In May, President Obama officially sent the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to the Senate for ratification. The Convention, which is the first human rights treaty of the 21st century, aims to improve circumstances related to housing, transportation, education, and health care for the roughly 650 million who live with disabilities worldwide.
Will you write to your Senators and urge them to ratify the treaty?
People with disabilities constitute America’s largest minority group. It is a very diverse population, comprised of people from every ethnicity, age group, race, gender, sexual orientation and socioeconomic status. It is also the only minority that anyone might become part of at any time.
According to Wendy Taormina-Weiss, writing in Disabled World, ”millions of Americans with Disabilities are deprived of their rights, despite legal protections related to us, due to a lack of awareness and failure to provide us with reasonable accommodations in a number of areas. Persons with disabilities in this nation continue to face considerable levels of discrimination related to employment, services, education, and additional areas.”
In its preamble, the Convention recognizes “that discrimination against any person on the basis of disability is a violation of the inherent dignity and worth of the human person.” This echoes the first principle of Unitarian Universalism, which calls us to support efforts that would curb any such violation.
Although the Obama administration signed the Convention in 2009, it still requires ratification from the Senate in order to carry the force of law. Disability advocates are calling upon the government to act now, since the U.S. will not be eligible to join the inaugural leadership committee that will oversee the convention if the Senate does not approve the treaty before September.
“The rights of Americans with disabilities should not end at our nation’s shores,” Obama wrote in his request to the Senate. “Ratification of the disabilities convention by the United States would position the United States to occupy the global leadership role to which our domestic record already attests.”
Please lift up your voice on this important issue by writing to your Senators today and urging them to ratify the treaty.More >
Adam W. Hackel, a member of the BuxMont Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Warrington, Pennsylvania, and the Band Director for Montgomery Middle School Upper Campus in Skillman, New Jersey, has been selected as the recipient of the 2012 Mark DeWolfe Award. Dr. Hackel will be honored, together with the winner of this year’s Interweave Sermon Contest, at Interweave Continental’s annual banquet on Friday, June 22, at Justice General Assembly in Phoenix.
Dr. Hackel works with Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs) and with the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) at the state and national levels and serves on the Board of Directors of GLSEN-Central New Jersey. He is well known for his work with students, parents, educators, politicians, and community members throughout New Jersey to promote safe schools for all students regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Dr. Hackel, who has also worked with the Rainbow Room, an LGBTQ youth group in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, sponsors GLBT History Month projects and GLSEN’s National Day of Silence at his school, which was recognized for having the top middle school GLBT History Month project in the nation in 2010. Dr. Hackel also helps to train future school administrators about the importance of diversity, including diversity of sexual orientation and gender identity, and he is a tireless advocate for LGBTQ youth and school personnel.
During the past year, Dr. Hackel has worked with the GLSEN Student Leadership Team project to develop an LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum for use in middle school social studies classes. This curriculum addresses issues including the development of the LGBTQ Civil Rights movement and the history of laws and court rulings that have expanded or curtailed the rights of LGBTQ individuals. Dr. Hackel also led a team of students from New Jersey and Pennsylvania to Washington, D.C., to lobby for the passage of the Safe Schools Improvement Act and the Student Non-Discrimination Act.
Interweave Continental confers the Mark DeWolfe Award each year on a Unitarian Universalist who has substantially contributed to improving the lives of LGBTQ people, whether in or outside of Unitarian Universalist settings. This award was established to honor the memory of the Rev. Mark DeWolfe, the first openly gay minister in the Unitarian Universalist Association to serve a congregation.More >
The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) has just released two new resources to help communities engage with immigrant justice work in anticipation of the upcoming Justice General Assembly in Phoenix.
The first, United States Immigration: Theological Reflection and Discussion, is a collection of 22 brief excerpts from sermons and writings about the topic of immigration offered for Unitarian Universalist congregations. Each excerpt is followed by questions for discussion. You can download a copy of this resource and find out more by listening to a reflection from its authors, Susan Karlson, Michael Tino, and Colin Bossen, on The Journey Toward Phoenix, an internet-based radio blog hosted by Rev. Carlton Elliot Smith of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington, Virginia.
The second resource grapples with the “Doctrine of Discovery”—the legal justification for colonizing the Americas and subordinating aboriginal people. The Doctrine of Discovery discussion guide and its accompanying video, The Doctrine of Discovery: The True Story of Colonizing the Americas, invite us to shape new cultural, civic, and religious identity stories that include and embrace the perspectives of those who have been marginalized. The guide is composed of three one-hour sessions that define the issue, contextualize it with native voices, and guide a plan of action.More >
The Unitarian Universalist Association Bookstore is undertaking a special fundraiser in conjunction with the upcoming Justice General Assembly in Phoenix, Arizona. For every purchase made at the bookstore between now and the last day of General Assembly (Sunday, June 24), the UUA Bookstore will make a donation equal to 5% of the purchase to Comités de Defensa del Barrio (CDBs) and Puente Arizona–organizations that perform vital human services and migrant justice work in Arizona.
To take advantage of this fundraising opportunity, customers must enter “PhoenixGA” in the discount code box at checkout. If sales using this code exceed $100,000, the bookstore will make a contribution of 10% of sales using the code on the second $100,000 in sales, up to a maximum contribution of $15,000.
“[This project] is a great way for the bookstore to become directly involved in the justice mission of GA,” said UUA Bookstore Marketing Coordinator Ben Jackson.”
Have you been putting off a UUA Bookstore purchase? Now, you have the opportunity to make a social justice impact with your order! Check out the bookstore’s phenomenal selection of books, discussion guides, and other resources at www.uuabookstore.org.More >
No More Deaths/No Mas Muertes, an all-volunteer-led organization that embodies the very spirit of being the change one wishes to see in the world, has been chosen as this year’s recipient of the Wilton Peace Prize. The Wilton Peace Prize is given annually by the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) to individuals or groups in recognition of their contribution to “peace and human progress.” The award was established by Henry and Irene Wilton in 1984 and previous recipients include the Vietnam Veterans of America, Rep. Cynthia McKinney, and the World Council on Religion and Peace.
No More Deaths is a human rights and humanitarian aid organization that was first organized in 2004 with a simple mission to reduce deaths and suffering among migrants crossing the border through the Sonoran Desert. Since then it has expanded its work to meet the changing needs of undocumented immigrants and their families and to increase national awareness and draw attention to the enormous humanitarian crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border, where more than 6,000 innocent men, women and children have already died. No More Deaths is the social justice ministry of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tucson and runs a number of programs including the Desert Aid Working Group, the Summer Desert Camps program as well as an Alternate Spring Break Camp in Arivaca, and the Abuse Documentation Working Group, which has been documenting human rights abuses by U.S. Border Patrol agents against migrants in their custody for the past six years.
According to a nomination letter written by Rev. Diane Dowgiert of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tucson:
No More Deaths has contributed significantly to peace and human progress over the past eight years. Not only has this volunteer-driven humanitarian aid organization saved thousands of lives in the Sonoran Desert, giving water, food and medical care to displaced migrant workers forced to cross the most treacherous parts of the U.S.-Mexico border in search of jobs to provide for their families. No More Deaths has also spent the past six years documenting human rights abuses by the U.S. Border Patrol against thousands of migrants in their custody, both in the desert and in short-term immigrant detention centers.
No More Deaths has led the way in abuse documentation with its first report, “Crossing the Line,” in 2008, and has produced an outstanding second report, “A Culture of Cruelty,” providing high quality documentation of almost 30,000 instances of abuse from interviews with almost 13,000 migrants over a three-year period. They have set a national standard for the documentation of human rights abuses against migrants for subsequent reports by Amnesty International USA, the ACLU and other national human rights organizations across the country, who have sought out No More Deaths when beginning their research at the border.
In addition, through its “Keep Tucson Together” project, No More Deaths has been more successful than any other organization to date in helping local undocumented immigrant families stay together, by fighting to close the cases of inappropriate deportation orders sent to immigrant parents without any criminal record, whose children and spouses living with them in the U.S. are dependent upon them financially and emotionally.
Since the release of “A Culture of Cruelty” on September 21, 2011, the report has also received coverage from CNN, USA Today, Reuters News Service, Democracy Now and many other news outlets. No More Deaths will receive a $1,500 donation from the UUA to support its efforts.
Thank you, No More Deaths, for your incredible work for human rights, and a better world for all people.More >