The Other War

In this article, Chisun Lee starts out with “An ugly theory popped up in the nation’s capital several weeks ago. The Bush administration would wait until war began, and worry gripped the homeland, to ram a staggering package of domestic security measures through a Congress silenced by fears of seeming unpatriotic. Such measures would radically expand the executive branch powers already inflated by the 2001 USA Patriot Act.” And this might just be happening…

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    Minute of the New England Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends

    Approved August 6, 2003

    Recognizing our continuing concern about the curtailment of civil liberties in our country, the New England Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends minutes its opposition to the USA Patriot Act. This act reflects a spirit of fear and mistrust that is the antithesis of the spirit of love to which God calls all of us. Our true security comes from building a just society.

    Friends are urges to call their elected representatives to encourage them to work actively to repeal the USA Patriot Act and to seek to protect the fundamental rights of all people. Friends are also urged, as occasions may arise, to support those in their communities who suffer the consequences of this law.


    Resolution of California-Nevada Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church

    Approved June 21, 2003


    The United States Constitution guarantees rights to everyone living in the United States: citizens as well as temporary and permanent aliens. These rights are now threatened by the USA PATRIOT ACT, signed into law in October 2001. It includes provision for indefinite detention or deportation of non-citizens, even if they have not committed a crime; grants the FBI access to medical, financial and educational records without a court order; and creates a new crime “domestic terrorism”, so broadly defined it could apply to acts of civil disobedience. Federal Executive Orders, included in the USA PATRIOT ACT, establish secret military tribunals for terrorism suspects; permit wire tapping of conversations between federal prisoners and their lawyers; lift Justice Department regulations against covert, illegal counter-intelligence operations by the FBI; and limit the disclosure of public documents under the Freedom of Information Act. This law and these Executive Orders particularly target foreign nationals and people of color, although anyone in the U.S.A. who acts and speaks to oppose government policy could be affected. This law has resulted in the detention and arrest of 2,000 Muslims, Arabs, and East Asians in the United States without due process of law. Historically, at the outbreak of WW II, 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry, two-thirds of whom were American citizens, were interned without semblance of due process of law. In 1982, a Presidential Commission, after an extensive investigation, concluded that such internment was the result of, “war hysteria, racial prejudice and a failure of political leadership”. As a result, those affected received a token monetary award, as well as an apology on behalf of the U.S.A. signed by Presidents Bush (first), and Clinton.


    The California-Nevada Annual Conference shall ask that all members urge their elected representatives to work toward the repeal of the USA PATRIOT ACT, signed into law in October, 2001. Furthermore, we urge all Annual Conference members to urge their elected representatives to oppose any extensiion of the Patriot Act and/or any legislation which violates fundamental rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution. A copy of this resolution shall be sent by the CA/NV Annual Conference to all members of Congress and to the President of the United States.

    Civil Liberties
    Unitarian Universalist Association Statement of Conscience
    2004 Statement of Conscience
    Liberty is at the core of our Unitarian Universalist faith. Civil liberties are at the heart of our American experiment in democracy. Those civil liberties guaranteed by the Bill of Rights, Amendments I through X to the Constitution of the United States of America, are as fundamental to our practice of democracy as freedom of conscience is to our actions of faith.

    Civil liberties carry a history of conflict and struggle between rights for all and privilege for some, between individual liberty and general security, between personal need and the common good, between the aspiration to reason and tolerance and the inclination to scapegoat and punish. Our democracy has the ability to balance these competing claims. Democratic process is at the heart of Unitarian Universalism. Our Unitarian Universalist Principles are grounded in freedom, reason, and tolerance. Ours is a tradition that has sought to uphold the sanctity of the individual voice. We have affirmed that human beings need not adhere to the same beliefs or draw upon the same sources of meaning to discern the common good.

    As Unitarian Universalists, we look to American history, the history of our faith movement, and our shared Principles and Purposes to help us determine the appropriate balance between freedom and security. Prophetic people of all faiths have been instrumental in defending liberty throughout history. We stand on the shoulders of those who have fought to uphold civil liberties. Civil liberties are also essential to the free expression and practice of our faith tradition and to the diversity of faith traditions in America. They are further essential to our ability as citizens to fully engage the political process and hold our leaders accountable.

    Unitarian Universalists are gravely concerned with the current erosion of American civil liberties. Our criminal justice system has seen increases in police brutality, harsher sentencing, racial profiling, and a call by our leaders for quicker resort to the death penalty. The “War on Drugs” has given the United States the dubious distinction of having the highest incarceration rate among economically advanced nations. Federal funding for faith-based initiatives has threatened religious liberty by compromising the independence and equality of different religious groups.

    The attacks of September 11, 2001, created a climate of fear that has escalated these threats to our liberties and made possible an ill-defined “War on Terrorism.” The message from our government is that the United States cannot be both safe and free. Building on a pre-September 11 current of diminished civil liberties, the USA PATRIOT Act was signed into law on October 26, 2001. This Act permits the unlimited detention and deportation of foreign nationals on the basis of suspicion and without due process of law. It redefines the scope of terrorism law to include domestic associations, rendering citizen organizations, including communities of faith, subject to secret surveillance and investigation. It allows the FBI to investigate American citizens without probable cause if the agents consider it for “intelligence purposes.” It permits law enforcement agencies to conduct secret searches, including phone and Internet surveillance, and grants access to medical, banking, employment, library, and other personal records with fewer considerations of due process.

    Dissent has been branded as unpatriotic and tantamount to aiding and abetting terrorism. Emboldened by the passage of the USA PATRIOT Act, the administration of President George W. Bush has interrogated thousands of Arab and South Asian immigrants, incarcerated hundreds in the United States on minor immigration charges or material witness claims, and detained over 1,200 foreign nationals in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, without due process or compliance with the Geneva Convention. Military tribunals have been empowered to convict suspected terrorists on the basis of hearsay and secret evidence and without independent judicial review. Individuals have been denied the ability to travel by airplane because they are on a government no-fly list. All this has happened in an oppressive political climate in which Unitarian Universalists and others have too frequently failed to raise voices of reason and forbearance. This failure is evidenced by the hundreds of people who have been arrested and subjected to excessive force and the denial of due process for exercising their constitutionally protected freedoms through lawful protests, rallies, vigils, and signage. Because so many of our global neighbors look to the United States as a model of democracy, the erosion of American civil liberties gives permission to governments elsewhere to similarly erode civil liberties.

    Freedom sacrificed for safety is no longer freedom. Americans discovered this in the aftermath of the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, the infamous Palmer raids of 1920, the internment of 120,000 Japanese Americans following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and the McCarthy hearings of the 1950s. We are discovering it today.

    Call To Action:
    As people of faith, and as Americans, we are called to action. We are called to reclaim our heritage as Unitarian Universalists and become vigilant stewards of our democracy. We are called as individuals, as congregations, and as an association of congregations to let our leaders know that some current policies are unacceptable. Therefore:

    We hold public officials accountable and insist that they refrain from supporting policies and legislation that further limit civil liberties.
    We demand that Attorney General John Ashcroft be held fully accountable for his advocacy of policies that have eroded civil liberties, including the refusal to provide constitutionally guaranteed legal representation to detained individuals, American citizens and non-citizens alike.
    We urge Congressional oversight committees publicly to monitor federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies, including the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, to ensure that the excesses of the past do not become the norms of the future.
    We demand repeal of the USA PATRIOT Act and call upon local officials to adopt resolutions urging its repeal and declaring their intention not to enforce its onerous provisions.
    We oppose the proposed Domestic Security Enhancement Act (PATRIOT II), whether proposed as a separate legislative act or as parts of other legislation.
    We oppose implementation of the “total information awareness” data-mining program of the Department of Defense; efforts to revive the Terrorism Information and Prevention System (“TIPS”) program of the Department of Justice, which sought to recruit Americans to spy on other Americans; and profiling based on nationality, ethnicity, or religion.
    We oppose nominees to the federal appeals courts or the Supreme Court whose records demonstrate insensitivity to the protection of civil liberties.
    We affirm the right of foreign nationals to due process and the presumption of innocence, and we oppose unwarranted tracking and reporting requirements that abridge those rights.
    We appeal to public officials and the media to support constitutional protections enshrined in the Bill of Rights. We encourage adult education classes focused on the guarantees of the Bill of Rights and urge public and private schools to include this focus in their regular curricula.
    We support the civil liberties activity of such organizations as the American Civil Liberties Union, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Amnesty International USA, Bill of Rights Defense Committee, Center for Public Integrity, The Electronic Frontier Foundation, Human Rights First, The Interfaith Alliance, People for the American Way, the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, and the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office.
    Nearly every generation faces grave challenges to the liberties for which so many men and women have fought—the liberties for which many of our ancestors placed themselves in peril so that future generations could live in freedom. Balancing freedom and security is our challenge. Let us heed the words of Benjamin Franklin engraved on the base of the Statue of Liberty, “They that give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

    The ultimate test of democracy is the will to protect the rights of whomever we deem “the other.” It is what matters most in a nation struggling to realize the promise of liberty and justice for all. It is a matter of conscience and faith.

    Background: This Unitarian Universalist Association Statement of Conscience (SOC) builds upon previous social witness statements on civil liberties adopted in 1963 (Support for the Bill of Rights) and in 2002 (Support for the International Criminal Court). In June 2002, the General Assembly of the UUA selected “Civil Liberties” as the issue suggested to congregations for two years of study, action, and reflection. The Commission on Social Witness (CSW) received initial reports from congregations and districts in March 2003. In June 2003, the CSW held a workshop on this issue at General Assembly. A draft Statement of Conscience was distributed to all congregations and districts for comment in the fall of 2003. Comments were reviewed by the CSW at its March 2004 meeting. A mini-assembly was held on Friday, June 25, 2004, for amendments – many of which were incorporated into the final version. Delegates of the 2004 General Assembly voted, by overwhelming majority, to adopt this SOC. The text of other UUA Statements of Conscience can be found at the UUA website ( and the CSW website (

    Repeal The Patriot Act Online Petition

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