Frequently Asked Questions
Although the 1st Principle affirms the inherent worth and dignity of every person, it does not specifically call us to action to address racism and other oppressions that are harmful to human worth and dignity. This is what the 8th Principle does!
The 1st Principle has existed for many years, and yet racism persists within our minds, within our congregations, and within our denomination. The 8th Principle also asks us to examine the idea that “I can’t be racist, I’m a UU.”
Our existing 7 Principles imply this 8th Principle, but do not explicitly hold us accountable for working to address the systemic racism and other oppressions that permeate our society or for working to make our individual congregations and our association welcoming to BIPOC individuals.
The UUA and individual congregations have been making progress on other oppressions such as discrimination against women, LGBTQIA+ individuals, and persons who are differently abled, with a growing number of members, leaders, and staff from these communities. But there is a strong and widespread feeling that not enough is being done on the issue of race. Religious organizations like the UUA and USSB are no different than other social institutions like schools, businesses, criminal justice, and government that have structures, policies, practices, and norms reflecting the dominant white culture embedded in the United States since its founding. Many people of color and others marginalized by this culture simply do not feel welcomed or represented in any of these institutions.
The board and the ARC recommends that our church not engage in a redrafting or amendment process for three reasons. First, given the support that the 8th Principle as written has received from BIPOC individuals and groups around the denomination, it would be disrespectful of their efforts to wordsmith the language. Second, if concerns over the current language become an obstacle to adoption, we believe it is important to support the spirit of the Principle. Third, the language may be revised before the 8th Principle is adopted on a denomination-wide basis, so redrafting is not a productive use of our resources.
We are being asked to adopt the proposed wording of the Principle as it stands, and many other UU congregations are also adopting it with the same wording. This is intended to show a groundswell of support for the 8th Principle from many congregations. It would not show unified support if individual congregations change the wording at this point. The wording will probably change as it moves through the UUA process before it is voted on at a General Assembly (GA). There will likely be opportunities for GA delegates to change the wording as well. Because questions about the wording of the final principle will be deferred to the GA, we can focus on what the principle asks of us to do.
Children may recognize the 8th Principle as: “Build the beloved community, free from racism and oppression.” This was created by DREs in collaboration with Paula Cole Jones (one of the originators and spokespeople of the 8th Principle movement) and is used widely across the country in RE programs.
Town Hall meetings will begin in September with a PowerPoint presentation followed by Q&A with members of the Anti-Racism Commission (ARC) and the board of trustees:
- Parish Hall, Sunday, September 18 at 11:30 AM after Coffee Hour
- Zoom online, Sunday, September 25 at 11:00 AM after the morning service
- Parish Hall, Sunday, October 2 at 11:30 AM after Coffee Hour
Voting will open on October 2 and close on October 9 at the congregational meeting.
The UUA is not formally asking UU congregations to adopt the 8th Principle at this time, but they are currently engaged in a process of reviewing the 7 Principles that includes considering adding the 8th Principle.
The 7 Principles are included in Article II of the UUA bylaws, Principles, Purposes and Sources, so adopting the 8th Principle requires amending the bylaws. (Bylaws can be found here.) Article II is reviewed every 15 years. In accordance with the bylaws, an Article II Study Commission was established in 2020 to engage in that review, which specifically includes considering the 8th Principle. The commission’s statement on the 8th Principle can be found here.
Amendment of the Principles is governed by Article XV, Section C-15.1 (c) which requires establishment of a commission to engage in a two-year study process followed by approval of amendments at two successive General Assemblies. A proposal from the Commission is expected to come before the General Assembly in June 2023 for the first vote, with a second vote in June 2024.
We are all at different places on our personal journeys of learning about racism in our society. Our hope is that with respectful and honest discussion, without shame or blame of anyone, all congregants will continue to learn and grow and find a home at USSB. UU congregations have historically gained members, rather than lost them, when we have taken strong stands on justice issues. We are more likely to attract young people and people of color if we have taken a strong stand against racism.
There is no manual for this work, but there is guidance from the UUA and other congregations and institutions further along on this process, as well as resource materials developed by organizational consultants of color. For USSB, it will be an ongoing process of listening to, learning from, and following the leadership of those who have been more negatively impacted. We will work together to uncover and change internal barriers to equity and inclusion. We acknowledge that making these changes will not be fast, easy, or comfortable, but we believe that the outcomes will be creative, enriching, and reflective of our highest values. Making a congregational commitment to embrace this process in an organized and accountable way is the first step.
Suggestions for moving forward are addressed in a UUA report “Widening the Circle of Concern.” At a gathering in Atlanta in 2017, UU leaders of color were asked to share their insights into how the Association could continue moving forward during another racially charged moment. See the results and methodology of their discernment here.
These FAQs were adapted for the Unitarian Society of Santa Barbara by members of the Anti-Racism Commission and the board of trustees, with permission, from FAQs by the following congregations:
- Unitarian Universalist Church of Lancaster, Lancaster, PA Link
- University Unitarian Church, Seattle, WA Link
- River Road Unitarian Universalist Congregation, Bethesda, MD Link
- First Unitarian Universalist Church of Nashville, Nashville TN Link
- Unitarian Universalist Church West, Brookfield, WI Link
- First Unitarian Church of Chicago, Chicago, IL Link
- First Universalist Church of Denver, Denver, CO Link
It should be noted that some of the FAQ language borrowed from the above websites were in turn inspired or borrowed from other UU church websites. We are using the language in good faith and in a spirit of collaboration with our sibling congregations. However we are mindful that our attribution and the permission granted may not have been by the originators of the words on this page. We are open to dialog on attribution, permission, and collaboration -- please reach out to us at email@example.com to initiate that dialog.
If you have further questions, please submit them to the board and ARC here.