#152 | Howard Tolley | Prevent Punitve Actions

Submission 152
Howard Tolley
UU Church of Tucson (Tucson, AZ) 2021

What is your suggestion or idea?

Section C 2.4. Inclusion
I write to support the following idea submitted by a UU GA delegate from Heritage Universalist Unitarian in Cincinnati in order to provide my own rationale.

No covenants or pledges expressed in Article II of these bylaws may, by themselves, be used as the basis for the Association or its member organizations to take punitive action against a congregation, organization, or person.”

What is the reason for your amendment idea?

All UUs should be able to agree that destructive behaviors which endangers others warrant suspension and termination of members and that a congregation embracing fascism could not be in covenant with the UUA. The UUA has recommended guidelines for addressing destructive behavior that provide model procedures for suspending or terminating a member that can be incorporated in Congregational bylaws.

Our beloved UU community has become deeply polarized over recent disciplinary actions involving Ministers at the national level and members at the local level that have led some to resign or question their membership. Critics of the A2SC recommendations fear that Congregations could be expelled from the UUA and, at the local level, that Boards and Ministers could terminate individual memberships of those who openly question their leadership as a result of a new phrase added to Section C 2.4 Inclusion:

“. . . . We strive to be an association of congregations that truly welcome all persons who share our values.

Without taking sides in the highly contested disputes over prior disciplinary actions, the proposed amendment seeks to reassure those willing to vote in favor of other A2SC proposals only if the Bylaws guarantee that discipline will not be imposed for questioning the merits of an evolving UU theology. The proposed amendment will also reinforce and make indisputably clear the proposed new language in Section C 2.5 that Congregations may have covenants: so long as they do not require that members adhere to a particular creed.

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

I have shared this idea with fifteen UUs, including Ministers and GA delegates from five UU congregations in Ohio and Arizona. Those who most strongly support the proposal, including a delegate who characterized it as “wonderful,” regard its adoption as critical for them to vote in favor of the other A2SC recommendations.


Considering how negative and punitive certain social justice activists can be these days, this addition would be an important clarification. In other organizations, the authorities might be expected to punish underlings who say the wrong thing in public, the UUA is not our authority and doesn’t need to be in the role of punishing, disciplining, scolding, or shaming UUs.

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Can you help me understand why you prefer your new proposed language to be C2.4 rather than C2.5?