unitarianism and Universalism were being created.”

This really is something everyone should be aware of before it is cleaned up and scrubbed. Who would write such a thing?

Sally G
Sally G
3 months ago

My understanding is that what is unique to USAmerican slavery is its multigenerational nature; that while many other cultures had slavery, it was more often as a “spoils of war” situation, and the children of slaves were not seen as the property of the slaver. On whiteness, I think that the intention of the elite class to prevent freed slaves and poor whites from joining together after the Civil War had a large part in that; it gave the poor white folks the chance to see themselves as better off that someone, and the illusion of the possibility of advancing… Read more »

Last edited 3 months ago by Sally G
Sally G
Sally G
3 months ago

I am a radical, too! That is not a bad word in my book.

Lilith Marie Haas
Lilith Marie Haas
3 months ago
Reply to  Sally G

Are you so radical you would destroy everything about white American culture until they force you to give up your freedom, your business and destroy your society? Over 2 Billion $$ damages from the marxist BLM movement last year directed at mom and pop stores, not corporate stores. This is not a theory that is only occurring in our church. The victims are all of us. I recommend The Self-Confessed “White Supremacy Culture” emergence of an illiberal left in UU by Anne Larason Schneider 2019. It really opened my mind.

Sally G
Sally G
3 months ago

I don’t see anyone destroying my culture, and I generally support the BLM movement, at least as represented by the Movement for Black Lives platform. From what I have seen, most of the violence at BLM rallies is started by police and infiltrators, as was the case with Occupy as well. Once things get out of control, definitely there is damage to property that would not happen in calmer times. Still, I would rather see a lot of glass broken rather than people killed (stolen line from someone else, but resonates with me—and I am not a fan of violence,… Read more »

Tom Clowes
Tom Clowes
2 months ago

What is the proper response to the unaccountable murder of Black people?

Katie S
Katie S
3 months ago

Interesting take on where slavery was invented! The word “slave” comes from the word “Slav” since the Slavic people and others from that region were sold as slaves by many countries, including Italy and northern Africa.

The history of slavery is a complex one, with human trafficking being the face of it in the present day.

Lilith Marie Haas
Lilith Marie Haas
3 months ago

I do find it absolutely incriminating the way they want to silence you. I put my comment below on the wrong page accidently.

Frank Casper
Frank Casper
3 months ago

Dear Frank and Jay,   Thank you for meeting with us last week to discuss your application to exhibit in the General Assembly 2021 virtual Exhibit Hall. As we noted in our discussion, the GA Exhibit Hall has been a space where campaigns for UUA elections have been promoted in the past, and this remains an important use of the space as part of our democratic process. We also seek to ensure that the content our exhibitors choose to provide is consistent with the overall purpose of the event and with the values, principles and commitments of our Association. We… Read more »

Tim Bartik
Tim Bartik
3 months ago
Reply to  Frank Casper

I think you should take the deal.

But it is ridiculous that they will not let you promote the book.

Tim Bartik
Tim Bartik
3 months ago
Reply to  Tim Bartik

But you should take the deal because, frankly, I don’t think you need the virtual booth at GA to promote the book.

WebMaster
WebMaster
3 months ago
Reply to  Tim Bartik

Tim, the booth was requested to (1) alert people to our Fifth Principle Project advocacy group/solicit new members and (2) alert GA delegates there is a vote for a board position (the first in many years) / promote my candidacy.

Sally G
Sally G
3 months ago
Reply to  WebMaster

and it sounds to me that what they suggested allows you to do both—I take it on faith that the “GA Care team or other GA event leaders” also operate under UU principles and not use “concerns”—frivolously? if I may express it that way?; i.e. that differences of opinion will be worked out in a reasonable and open manner.

Sally G
Sally G
3 months ago
Reply to  Tim Bartik

I think that is because of Spokane and the Eklof controversy—on the other hand, it could be to try and contain controversy. Absurd either way, but less important than presence, I think. As you said below, promoting the book is not needed—the discussion and promotion of candidacy is enough, especially at a virtual GA.

Tom Clowes
Tom Clowes
2 months ago

How does FPP work against anti-Blackness?

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