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February 2022

Opening Commentary

"It takes deep faith and a lot of hard work to keep a democracy vibrant."
  Rev. William G. Sinkford, Former UUA President
“In our religious lives, the democratic process requires trust in the development of each individual conscience—a belief that such development is possible for each of us, as well as a commitment to cultivate our own conscience. 
Rev. Parisa Parsa, The Seven Principles in Word and Worship
This is no time for a casual faith. As Unitarian Universalists, we are first and foremost religious communities that practice love as our foundation.”
Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray, UUA President

Devastating Dereliction of Duty

What is most tragic in the Senate’s failure to clear the way for the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act is what’s going on at the state level.

In 2021, nineteen states passed more than 34 laws undermining the freedom to vote. These anti-voter laws narrow eligibility by purging voters from the rolls and enacting strict voter ID requirements. They restrict access by limiting early voting options and reducing the number of polling places in predominantly Black, Brown, and Native communities. They increase the prospects of election sabotage by allowing trusted election officials to be replaced with partisan actors, therefore, increasing the chance that every vote won’t be respected or consequently counted properly.

The cost of this Senate inaction and dereliction of duty represents a real and present danger for our individual liberty to partake in our own political destiny. For example, last year, Texas moved quickly to enact new anti-voter laws, placing its legislature at the center of the controversy. So much so, that state lawmakers came to Washington D.C. to explain what was happening to their federal counterparts. A year later, residents are experiencing the results. Up to half of the vote-by-mail applications are being rejected in some counties because of the new restrictions. 

To learn more about the Texas experience, its implications for all of us, join UUSJ on February 17th when we host the “State Of Our U.S. Democracy: A UU View From The Texas Legislature,” with Texas State Representative Donna Howard, D-48 (Austin).

Read More


Pablo DeJesús
UUSJ Executive Director


State Of Our U.S. Democracy: A UU View From The Texas Legislature
with Texas State Representative Donna Howard, D-48, (Austin)

Rep. Donna Howard
Texas State Representative

Rev. Erin Walter
Acting Executive Director, Texas UU Justice Ministry

Date: Thursday, February 17
Time: 7:30pmET I 6:30pmCT I 5:30pmMT I 4:30pmPT
RSVP: Rep. Donna Howard

UUSJ is proud to host Donna Howard, a Democratic member of the Texas House of Representatives, representing the 48th District (Austin) since 2006, for a discussion about the state of our U.S. democracy.  

A Unitarian Universalist, Rep. Howard helped organize more than 50 Texas Democratic lawmakers who fled to Washington, D.C. last July to block a vote on a GOP-backed voting rights bill. They called on Congress to pass federal voting rights protections and met with Vice President Kamala Harris, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and other senators.

Rep.Howard will discuss current voting rights in Texas and throughout the country, voter suppression, and election subversion, and what people can do locally, state-wide, and nationally.

Join us as we explore: How important are these issues to the future of our country? Do we have a democracy crisis? Does the fight for Democracy affect other justice issues?

Rev. Erin Walter, Acting Executive Director for Texas UU Justice Ministry, will light our chalice and help us find spiritual resilience in these challenging times.

Board Search Begins
The UUSJ Nominating Committee is beginning to solicit applications for nomination and election to the Board of Trustees from any current or prospective individual member of UUSJ. We are searching for up to five candidates to join the Board as of July 1, 2022. This reflects the ongoing transition in board structure that began in 2021. Anyone with interest in serving on the new Board should contact Chloe Emily Ockey, Nominating Committee Chair (info@uusj.org) as soon as possible to register interest. More information.

Defending Our Democracy

Fred Van Deusen, Democracy Action Team Convener (fredvandeu@gmail.com)

Fred Van Deusen
DAT Convener

The Failure Of Federal Lawmakers on Voting Rights

Sadly, the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act was blocked by a Senate filibuster and the refusal of 50 Republican and 2 Democratic senators to change the filibuster rules for just this one bill, for the sake of our democracy. This is the most recent victory in a series led by opponents. This was especially disappointing news for the Democracy Action Team (DAT), which has been advocating on this and other voting rights bills for more than a year. 

However, the fight for voting rights continues with many civil society and moral leaders pledging to carry on the work. Rev. Dr. William Barber II said, “We need to fight for more. It’s time to pick back up the bill John Lewis wrote with his dying strength, the For The People Act. It’s still an active bill. We should bring it back up.” (Repairers of the Breach)


Voter Rights Advocacy Highlights Collaboration

Despite this setback for the John L. Lewis Act, UUSJ’s Democracy Action Team (DAT) collaborated with many national groups working so hard for the passage of this legislation (for info, more see a full post here). DAT will draw on these partnerships as it strategizes on the next steps.
Looking ahead, there is talk of breaking up the two voting rights bills into smaller pieces and seeing where there’s enough bipartisan support to overcome a Senate filibuster. There does appear to be bipartisan support for reforming the Electoral College Act, to prevent actions like those used in trying to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.
Meanwhile, eyes are turning to what’s happening on voting rights at the state level. For a Texas insider’s perspective, join UUSJ on February 17 at 7:30 pm EST,  to hear from Texas State Representative Donna Howard, who is also a Unitarian Universalist. ( RSVP )

Immigration Justice
Steve Eckstrand & Terry Grogan, Immigration Action Team Conveners (seckstrand@verizon.net)


Steve Eckstrand
IAT Co-Convener

Terry Grogan
IAT Co-Convener

UUSJ and UUSC Join Forces On Title 42 And Asylum

UUSJ’s Immigration Action Team (IAT) is excited to be working with the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC), to demand an end to using Title 42 as justification for expelling asylum-seekers at the southern border. The two organizations launched the joint campaign last month by releasing a statement – “Stop the Excuses: End Misuse of Title 42 and Restore Full Access to Asylum.” Next, the campaign will develop a petition, and targeted advocacy. The joint effort combines the mobilizing acumen of UUSC with the direct advocacy expertise of UUSJ, for Unitarian Universalist allyship with coalitions such as Welcome With Dignity.

In the meantime, please take the Pledge to Welcome With Dignity and help make progress toward this important goal as part of the larger coalition effort. 

Pushing For Pathways To Citizenship

The Immigration Action Team (IAT) continues to advocate for pathways to citizenship. With the likelihood that the Build Back Better (BBB) bill will be divided into smaller parts, the team is calling for including pathways to citizenship in the separate bills and participating in coalition efforts to do the same.

Last month, the IAT completed the last of its planned virtual visits to garner support for pathways to citizenship in BBB and explore the common ground between Republicans and Democrats. IAT members met with the staff of Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH). Ohio constituents participated in the meeting or submitted written statements. Prior to this meeting, the team met with staffers from 10 Congressional offices

Supporting Afghan Allies
About 80,000 Afghan Allies and their families were evacuated from Afghanistan and have arrived in the US. Resettlement agencies are maxed out in their resettlement processes yet, there are still about 12,000 waiting for sponsors. The State Department and Department of Homeland Security have jointly authorized a new program of volunteer "Sponsor Circles."  If you want to learn more, please contact georganne_d@verizon.net to schedule a zoom call to share information between interested volunteers.

Environmental and Climate Justice

To connect with UUSJ about the Environmental Action Team (info@uusj.org)

NET ZERO OR BUST: Getting to Green at UUC Fairfax:
Revisioning our Relationship to Power and Energy

February 2,
Program 7:30-8:30 PM ET, Meeting 8:30-9:00 PM ET
Zoom details: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/87357431768?pwd=Z0VRWnh1Y3cwWHJtWTRPUlo5SUVydz09
Meeting ID: 873 5743 1768
Passcode: 763466
For the last 5 years, UU Church of Fairfax (VA) has been working on projects to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and improve energy efficiency. Those interested in learning more, including case studies, are invited to this Webinar. The event will explore past successes and current challenges. Key energy questions will be addressed. 

Side With Love: 30 Days of Love Continues: February 7 - 14 – Climate Justice
Water Defenders of El Salvador

Thursday, February 10
7:00 PM ET 
Register here.
Washington Interfaith Staff Community (WISC) Working Group on Extractive Industries , and The Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, invite you to a 75-minute program with Robin Broad and John Cavanagh sharing a story from El Salvador from their book The Water Defenders: How Ordinary People Saved A Country from Corporate Greed . The program will be conducted in Spanish and English.  


Save the Dates: All In for Climate Justice

April 22 - May 1, 2022
The 2022 Intergenerational Spring Seminar will address the theme "Displacement and Human Rights: All In for Climate Justice" Register Here. Hosted by the Unitarian Universalist Association Office at the United Nations (more information). UUSJ is participating in efforts to organize strategic coordination among UUs as part of our Environmental and Climate Justice policy priority and encourages its members to learn about the policy complex of climate change, displacement, and human rights.

Economic Justice

To connect with UUSJ about Economic Justice (info@uusj.org)

Side With Love: 30 Days of Love Continues: January 31 - February 6 – Decriminalization & Racial Justice

Black History Month Will See A Push For H.R.40

Human Rights Watch  – a leader for the Why We Can't-Wait  Coalition – is working to get H.R. 40, the Commission to Study & Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act over the finish line. They are urging leadership to bring the bill to the House vote immediately. If you haven't already, please use UUSJ’s HR.40 Action Alert HERE

For the first time in the bill’s 32-year history, the House Judiciary Committee voted last April to move it to the House Floor for full consideration.  H.R. 40 now has a record 195 co-sponsors and commitments from 20 additional members to vote “yes” when the bill comes up for a vote. The bill is expected to pass the House if House Leadership sticks to public promises to advance it. This is a once-in-a-generation moment for this reparations study and for the federal government to stop stalling on this critically-important measure amidst overwhelming support and momentum.  See a letter  UUSJ has joined HERE, which will be formally released as part of  Black History Month.

Educational Debt Simmering, As BBB Falters

Educational debt seems to be an ongoing conversation for the Biden administration. “The Bold Economic Move Joe Biden Refuses to Make”, a recent article from The Atlantic, explores how this might happen. For instance, the estimated $1.7 trillion in total outstanding student-loan debt is roughly the cost of the Build Back Better Act (BBB) that Biden is trying to push through Congress, but seems to be faltering. Some other interesting recent takes on the issue include:

Use our Action Alerts on student loan forgiveness: Biden and Congress to urge the president to provide student debt relief.

Commit Now! Save The Date!
June 18, 2022, Mass Poor People’s & Low-Wage Workers’ Assembly and Moral March on Washington, will be a generationally-transformative and disruptive gathering of poor and low-wealth people, state leaders, faith communities, moral allies, unions, and partnering organizations. Register with the PPC Here (Particularly if you will not be attending the UUA’s General Assembly in Portland, Oregon.)

Volunteer To Mobilize For June 2022 
Last December, UUSJ helped mobilize for the highly successful Moral Monday. UU World covered the event, “Democracy cannot wait.” Now we need to build on that success toward June. If you would like to help plan UU engagement for June 18, 2022, with the PPC, in support of the UUA’s PPC Council and our denominational commitment to the campaign, contact Pablo DeJesus, UUSJ Executive Director  (pdejesus@uusj.org).

Other Info

GAZA 101 - Webinar Series
Feb 10 | Feb 17 | Feb 24 | March 3, 2022
A mini-course in four parts: History, Politics, Culture, & Economics.
This series is co-organized by Churches for Middle East Peace, Arab American Institute, and American Friends of Combatants for Peace.

7750 16th Street NW
Washington, DC 20012
202-600-9132 | info@uusj.org
UUSJ is a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Contributions are tax-deductible as allowed by law.

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