Saturday, 10 July 2010

Standing on the Side of Love

It's an eloquent statement, describing a common and fundamental value of Unitarian Universalists. Everyone is has a right to equality. Everyone has worth, and is worthy of compassion. Everyone should be treated with respect.

This statement was tested at the UUA's General Assembly, held last month in Minneapolis, MN. It was tested in a way that regardless of your faith, has relevance for event sustainability.

To provide context, in May 2010, UUA's Board was faced with a hard decision upon receiving confirmation that Arizona law SB1070 had been passed. With their annual General Assembly scheduled for June 2012 in Phoenix, AZ should they boycott? Or should they go?

Under SB1070, which is scheduled to go into effect in August 2010 throughout Arizona:

"...police would be required to ask any person already detained for another reason for proof of legal residence if police had a “reasonable suspicion” that the detained person could be in the country illegally. Law officers could also arrest anyone “if the officer has probable cause to believe that the person has committed any public offense that makes the person removable from the United States.” In addition, the law allows citizens to bring lawsuits against officials or agencies that they believe are not enforcing the law to its fullest extent and implicates legal residents who transport or “harbor” undocumented friends or relatives.

Reaction to the law has been swift and strong. U.S. President Barack Obama criticized the law on April 23, describing it as “misguided.” In an interview published in the Los Angeles Times on April 28, Obama said, “What I think is a mistake is when we start having local law enforcement officials empowered to stop people on the suspicion that they may be undocumented workers, because that carries a great amount of risk that core values that we all care about are breached.” U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder also condemned the law, as did Homeland Security Secretary—and former Arizona governor—Janet Napolitano.

In a statement released April 23, UUA President Peter Morales said, “Arizona’s Senate Bill 1070 undermines everything our nation stands for. Under the provisions of this law, members of my own extended family could be targeted and detained, even though we have been American citizens for generations.”
Full article.

Facing a potential loss of $615,000 the UUA Board approved an initial resolution in May 2010 to withdraw from contracted obligations to host the 2012 General Assembly in Phoenix, AZ, and relocate to another destination. The motion was to be voted on by UUA delegates at the General Assembly in Minneapolis, June 26, 2010.

But a lot can happen in two months when in addition to standing on the side of love you also uphold another principle of Unitarian Universalism: honouring the democratic process. After two months of observing virtual and in-person debate I sat anxiously in an at-capacity Plenary Hall, awaiting the verdict 3,000 UUA delegates on the issue.

The plenary discussion began with the following video:

The verdict: resounding support of a revised resolution to host a "Justice" General Assembly in Phoenix in June 2012.

Regardless of my personal opinion on the issue, never have I witnessed such a deep and broad expression of stakeholder engagement in resolving an event sustainability issue. I look forward to joining UUA at their 2012 event in Phoenix and honouring their mandate to "Stand on the Side of Love".

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