Unitarian Universalists have recently started an effort to engage in the sort of civil disobedience that civil rights activists like Martin Luther King Jr and his followers did in the 1950s and 60s, and Mohandas Ghandi did in India a generation earlier.
Utah UU convicted for environmental activism
Federal jury faults Tim DeChristopher for blocking auction of oil and gases leases.
By Donald E. Skinner
Environmental activist Tim DeChristopher, a member of First Unitarian Church of Salt Lake City, Utah, was convicted Thursday of two felony counts of disrupting a federal auction of oil and gas leases more than two years ago. He faces up to ten years in prison.
DeChristopher made false bids of close to $1.8 million for more than a dozen properties in Utah during a Dec. 19, 2008, Bureau of Land Management auction, in an effort to block development near Arches and Canyonlands National Parks and bring attention to the global climate crisis.
The jury deliberated nearly five hours after the four-day trial. Sentencing is scheduled for June. Prosecutors said in a news conference they would not seek the maximum penalty.
DeChristopher’s supporters on Thursday worked to put the best possible face on the verdict. “This is a beginning, not the end,” said Joan Gregory, First Unitarian’s Environmental Ministry coordinator. “We are looking at this as a turning point in the fight for climate justice. This verdict will not stop us.”
After the verdict, DeChristopher told his supporters, “We know that now I’ll have to go to prison. We know now that’s the reality, but that’s just the job I have to do. And many before me have gone to jail . . . If we’re going to achieve our vision, many after me will have to join me as well.”
Said Gregory, “What Tim wants, what we all want, is for everyone, wherever they live, to feel the urgency and be empowered by Tim’s actions and take actions in their own communities. This may have been a guilty verdict, but we have a very positive message to send out into the world. We need to take responsibility for change.”
And it’s not just a few of the rank and file members doing this!
UUA President Responds to Sentence in Arizona Protest Trial
August 23, 2011
(Boston, MA) The Rev. Peter Morales, president of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), was convicted August 5, 2011, on misdemeanor charges stemming from his nonviolent civil disobedience in Phoenix, Ariz., in July 2011.
Rev. Morales was arrested while protesting Arizona’s anti-immigrant legislation, SB 1070. Today, August 23, 2011, his sentence was announced in Maricopa County court. For his act of conscience, he received a sentence of one day in jail, with credit for the one day already served.
Rev. Morales released the following statement upon hearing of his sentence:
“While my trial has finally ended, my determination to oppose Arizona’s SB 1070 and the inhumane practices of Sheriff Joe Arpaio is stronger than ever.
“As people of faith, we are called to oppose injustice and help protect the most vulnerable among us. We cannot turn a blind eye to the inhumane immigration enforcement practices of Sheriff Arpaio, nor should we accept similar policies in other parts of our country.
“We Unitarian Universalists will continue to stand on the side of love against such legislation and the anti-immigrant sentiment it represents. We look forward to an opportunity to witness publicly against such injustices at our Justice General Assembly in Phoenix in 2012.”
The UUA is a faith community of more than 1,000 congregations that bring to the world a vision of religious freedom, tolerance and social justice. For more information, please visit our online press room.
And the movement is spreading like a virus!
Tar Sands Action inspired by a UU’s civil disobedience
A proposed pipeline could be ‘game over’ for climate change, say environmentalists.
By Donald E. Skinner
In late August, Barbara Ford will cross the country from her home in Portland, Ore., with several other members of that city’s First Unitarian Church. They’re headed for Washington, D.C., to participate in a large public witness event calling attention to the threat of global climate change.
Religious activists and organizations are gathering August 29 outside the White House as part of a two-week protest called Tar Sands Action, which is aimed at pressuring President Obama to reject a proposed oil pipeline from Canada to the Gulf Coast. The proposed Keystone XL pipeline would carry oil extracted from clay and other materials in the tar sands region of Alberta. Environmental groups describe tar sands oil as one of the dirtiest fuels on earth, resulting in higher emissions during the refining process. Investing in tar sands oil will delay investment in clean and safe alternatives, environmentalists add.
Construction of the pipeline requires the signature of President Obama. The Tar Sands Action, which will extend from August 20 through September 3, is aimed at convincing him to not approve it.
“I’ve been feeling for the past five years that civil disobedience was going to be necessary in the climate movement,” said Ford, a former chair of the Unitarian Universalist Ministry for Earth, an independent organization that works closely with the Unitarian Universalist Association on environmental justice issues. “It seems clear we can’t count on our government to do the right thing without our influence. To me, we’re at a similar crossroads as the civil rights movement was in the 1960s. There is no choice but to step forth and work for justice. We all need to do something besides recycling. This is my opportunity.”
The Tar Sands Action is the latest in a series of public witness events that have grown, at least in part, out of the arrest and conviction of Unitarian Universalist Tim DeChristopher, a 29-year-old climate activist, for disrupting a Bureau of Land Management oil and gas lease auction in 2008 in Salt Lake City. Last month he was sentenced to two years in prison. DeChristopher’s actions have inspired UUs and many others across the country, and have caused them to take to the streets in pursuit of climate justice.
Five members of his congregation, First Unitarian Church of Salt Lake City, were arrested in Washington in April in a protest against energy policies as part of the Power Shift 2011 energy and climate conference. They went as part of a group DeChristopher formed, Peaceful Uprising. Other UUs took part in a march across West Virginia in June to raise awareness of mountaintop removal mining. They cited DeChristopher’s actions as a reason for their own. When DeChristopher was sentenced, 26 people were arrested outside the courthouse.
Tar Sands Action was organized by Peaceful Uprising. DeChristopher is in prison, but his impact is still being felt.
What’s going on? Why are UUs doing these things now? The answer, quite simply, is that in the face of the almost total corporate domination of our politics made possible by that contemptible Citizens United decision by the U S Supreme Court, rejecting and physically fighting back against unjust and dishonorable governmental and corporate policies that are not in the best interests of the people have become fashionable once more, just as they were 40 to 50 years ago. And a possible side effect of these efforts will be more people seeing the Unitarian Universalist Association and its churches as the organization to join for finding more progressive social and environmental activists. After all, if it had not been for those stupid Jim Crow racist policies of the southern states, would most of us even know who Martin Luther King Jr was? UUs marched alongside him too.
- Tim DeChristopher’s Court Speech: ‘This Is What Patriotism Looks Like’ (via Food Freedom) (wilderside.wordpress.com)
- Tim DeChristopher supporters issue oil protest ‘call to action’ (revolutionwithoutborder.org)
- The Sentencing of Tim DeChristopher Highlights the Conflict Between the People and Corporate-Government (susansayler.wordpress.com)
- Tim DeChristopher supporters issue oil protest ‘call to action’ (guardian.co.uk)
- 1 day in jail for Arizona immigration protesters (seattletimes.nwsource.com)