19 June 2008

A Question For Rev. Dr. Laurel Hallman

Rev. Dr. Laurel Hallman made the following comment on her UUA Presidential Candidate web site in answering a question:
"Thanks for the website of the Freedom of Religion Foundation. If you had said Freedom from Religion I would have been concerned."
The person with the question had typed "Freedom of Religion Foundation" but provided the URL for the "Freedom from Religion Foundation" in her question.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation is a non-profit group dedicated to promoting church-state separation and educating the public on matters related to non-theism. This group's social justice work sounds like something that many Unitarian Universalists would support and affirm.

Are you suggesting that Unitarian Universalists should reverse their past social justice positions affirming church-state separation?

Are you suggesting that we should not support non-theism education when we know that non-theists are marginalized in our culture?

A 2006 University of Minnesota study reported that atheists are perceived as a group worthy of marginalization and exclusion by many Americans. They are viewed as the least-trustworthy group according to this survey.

I know the disputes within Unitarian Universalism over "language of reverence" and theological diversity can and often do get heated.

However, we do need to remember that our churches have a duty to "comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable" -- part of this duty may include finding a way to be welcoming to all and not excluding the non-theists in our congregations in order to improve our "marketability" in the religious marketplace.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the posting. I am most certain that Rev. Hallman's statements have nothing at all to do with our internal (and unhelpful) squabble about theism and non-theism. As she never used those terms, I'll assume that she meant just what she said, freedom "of" and "from" religion.

Many in our movement have come to believe and express that we are not a religion. This is most certainly not the case. We have a very long history as a religious tradition, and we are considered one by the US government, which allows for our tax-exempt status. When a UU church in Texas was briefly denied its tax-exempt status, we were up in arms that someone would say we weren't a religion.

If I were to guess, I would assume that Rev. Hallman's statement is about our understanding ourselves as a vibrant religious movement and claiming that identity with pride. This has nothing to do with theism, non-theism, or any other particular spiritual persuasion. There are recognized religious traditions that are not theist in orientation. My understanding is that Rev. Hallman believes that we as a robust religion can do much to change the world. Personally, I think that we must understand ourselves as such before such change is possible. Religion and theism are not synonyms, nor did Rev. Hallman suggest that.

Robin Edgar said...

Well Steve Cladwell's question is directed at Rev. Dr. Laurel Hallman herself so perhaps it would be best if she answered it herself. Maybe Rev. Peter Morales can chime in here too and let everyone know exactly which religions he considers to be "obsolete". . .

Robin Edgar said...

Sorry about the typo I meant to write Steve Caldwell of course. Still Steve Cladwell has a certain ring to it. Good name for a male model or something. ;-)

Steve Caldwell said...

Robin -- I also asked this question on her candidate web site.

Anonymous -- it sounded to me like she was trying to distance herself from a non-profit group that promotes church/state separation and provides freedom for a religiously marginalized group.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation is a well-known group that shares a lot common ground with Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

Here are their respective web sites:



This distancing may be over something as trivial as the organization's name.

The case in Texas you referenced wasn't one involving the Federal Government or the IRS. It involved a political hack in Texas who was trying to keep any religion that did not require a belief in a supreme being from having tax-exempt status.

The decision didn't stand -- it was reversed by public outcry and didn't even require court intervention.

Robin Edgar said...

Sounds good Steve. I am seriously considering asking Rev. Peter Morales to everyone know exactly which religions he considers to be "obsolete" and explain some of his other highly questionable public statements. . . I won't argue with his description of U*Uism as "a tiny, declining, fringe religion" though. ;-)

Happy Summer Solstice! I had a pretty good one. Hope yours was enjoyable too.

Robin Edgar said...

Omitted the word "let" after Rev. Peter morales to. . .

Robin Edgar said...

Any response to your question yet Steve?