#141 | Jay Kiskel | Rewrite C-2.5 Freedom of Belief

Submission 141
Jay Kiskel
The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Atlanta, Inc. (Atlanta, GA) 3032

What is your suggestion or idea?

Section C-2.5. Freedom of belief.Congregational freedom and the individual’s right of conscience are central to our Unitarian Universalist heritage. Congregations may establish statements of purpose, covenants, and bonds of union so long as they do not require that members adhere to a particular creed.

Section C-2.5. Freedom of Belief.Nothing herein shall be deemed to infringe upon the individual freedom of belief which is inherent in the Universalist and Unitarian heritages or to conflict with any statement of purpose, covenant, or bond of union used by any congregation unless such is used as a creedal test.

What is the reason for your amendment idea?

The rewrite of this section is close to the original but the addition of “congregational freedom” (actually congregational polity) to individual freedom of belief (right of conscience) diminishes the latter.

Did the A2SC meet its own objectives? They wrote, “many found the legalistic language and convoluted wording to be confusing.” It could be argued that the rewrite is not substantially clearer.

It is commendable that the A2SC wanted to maintain a “strong commitment to congregational polity and individual right of conscience.” Stating congregational polity is “explicitly protected in Article III.”

To truly protect our Unitarian, Universalist, and UU heritages, it would have been best for the A2SC to have left this section unchanged.

The phrase “freedom of belief” has been central to UUism since its founding. The phrase is found in the 1965 GA meeting minutes where the Association urged its member congregations to craft membership policies based on “freedom of belief.”

The 2005 Commission on Appraisal’s report, Engaging our Theological Diversity, observed, “there is hardly any principle or value more widely shared among UUs than that of individual freedom of belief.”

We know from earlier discussions that the A2SC was keen to make changes to this freedom of belief statement. In December 2021, it was reported that the A2SC declared that the “Freedom of Belief clause is a throwback to old ways of thinking, making the rest of the article meaningless.” There was considerable pushback on this position.

Unitarian Universalist receives no advantage by eliminating the well-branded term “individual freedom of belief.” Individual freedom of belief is so deeply embedded in UU DNA that a most compelling argument is needed to erase this concept from Article II.

Have you discussed this idea with your congregation or other UUs?

I have had many, many discussions with fellow UUs. I follow a very active discussion group on the website Save the Seven Principles (https://savethe7principles.wordpress.com). My congregation’s Men’s Group discussed Article II at our weekend Retreat. My congregation will be holding a congregation-wide discussion on June 3.

BTW: Much of the discussion on Article II has not been supportive of changes. There is generally a lack of awareness of this rewrite. Those who are aware do not understand the rationale for making such substantial changes to the Seven Principles.