We are days away from the congregational meeting at which this congregation will vote on whether to become a physical sanctuary. The discernment process has focused largely on logistical issues, which makes sense, because the commitment to provide sanctuary is a big one. At the same time, we have talked about how the Sanctuary Working Group and the leadership of the congregation believes that working on behalf of immigrants in our community by declaring sanctuary fulfills our Unitarian Universalist values. All of that is true, but there is another piece of this decision that I want to be sure is lifted up.
The reason this is coming to a full congregation vote is because it is a big decision, and because, like declaring UUCA a Welcoming Congregation or a Green Sanctuary, will impact our work as a congregation well into the future. Physical sanctuary is only one piece of the resolution. A positive vote for sanctuary on October 29 is a statement of our commitment to the broader issue of immigrant justice in our community.
There are four “be it resolveds” included in the resolution:
- Dedicates itself to educate and activate our congregants, to amplify and respond to the voices of immigrant leaders, and to speak out against discrimination.
This means that we will continue to build relationships with immigrant partners here in Asheville and work to be allies and accomplices as they organize for their own liberation. We will speak out when we can, and amplify the voices of the marginalized in our community.
- Commits to open our congregational spaces to accommodate those facing deportation, while they pursue a legal appeal.
This is the physical sanctuary bit.
- Resists any harmful and unjust policy proposals that further undermine due process and lead to racial profiling and discrimination.
Physical sanctuary is only one piece of this resolution. Legislative advocacy for policies and laws that support the immigrant community, as well as resistance of unjust laws are another important aspect of this resolution.
- Commits to work alongside our friends, families, neighbors, and partner organizations to create sacred space of sanctuary.
This statement is fundamentally about continuing the work we already do as a congregation. We have long been seen as a safe place for LGBTQ persons, for people of all religions, and more. We have committed to working toward racial justice. Creating a culture of sanctuary in the community within and outside of this congregation is a continuation of this work.
Each member of the congregation gets one vote on this important issue. Some of you may be ready to commit to direct engagement with a potential sanctuary recipient, volunteering your time and energy to working with our sanctuary partners in this way. Some of you may not agree with the assertion that becoming a physical sanctuary and working for immigrant justice is something that UUCA should do at all. Some of you may be in support of sanctuary as a concept, but can’t commit to daily support work for physical sanctuary. Some of you may feel that your energy is best used to advocate and organize for legislative and legal change. And, of course, there are many other assessments and positions on this issue among you. Each of these positions has strongly held values behind it, and some will result in a “yes” vote, while others will result in a “no” vote.
When it comes time to vote, all of the statements and questions and answers will have been made, and the most important thing to know is that all of you are called to vote your conscience. That is what democratic leadership and congregational polity mean. See you on Sunday at 4pm.
I hope to be present but may be out of town.
While it is, to me, clear that fighting discrimination is a core UU value,
the meaning of the term “resist” in the proposed declaration is unclear.
Are we voting to defy federal law? Are we to become George Wallace, standing at the (church) door to “resist” the feds coming to enforce current statutes?
Creating physical sanctuary and assisting victims of discrimination in seeking legal remedies makes total sense. Defying federal law does not.
I am reminded of the nullification crisis of 1830 when SC (wanting to preserve its rights to enslave) sought to defy federal
law by nullifying those with which it disagreed. A compromise with President Jackson worked in the short term but only delayed the later Civil War.
I do not wish to see us become a SC of 2017, resisting (ie, defying) those federal laws with which we disagree.
I suggest the proposal be modified to reflect a clear understanding of the now-included term “resist”. I think we may not know what we are signing onto without such a clarification.
The manner in which you clarified all aspects of this important vote is well stated. I will be with all of you in the Spirit that moves in our collective hands, giving our lives the shape of justice. Thank you and all my fellow congregants for their work on this critical decision-making process.