Who Owns U?

The schism within Unitarian-Universalism continues to deepen. The UUA (Unitarian Universalist Association) has now sunk to a new low. You’ll find the details in last Sunday’s sermon by Todd Eklof; you can listen to it here, but for the benefit of those on the go, I’ll summarize briefly and, I hope, accurately.

A UUA vice-president sent a “cease and desist” letter to a group of disaffected UUs, the Unitarian Universalist Seven Principles Fellowship, demanding that they cease using the terms Unitarian Universalist and UU, “naming the Seven Principles of Unitarian Universalism as your primary source of faith,” “listing the qualifications of your leaders as substantially due to UU experience,” “using the domain name uu7pf.org,” and using the “chalice logo.”

As Eklof points out, it’s probably significant that this demand came from someone in the UUA rather than from an attorney. If nothing else, an attorney would probably have pointed out to the idiots at the UUA that they don’t own the letter U. Whether the chalice logo is a trademark I wouldn’t know. Possibly the new group needs to design their own chalice logo. But the rest of it is just a heaping spoonful of arrogant bullshit.

A member of the organization formerly known as UU7PF told me that an attorney they consulted felt that the letters “UU” were so firmly associated with Unitarian-Universalism that they might lose a court case on this point. That’s as may be. The central point here is not who owns “UU” but how the UUA is operating in an arrogant, high-handed manner.

But only when it suits their agenda. On the flip side, the UUA violated their own procedures in quickly approving the application of a split-off congregation that agrees with their blinkered views. Their goal is to reshape the Unitarian-Universalist denomination in ways that they feel convinced are both virtuous and necessary, and like fascists the world over, they’re sure that the ends justify the means.

As in a number of other situations over the past few years, the UUA is trying to stifle dissent. They don’t want an open discussion of the issues that have been raised by concerned members of the denomination — not just by Eklof himself but by dozens of articulate and concerned UUs. In this, they remind me more than a bit of the acolytes of Donald Trump. Trump’s minions are pretty consistently refusing to testify before the House Select Committee. And why would they refuse? Because they know perfectly well that their conduct was indefensible. The same thing is true, I’m sure, at the UUA: They don’t dare participate in a free and open discussion of their views, because on some level they understand that they have no hope of surviving an honest debate. All they can do is stonewall and demonize the other side, exactly as the top Trump loyalists are doing.

Unitarianism was once a liberal denomination. Liberalism flourishes when there is freedom to debate. As André Gide once said, “Follow those who seek the truth — and flee from those who have found it.” The people in the upper echelons of the UUA are convinced that they have found the truth, but they’re cowards. They’re frightened silly of open debate. They can support their cause only through name-calling and outright lies.

As my mother used to say, quoting a 1930s-era cartoon in the New Yorker, “I say it’s spinach, and I say the hell with it.”

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