New Social Justice Policy

Watch this video about our new Social Justice Policy, which was drafted by Dennis Brown, Deb Coon, Jeff Heys, and Susan Spoto, along with Rev. Elizabeth:

A note from Rev. Elizabeth:

before planning commission meeting
Rev. Sharon and Chalice congregants attending a City Planning Commission meeting in 2014.

When a faith community such as Chalice has the courage to speak out publicly, taking a strong position on an important social justice issue, it can change the discussion. Our voice is important.

But our current bylaws require a ¾ vote of the congregation to take a public position, and this process has not been widely used. On the other hand, many congregations have no clear procedure or policy on making public statements, resulting in confusion and adding to conflict when members or committees of the church feel a public statement is important.

So what should we do? How can Chalice most effectively and accountably speak out for social justice? Last year, a Social Justice Policy Taskforce to answer this question. Rev. Elizabeth Bukey, Dennis Brown, Deb Coon, Jeff Heys, and Susan Spoto researched best practices and carefully considered what approach we should take. We submitted our proposal to the Board, which supports it with a minor revision. A bylaw change will be required for the Board to adopt the proposed policy, so I hope you will consider it carefully and come prepared to vote on bylaw changes at Chalice’s annual meeting on Sunday, June 12.

We found that requiring a congregational vote for all statements is generally considered cumbersome for congregations of our size and larger. Our proposed new process would be coordinated by our new Social Justice Team (Rev. Elizabeth Bukey, Dennis Brown, and Deb Coon, co-chairs), and would engage the congregation in multiple ways to assess our support for the proposed position. This includes a congregational forum and a detailed written request submitted to the Board. The final step is a vote of the board. If the Board votes to approve the proposed position, it becomes the official position of the congregation on this issue. If the Board fails to approve but does not reject the proposal, a congregational vote could adopt it. Under this policy and where time is of the essence, and where the board believes the sense of the congregation is already well known, the board has the authority to waive the process and vote immediately on the request.

It is important for us to remember that we govern neither by consensus nor by hierarchical decrees. We are a free faith with a democratic process. Chalice taking an official position on an issue means that the Congregation as a whole takes that position. It includes things like:

vigil photo
photo credit:, used under Creative Commons license.
  • A written statement that is intended to be released publicly
  • Having our Minister(s) or Board President sign a petition on behalf of the congregation, or sign a joint statement sponsored by an organization we support,
  • Allowing members of our congregation to carry a banner at a demonstration, vigil or parade that states Chalice UU Congregation supports the social justice action.

It does not mean than every individual member is required to agree with the statement, nor that a statement can only be made once we all agree. We fully expect disagreement. We also believe that respectful disagreement is a part of a healthy and vital congregation.

We are excited to try this next way of taking action for social justice in our community. We hope this new policy will strengthen our social justice program and enable us to more effectively seek justice within the wider world.

unitarian universalist parade banner
photo credit: Allison Marchant, used under Creative Commons license.