28 January 2009

Latest Revision to UUA "Principles and Purposes" Document Now Available

Update: There is no provision for absenstee voting on the proposed Article II revision. Here's the info that UUA Pacific Southwest District Trustee Tom Loughrey sent to me:
Well, after some research by the UUA Secretary, Paul Rickter, he has determined that there is no provision in the by-laws for an absentee vote on Article II. Everyone seems to acknowledge that the logic of an unamendable by-law would allow it but it is not the case and would itself take a by-law amendment.
Note: I have added the changed text from the January 2008 UUA Board of Trustees Meeting to the latest draft of Article II.

The changed text can be found in Section C-2.2 and is written in blue bold italic text to distinguish it from the Commission on Appraisal's December 2008 draft.

According to Tom Loughrey (Pacific Southwest District UUA Board Representative), the type of motion from the UUA Board to put this on the 2009 General Assembly Agenda is a motion that doesn't allow for General Assembly delegates to amend the Article II text. All they can do is vote for or against it.

This seems reasonable to me given that their process allowed individuals and groups from across the nation to provide their inputs to the Commission on Appraisal and the UUA Board.

The UUA Commission on Appraisal has released their latest proposed revision to the UUA "Principles and Purposes" section of the UUA Bylaws.

Below is the text of the latest revision (copied from the COA's 15 page report to the UUA Board and pasted into this blog post for easy reading):
Proposed Revision of Article II
ARTICLE II: Covenant
Section C-2.1 Purposes.
This association of free yet interdependent congregations devotes its resources to and exercises its corporate powers for religious, educational, and humanitarian purposes. It supports the creation, vitality, and growth of congregations that aspire to live out the Unitarian Universalist Principles. Through public witness and advocacy, it advances the Principles in the world.

Section C 2.2. Sources.
Unitarian Universalism is rooted in two religious heritages. Both are grounded on thousands of years of Jewish and Christian teachings, traditions, and experiences. The Unitarian heritage has affirmed that we need not think alike to love alike and that God is one. The Universalist heritage has preached not hell but hope and courage, and the kindness and love of God. Contemporary Unitarian Universalists have reaped the benefits of a legacy of prophetic words and deeds.

Unitarian Universalism is not contained in any single book or creed. Its religious authority lies in the individual, nurtured and tested in the congregation and the wider world. As an evolving religion, it draws from the teachings, practices, and wisdom of the world’s religions. Humanism, earth-centered spiritual traditions, and Eastern religions have served as vital sources. Unitarian Universalism has been influenced by mysticism, theism, skepticism, naturalism, and process thought as well as feminist and liberation theologies. It is informed by direct experiences of mystery and wonder, beauty and joy. It is enriched by the creative power of the arts, the guidance of reason, and the lessons of the sciences.

Grateful for the traditions that have strengthened our own, we seek to engage cultural and religious practices in ways that call us into right relationship with all.

Section C-2.3 Principles.
Grateful for the gift of life, we commit ourselves as member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association to embody together the transforming power of love as we covenant to honor and uphold:
  • The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
  • Justice, equity, and compassion in human relations;
  • Acceptance of one another and encouragement of spiritual growth;
  • A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
  • The right of conscience and the use of democratic processes;
  • The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
  • Reverence for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.
As free yet interdependent congregations, we enter into this covenant, pledging to one another our mutual trust and support. Capable of both good and evil, at times we are in need of forgiveness and reconciliation. When we fall short of living up to this covenant, we will begin again in love, repair the relationship, and recommit to the promises we have made.

Section C-2.4 Inclusion.
Systems of power, privilege, and oppression have traditionally created barriers for persons and groups with particular identities, ages, abilities, and histories. We pledge to do all we can to replace such barriers with ever-widening circles of solidarity and mutual respect. We strive to be an association of congregations that truly welcome all persons and commit to structuring congregational and associational life in ways that empower and enhance everyone’s participation.

Section C-2.5 Freedom of Belief.
Congregational freedom is central to the Unitarian Universalist heritage.

Congregations may establish statements of purpose, covenants, and bonds of union so long as they do not require a statement of belief as a creedal test for membership; nor may the Association employ such a test for congregational affiliation.
Source document for this draft revision:
January 2009 Report From the UUA Commission on Appraisal to the UUA Board

The UUA Board met on 14-19 January 2009 and made one minor change to the COA's draft.

The full report provides background information on the decisions made by the COA in gathering and using inputs from Unitarian Universalist across the country.

02 January 2009

How Can Atheists Be Good Allies?

Greta Christina asks on her blog "How can atheists be good allies?"

Here's a brief quote from her blog explaining why this is important:
I think it behooves the atheist movement to make alliances with other groups that we have affinities with: groups that aren't atheist- specific and that are made up of both believers and non-believers, but that have goals we support ... and in some cases, progressive ecumenical religious groups who recognize the validity of atheism.

I think it behooves us for a number of reasons. Partly because our movement is too small and too stigmatized right now to accomplish what we want on our own: we'll get more visibility and more work done if we have other people speaking for us and working with us. Partly because it shows the world that we don't just care about how we want to be treated and what we think we deserve: we care about what we have to offer and how we want to participate in the world.

And partly because it's, you know, the right thing to do. Because we're not just atheists, but people, citizens of our communities and our countries and our world. Because we do care about what we have to offer and how we want to participate in the world.

So how can we be good allies? I've already written about what atheists are asking for from people who want to support us. What should we be doing to be good allies with people we want to support?
A brief outline of her suggestions is listed below:
  1. Treat other groups the way you want to be treated.
  2. Don't assume that religious believers are stupid -- and don't talk to them or treat them as if they're stupid.
  3. Don't be quick to assume malice or willful ignorance.
  4. If you're going to talk about religion, tread carefully.
  5. Be careful about making analogies.
  6. Remember that it's not always about us.
  7. Support other atheists whose methods are different from yours.
The expanded explanation of Greta's suggestions can be found online here.

Not only are these suggestions useful for atheists -- they would also be useful for Unitarian Universalists (of all theological stripes) as well when working with others.

01 January 2009

The end of Hillary's campaign and "PUMA" meet "Godwin's Law"

Playing with Wubi and Improved Broadcom Wireless Support in Ubuntu Linux

Since I had didn't have to work for most of New Year's Eve, I got a chance to install Ubuntu Linux using Wubi on my April 2004-vintage Dell Windows XP desktop PC (which is now a dual-boot system with Windows XP and Ubuntu 8.10 on it).

Wubi comes with Ubuntu Linux as a built-in feature on the Live CD installation disk since Ubuntu 8.04 and is useful for anyone who wants to try out Ubuntu Linux while also using Windows for the following reasons:
  1. Current Windows setup remains unchanged (Wubi only adds an extra option to boot into Ubuntu during system startup and Windows remains the default operating system).
  2. Wubi does not require you to modify the partitions of your PC or to use a different bootloader. It does not install special drivers.
  3. Wubi installs from the Ubunti "Live CD" disk just like any other Windows-based application.
  4. Wubi is spyware and malware free, and being open source, anyone can verify that.
  5. Wubi keeps most of the files in one folder (doesn't clutter the hard drive with software "debris") and can be easily uninstalled like any other Windows-based application.
This means that Wubi is a very easy way for a Windows user to experiment with Ubuntu Linux with very little risk. All one needs to do is log into Windows, insert the Ubuntu Live CD, and following the on-screen instructions for installing Wubi and Ubuntu Linux.

All you need is to run Ubuntu with Wubi is 256 megs of RAM, 5 gigabytes of available hard drive space, and a computer currently running Windows (Windows 98, Windows 2000, Windows XP, and Windows Vista supported). Additionally, you have total access to your Windows-created documents -- the rest of the "C" hard drive is available in the "/host" directory for browsing. User documents are available in the "/host/Documents and Settings" folder.

If you don't like using Ubuntu Linux through Wubi, just reboot into Windows and uninstall Wubi. Everything is back to normal.

Here's a brief description of what Wubi is from Wikipedia:
Wubi (Windows-based Ubuntu Installer) is an official Windows-based free software installer for Ubuntu.
The goal of the project is to assist a Windows user unacquainted with Linux in trying Ubuntu without risking any loss of information due to disk formatting or partitioning. Wubi can also uninstall Ubuntu from within Windows.
Since my wireless card was an Linksys 802.11b/g card (Linksys WMP 54G PCI card) with a Broadcom chip set, I knew that the wireless internet on this computer would not work initially and I would need to connect this PC to the internet using a wired connection to get the Ubuntu side of this PC on the internet.

Broadcom has been reluctant to assist the open-source community with hardware drivers and this can make setting up wireless internet a real chore on a Linux PC. This has changed with the recent release of linux drivers for Broadcom wireless chipsets.

Borrowing 50 feet of 10/100Base-T ethernet cable from work (left in my office from a co-worker's project), I was able to install Ubuntu Linux through Wubi, patch my system with the latest updates, and (most importantly) install the restricted drivers for using my wireless card with very little effort. Getting wireless working was easier than installing multimedia drivers during this installation.

Given the large number of laptop and desktop PCs using Broadcom wireless chipsets, this improved Broadcom wireless support is very useful. This means that churches and other non-profits will be able to better use older computer hardware donated to them - the old laptop that was donated may now be usable for a staff person or volunteer who needs a laptop for word processing, email, web surfing, etc using wi-fi.

The only hardware hiccup that I had to deal with was the Dell OEM Soundblaster Live audio card. I couldn't get this sound card to work using Ubuntu Linux but I can get sound out of the integrated audio on the computer motherboard which is good enough sound for my purposes.

Update: After rebooting into Windows XP, I discovered that I was getting no sound in Windows. To fix this, I downloaded the integrated audio hardware driver from Dell's web site, installed this software, removed the Soundblaster software, and disabled the Dell OEM Soundblaster hardware.

Since the integrated audio hardware works for both Ubuntu Linux and Windows XP, I will use the integrated audio hardware instead of the Soundblaster hardware.