UU Justice Ohio Spring News

Unitarian Universalist Justice Ohio
P.O. Box 980
Worthington, OH 43085info@uujo.org

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Beloved,

Please take a look below at some things that might be of interest to you and your communities. This is a long one because there is an awful lot of nonsense and shenanigans happening in Ohio right now. Hopefully the subheadings will help if you don’t want to read the entire thing. It’s OK to feel overwhelmed and discouraged; it would be unnatural not to feel that way, I think. But, remember that none of us is alone. We are in this together. Breathe. Center. Organize. Act.
Blessings & Hope,
Pastor Hank

Voting Rights

The Ohio Voter Rights Coalition (OVRC), of which UUJO is a part, is working hard to help mobilize and educate people in the face of onerous new voting registration requirements. The OVRC Faith Subcommittee hosted a webinar last week that gave an overview of the requirements and a few ideas and tips for how faith leaders can share that information with members of their congregations and wider communities. You can see the recorded webinar and resources including the slide show from the presentation at this link. I am grateful to Rev. Dan Clark at Faith in Public Life for his work that brings together so many people doing justice work in Ohio. I am also grateful for the work and peaceful presence of Nazek Hapasha from the League of Women Voters of Ohio. Nazek did a wonderful job presenting complex information in an easy-to-understand format. Please take a look at the video, the associated resources, and share them widely in your network. The OVRC has created a “Speaker’s Bureau” as well of people all around the state who will offer their time and presence for your congregations and communities to assist with understanding the new registration requirements and getting people registered to vote.

 

You can keep track of all the OVRC is doing by visiting their website at www.ohvoterrights.org. Bookmark it and share. If you’re in Columbus and don’t have plans on Wednesday evening, you can join folx at the Northern Lights Branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library for a letter-writing party to send out information to assist people with the new ID requirements for voting. The direct link to register for the event is here.

 

The OVRC and especially the League of Women Voters is monitoring and organizing opposition to the renewed push by legislators to increase the citizen initiative threshold to 60%. They tried this last session and were discouraged by the mass of people who showed up in December in opposition. But, the ruling party has an even larger majority in the Statehouse, and they are especially keen on ensuring this rule is passed since there is now a movement to make reproductive rights a ballot issue. In fact, the same people who decried the shifting of election dates because of Covid lockdowns and claimed they would never happen again, are now attempting to have a special one so that the shift in the threshold for passage increases before the reproductive rights ballot issue is voted on – so it would require 60% to pass.

Reproductive Rights

And on the subject of reproductive rights, I already let y’all know that UUJO was supporting the effort for the ballot initiative that was spearheaded by Ohio Physicians for Reproductive Rights in the form of the Protect Choice Ohio Coalition. Signature gathering has begun (I know some of you are already participating in that) and is often done in conjunction with helping people register to vote.

I have been asked if it is permissible for congregations to allow people to gather signatures for the ballot initiative. While I am not an attorney (and you should consult one to be absolutely sure), it is my understanding that supporting an initiative or cause or idea is not the same thing as endorsing a specific candidate for an election. In other words, collecting signatures for an initiative that would require all cars in Ohio to be red, talking about why all cars should be red, and writing letters to lawmakers telling them they should require all cars to be red is not the same as announcing in a church that parishioners should vote for Reddy McRederson in November because they will make sure all cars are red.
Again, you need to consult an attorney to get actual legal advice on this, but in my personal estimation, if the Southern Baptist congregation I was raised in can collect signatures to ban abortion, then UU (or any other) congregations can collect signatures to codify it.
For more information on the ballot initiative and to get involved in collecting signatures, visit www.protectchoiceohio.com.

Trans Rights

It seems to me that there has been an especially heinous onslaught of anti-trans legislation and rhetoric since the start of the new year. After HB454 did not pass in the last legislative session, Rep. (Pastor) Gary Click reintroduced the bill again. Our friends at Equality Ohio do a magnificent job of keeping people up to date on what’s going on with this renewed effort to ban gender-affirming healthcare for trans kids in Ohio. (As a personal aside, I have a 14-year-old trans nephew. He recently got a date for his first appointment at the Thrive unit of Nationwide Children’s Hospital. He is excited, his parents, grandparents, and I are all excited, too. Just the prospect of affirming care has caused his demeanor to shift significantly.) You all know that gender affirming care is not harmful; it saves lives. It is bad theology and bigotry that traumatize and kill.

Anti-trans rhetoric is no doubt going to be amplified even more because of the alleged identity of the perpetrator of the school shooting that happened in Nashville, TN on Monday. If there was ever a time for those of us who are cisgender to step up into our roles as allies of our trans siblings, it is now. Please push back against media reports and statements that highlight the murderer’s gender identity. If the background and motivations of other murderers and even the January 6 insurrectionists is off-limits, then conversations around this case should be too. The issue at hand (which you well know) is why are lawmakers intent on banning gender affirming care for trans people – which has not harmed or killed anyone – instead of banning assault weapons? For that matter, we could pose the same question regarding any number of non-deadly things that are being banned: honest education, restroom access, books, African-American studies, the 1619 Project, etc.

I already mentioned Equality Ohio as a resource. I would like to point you to Honesty for Ohio Education as well; they are more acutely focused on the battles in our schools, but many of those battles involve anti-trans policies.

Drag Queens

While anti-trans and anti-drag rhetoric and bills often use the same rationale and language for their bigotry, I separated them here because I do not want to conflate them.
Ohio has seen its share of anti-drag hatred in the last few months and it seems that it is only getting started.
If you are in northeast Ohio or the Cleveland area, you no doubt heard the news regarding the vandalizationof the Community Church of Chesterland (a UCC congregation) that occurred just days ago because the church is hosting a Drag Queen Story Hour this weekend. Rev. Jess Peacock is organizing an interfaith peace vigil that will take place in the town square of Chardon, OH on Thursday, March 30 at 7:00 p.m. The social media invitation that Rev. Jess created is private, but he gave me permission to extend this invitation to any of you who would like to be there – especially clergy. He is also inviting folx to join for a community dinner at Element 41 at 6:00 p.m. prior to the vigil. If you don’t know Rev. Jess, in his words, “…look for the person with the head tattoos…” He is also inviting clergy to be present at the event on Saturday. I am happy to forward his contact information to any of you who would like to be involved in showing support and solidarity.

Environmental Justice

FaCT Ohio and the Ohio Council of Churches are sponsoring a weekend of education, prayer, and action focused on the train derailment disaster in East Palestine. There will be a webinar on Saturday, April 22 (Earth Day), and a call for congregations to pray, reflect, and act on Sunday, April 23. Here is specific information from FaCT and the Ohio Council of Churches, which includes links to register for the webinar and to register for the Sunday call-to-action:

ATTENTION FAITH COMMUNITIES in OHIO

Undoubtedly you have been following the media coverage of the February 3 train wreck and resulting chemical disaster in East Palestine, Ohio. 

We are coming together from various faith traditions and denominations from throughout the state.  On Earth Day Weekend, April 22-23, we will devote ourselves to becoming further informed on the situation in East Palestine, and then we will move to prayer, reflection, and action.

The actions will include donating money, food, water and other supplies as well as services that East Palestinians may need.¬† We also will be mobilizing our congregations to do all they can to help prevent more disasters. We clearly understand that what happened in East Palestine can happen anywhere ‚Äď in any town or city that has rail lines running through it or near it.

Our campaign seeks better safety measures for freight rail and the diligent enforcement of safety rules.  We encourage our congregations to communicate with federal, state, and local officials and legislators to take the actions needed and make the necessary reforms.  This includes readjusting mindsets to put people ahead of corporate profits.

 

SATURDAY, EARTH DAY: APRIL 22. We invite clergy and lay leaders and environmental advocates to participate in our webinar on Earth Day, Saturday, April 22 to get the latest information on the situation in East Palestine and to discuss actions we can take going forward to aid East Palestinians and to bring about the reforms needed to keep our communities safe.

Overview & Update WEBINAR РSaturday April 22, 3 pm: REGISTER

 

SUNDAY, EARTH DAY + 1: APRIL 23. We invite congregations of all religious persuasions to devote all or part of their worship services to a focus on East Palestine in the form of Prayer, Reflection, and a Call to Action.  We will supply suggestions for these and/or you can construct your own.  We will be conveying to you vetted charities that are benefitting East Palestine, and we will inform you about collection efforts of material goods for folks in East Palestine.  We will also provide a list of suggested actions members of your congregation can take to help bring about needed safety reforms.

Click JOIN below for your Congregation to participate
in the Sunday of Prayer, Reflection, & Call to Action on April 23: 
JOIN