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 Contents: UU World Back Issue

UUs register thousands of voters

by Donald E. Skinner

Thousands of Unitarian Universalists turned out this fall to work in get-out-the-vote efforts and political campaigns and to staff polling places on November 2. One of their most stunning achievements was to register 50,000 new voters in response to a call by UUA President William G. Sinkford a year ago to "reclaim our democracy." Congregations sent teams of people to shopping malls, county fairs, and door-to-door. Many congregations worked with coalitions of community groups.

In Madison, Wisc., a coalition of 20 groups, including the First Unitarian Society, James Reeb Unitarian Universalist Congregation, and Prairie Unitarian Universalist Society registered 24,000 people. Wendy Cooper, social justice coordinator at First Unitarian, said participants canvassed primarily low-income and low-voter-turnout areas of Madison and Dane County. "What I learned is just how fragile some low-income voters are about voting," Cooper said before the election. "There's a whole lot of fear of the voting process. If someone tells them they can't vote even though they're registered, they're ready to believe it."

The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Columbia, S.C., helped register 4,250 people. Other registration tallies included the Birmingham Unitarian Church in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., with 2,600, and the First Unitarian Church in Portland, Oreg., with 1,494.

Several people from the 100 -member Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Brazos Valley, in College Station, Tex., were part of a coalition that registered 300 people. Most of the new registrants lived in low-income areas. "We saw living conditions that some of us had not experienced before," the Rev. Liz Brown reported. "It proved to be a very rich experience, reaching out to people we would not ordinarily run into. And the people seemed very pleased we were there."

The day after the November election, Sinkford reminded UUs in a pastoral letter, that the democratic process is an act of faith, but not faith that any one point of view will prevail. "Unitarian Universalism is liberal religion, not liberal politics," he wrote. "Unitarian Universalists lived out our faith by registering tens of thousands of new voters. We can rightly be proud of our commitment to this democracy. We stood clearly and proudly on the side of love."

Hope amidst disappointing election results

Cincinnati, Ohio, offered a bright spot amidst otherwise bleak election results for Unitarian Universalist causes when voters repealed an 11-year-old ban against gay rights laws. In 1993 voters forbade the city from enacting laws based on sexual orientation--becoming the only city in the nation with such a provision in its charter.

UU congregations in Cincinnati worked as part of a coalition to overturn the ban. St. John's Unitarian Universalist Church unanimously adopted a resolution in September against the ban. Members of the First Unitarian Church, the Heritage Unitarian Universalist Church, and the Northern Hills Fellowship were also active in the coalition.

In other election news, four Unitarian Universalists ran for the Wyoming state legislature. Only one, Sen. Charlie Scott, a Republican from Casper, was reelected. The other three were Democrats.

New UU church planted in Texas

The new Pathways Church at Southlake, Tex., held its first service September 19 , 2004 , with 142 people attending. The church is the UUA's first attempt at starting a large congregation from scratch. This process, called "planting," is used by several denominations as a way of stimulating rapid growth.

Planners had initially hoped for 300 attendees, but Pathways lead minister, the Rev. Anthony David, said he was thrilled with the turnout and expected that attendance will continue to build. "We've learned a lot about church planting this past year," he said. "Now our focus is on keeping the momentum around growth high."

 Contents: UU World Back Issue
UU World : 40-41

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