Our prayer is for democracy to be a spiritual practice of accountability that resists fascism. — Rev Elizabeth Nguyen
With November come elections, so it’s the perfect time to talk about democracy as a central value of Unitarian Universalism. It’s right there in our fifth principle (the right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large). Theologically, we are committed to democracy because we believe that people need to have a voice in what happens in their lives. The way I sometimes put it is that the people who will be saddled with the consequences of a decision are the ones who should get to make the decision. What’s more, we are concerned that there are cultural and political forces in our country today that seem to oppose that basic principle that everyone should have a voice and a vote. So, on a national level, UU’s are supporting voter registration drives, get out the vote efforts, and advocacy for laws that make voting easier, more convenient and more widespread. You can learn more about the efforts of the Unitarian Universalist Association nationally here: https://www.uua.org/liberty/electionreform.
Some people raise concerns about the involvement of religious groups in public decision-making. It’s important to understand the limits that the IRS imposes, essentially that congregations need to stay away from endorsements of candidates or parties. However, they are welcome to work on issue campaigns, advocacy for positions that are consistent with their values and principles, and of course, getting out the vote. It’s not only IRS regulations we want to be concerned with. The greatest concern we need to have is that any public position we take as a congregation should be consistent with our values and have broad support within our congregation.
Locally, UU’s have been involved, individually and through Manhattan Alliance for Peace and Justice (MAPJ), with the People’s Forum, which brought together more than seven local organizations to ask candidates for City Commission for their support on particular issues, among them mandatory rental inspections, living wages, funding the plan for pedestrians and bikes, and developing plans to decrease the carbon footprint of the city. You can learn more, and even watch the forum, on the People’s Forum Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/PeoplesForumMHK/.
It matters what we believe. Even more, it matters how we live out what we believe. And since we believe in the value of democracy and support for civic engagement, please practice your religion by voting your conscience on November 5 (if not before in early voting), because local elections affect us even more than national ones do.