Wednesday, January 20, 2010

UUA and partisan politics

A news story today reminded me of a problem I've had for years with the UUA- taking partisan political stances, minimally fig-leafed with a transparent religious veil.

The news story was about how the Democrats were discussing changing the Senate rule requiring a 60 vote majority for a vote of cloture- the "nuclear option". It particularly drew my attention when Senator Barney Frank said there was nothing special about that rule- God didn't create the filibuster . My mind immediately went back five years to when we were saying he did.

The time was the confirmation hearings for Justice Alito. The Democrats were filibustering, and the Republicans were considering changing the rules to allow a cloture vote on a simple majority vote. President Sinkford gave speeches about how sacred the filibuster and the supermajority requirement for cloture were, and the UUAWO sent out emergency action letters asking us to ACT NOW to save the filibuster! (I couldn't find the alert on the official site, but fortunately CC had copied it in the Chaliceblog . They insisted that this was not political; they were opposing the "nuclear option" on purely religious grounds.

Funny things is, this time I've received no urgent emails or letters calling us to act against this renewed threat to democracy. If we really were "...religious people committed to protecting the rights of the minority to speak on issues that effect all Americans,..." then, are we not today? Does "Our Unitarian Universalist faith" no longer "guide us on a path of affirmation of difference and preservation of the democratic process."? Have our PPs changed in the last couple years?

This is the problem with religious movements hitching their wagons to political movements; politicians, who often base their principles on pragmatism and effectiveness can change their positions as necessary for political advantage. People demand higher standards for their religious leaders, however- and so does the IRS. I really believe that the only reason our tax status hasn't been challenged in a lawsuit is that we're actually too ineffectual to appear on the Republican radar screen.


  1. The earlier resolution on the filibuster didn't make my radar screen. If it had I suspect I would have found it embarrassing, even though it probably was in concert with my short-term political preferences. But I've never liked the filibuster.

    The larger question of when/how the UUA takes stances on "political" subjects is a challenging one. I wouldn't be in favor of a stance that says we never take a position, yet by opening the door to some it brings up the old joke that ends with the punch line, "We've already established what you are -- now we're just negotiating the price."

  2. Incidentally, regarding tax status, issues are treated differently from candidates. When Wisconsin held a statewide referendum to amend the constitution and ban gay marriage, our church took a formal stance against the measure (ie, for a "NO" vote). We did so after it was made clear to us that we were within our rights legally and under the IRS to do so -- and after a secret ballot vote by the members of the congregation, I might add. I supported our church's decision to take that stand. By contrast, we would not have been permitted under the law to endorse a particular candidate.

    I wonder how yesterday's Supreme Court decision that declares Corporations have the first amendment right to directly contribute to political campaigns will affect these rules, by the way, although I realize the focus is a bit different...


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