Draft SOC Feedback Responses

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Here are some comments and responses to the November 2008 Draft Statement of Conscience on Peacemaking.


Rev. Carpenter and I have exchanged views on the draft and agree on the following:

1. The SOC does not provide a direct, satisfactory answer to the question posed in the CSAI:

Should the Unitarian Universalist Association reject the use of any and all kinds of violence and war to resolve disputes between peoples and nations and adopt a principle of seeking just peace through nonviolent means?

The draft SOC purports to affirm a principle of seeking “just peace”, but then in line 70 uses “just war” criteria to define just peacemaking. That is a purely semantic difference. The SOC should forthrightly acknowledge that the UUA will continue as it has in the past to approve just wars in national self defense such as World War II, as well as humanitarian intervention in cases of genocide. The SOC should also declare that the UUA will also, as it has in the past, continue to oppose some wars as unjust and to protest some military weapons as unacceptable.

The SOC fails to

1) specify what constitutes legitimate UUA authority for UU’s in the application of just war criteria to situations such as Darfur, Iraq, or Afghanistan

2) affirm the rights of dissenting pacifist UUs who as a matter of conscience reject a denominational commitment to support a just war/ humanitarian intervention

3) affirm the rights of dissenting just war UUs who based on their principles reject an anti-war position taken by the denomination.

If after several years of study the UUA has no new principle to affirm and does not plan a significantly different practice there should not be an SOC. The SOC itself acknowledges its own inadequacy in line 30: “Amid the harsh realities of war and peace, there are no easy answers.”

2. In several areas the draft SOC retreats from the strong anti-war principles declared in 1979 General Resolution "Sharing in the New Call to Peacemaking" and the 1967 "Statement on Conscientious Objection." While advocating compassionate communication, the draft statement in line 24 refers to a “demonic threat” disregarding Arendt’s explanation of the banality of evil.

3. The material on Theology and History lines 11 to 30 do not belong in an SOC that declares principles, but might be included in a separate document providing a rationale. The selective history ending with the Vietnam War makes no reference to UUA Pres John Buehrens public support for US bombing of Kosovo despite the absence of UN approval, the GA resolutions calling for a no-fly zone in Darfur, and the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The reference in line 27 to a threatened withdrawal of support for a pacifist congregation could be read as an implied threat to congregations that take an anti-war stand in the future.

4. The draft SOC expressly supports US military personnel in lines 73-74 but offers no comparable express support for UU conscientious objectors all too briefly mentioned in line 40. Just war doctrine is explained, but pacifist principles are considered merely another strategy.

5. The draft SOC inappropriately imposes obligations on individuals but the UUA itself only involves covenantal relations between congregations.

6. The draft SOC ignores the numerous institutional reforms that St. Johns and I proposed to assure respect for those who favor forceful humanitarian intervention and those who believe that violent means can never be justified by a good end. Unlike Peace Churches with a religious doctrine and leaders able to take sides, the UUA will remain divided and needs to articulate procedures that promote reference to UUA principles in reaching decisions that allow dissenting points of view.

Reproduced below are two prior sets of recommendations that I submitted on behalf of St. Johns in a format designed to facilitate inclusion in an SOC. The St. Johns peacemaking group could incorporate them into a revised draft SOC for submission to the CSW but since prior submissions made so little difference I wonder if it is worth the effort.

Recommended Text on Humanitarian Intervention Procedures for UUA Peacemaking Statement of Conscience:

For the forthcoming Peacemaking SOC I advocate express recognition that UUs who conscientiously object to the use of force be able to disassociate themselves from an AIW such as the one on Darfur that endorses military coercion. When drafting the Peacemaking SOC I hope the CSW will take us beyond the excellent 1979 General Resolution "Sharing in the New Call to Peacemaking" and the 1967 "Statement on Conscientious Objection" by applying the principles advocated for governments to our own denominational governance. While pacifists only constitute a minority of UUs, respect for their convictions requires us to change policies that enabled a UUA President to endorse publicly the bombing of Kosovo and GA adoption of a Darfur resolution that fails to acknowledge the views of members who reject just war/humanitarian intervention.

While I favor an SOC that continues our traditional support for just war and humanitarian intervention, in response to the 2 CSAI study questions noted below I urge the CSW to consider provisions such as the following, subject to approval by a super majority:

As an association of interdependent congregations, let us:

· support U.S. unilateral or multilateral military action only when employed as a last resort in accord with UUA principles and international law for a) self defense or b) humanitarian intervention to stop genocide or mass slaughter.

· require prior, express approval of a two-thirds super majority at General Assembly or the Board of Trustees for policy statements by UUA officers on behalf of the denomination in support of unilateral or multilateral U.S. military action.

· Affirm that pacifist members who reject “just war” based on the Fifth UU principle affirming the “right of conscience . . .” may disavow denominational or church resolutions approving military force in self-defense or for humanitarian intervention

· defend individual members’ right to claim conscientious objector status if conscripted to military service in time of war based on the first UU principle affirming “the inherent worth and dignity of every person”

As congregations, let us:

· nurture respect for nonviolence in our youth, educating them in pacifist and just war principles and in their right to choose freely between conscientious objection and military service. For those youth who elect to make a formal commitment as a conscientious objector to war we will provide certification of their commitment to nonviolence based on UU principles.

Recommended Text on Conscientious Objection for UUA Peacemaking Statement of Conscience:

As an association of interdependent congregations, let us:

· Extend our support to those persons who in the exercise of their moral choice and through the demands of their individual consciences refuse to register for Selective Service.

· Respect UUA members who in the exercise of their moral choice and through the demands of their individual consciences disassociate themselves from any denominational actions that support military humanitarian intervention or national defense.

· Call upon the Office for Congregational Advocacy and Witness to cooperate with the Lifespan Faith Development staff, Office of Youth Ministries, and Office of Young Adult and Campus Ministries to develop peace education curricula and programming that includes guides for prospective conscientious objectors in how to document their principled opposition to war.

· Urge the UUA Washington Office for Advocacy to

1. Support inclusion of a "check-off box" or other means for persons to declare their conscientious objection to war on military registration forms that they currently are required to complete and file with the Selective Service System upon turning eighteen.

2. Support enactment of the Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund Act for the income, gift, and estate taxes paid by or on behalf of designated conscientious objectors:

3. Oppose renewal of draft registration and induction.

As congregations, let us:

· Assist youth between sixteen and eighteen who are conscientious objectors in preparing a file that documents their principled convictions and includes support letters from the Minister and adult mentors.

· Encourage peace career programs to counterbalance recruitment into military-sponsored "career" preparation programs.

· Urge action to eliminate ROTC programs in high schools and colleges.

· Engage in ecumenical dialogue on Conscientious Objection with peace churches -- Quaker Meetings, Mennonite churches

Howard Tolley, Jr. Professor of Political Science University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH 45221-0375 Teaching Human Rights Online homepages.uc.edu/thro


Human Biology. I have concern about the heading and the two paragraphs in our draft statement of conscience titled Human Biology. I am concerned that the title Human Biology and the first sentence that says “Human violence reflects our evolutionary history” could be interpreted to sanction beliefs that human aggression is in our genes and is inevitable. For example, it is a tautology to say that evidence of violence from the stone age forward to modern times means that human violence was selected via evolutionary press. Recent evidence does suggest that humans may be most aggressive during the early ages of two and three. Still that does not confirm a belief that humans are aggressive because of evolution.

A number of renowned scientists trained in disciplines ranging from anthropology to zoology signed a statement first initiated in Seville, Spain, in 1986 that it is “scientifically incorrect to say that in the course of human evolution there has been a selection for aggressive behavior more than for any other behavior. . . It is scientifically incorrect to say that war or any other violent behavior is genetically programmed into our human nature.” I know of no reason that this statement is less true today.

My primary concern is that attributions to evolution can lead people to believe there are limits to peacemaking. On the contrary I know of no such limits.

Hal Bertilson Professor of Psychology University of Wisconsin-Superior

Seville Statement on Violence

To help readers of Hal's response, here is a reference to the Seville Statement on Violence, Spain, 1986 and the the associated wikipedia article with some criticism and related references.