Sunday, December 16, 2007
Next year's General Assembly brouhaha today!
Jane Greer reported for uuworld.org in October on concerns raised by UUA trustees about federal security procedures in place at the port in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, where the convention center hosting the 2008 UUA General Assembly is situated. (Show an ID to get in.) Late last week, UUA President Bill Sinkford, Moderator Gini Courter, and GA Planning Committee chair Beth McGregor issued a statement responding to concerns that the security procedures might create an "unfriendly environment" for youth and pose other problems for "those not eligible for government-issued identification." On Friday, Don Skinner filed a long news update about the UUA leadership's response — and about what looks like a division in the ranks of UU ministers about the security procedures and about GA itself.
Oh, joy! It's next summer's GA brouhaha six months early! [Update: Before reading on, make sure to read the three items linked above. They provide crucial details and context.]
Some ministers are already clamoring for clamor. UU Ministers Association executive committee member Randy Becker tells Don Skinner: "I am one of those who will not subject [themselves] to an ID check to worship or practice my faith and will stand in solidarity with those who will be excluded by these checkpoints."
UUMA president Rob Eller-Isaacs, however, asks: "Would it be effective or prophetic for UUs to stand against security measures that protect the Port of Fort Lauderdale?" He adds: "It's not going to be helpful to blame the [UUA] administration or the [General Assembly] planning committee."
Chip Roush thinks some "theatrical activism" at federal port security checkpoints might turn into a marketing bonanza for Unitarian Universalism: "I'd like us to satisfy our consciences AND get condemned on Fox News." That should go well.
UUA trustee Rosemary Bray McNatt writes:
More than one of us who've spent the past several years preaching about the slippery slope of American civil liberties will have to decide if we feel like sliding down to Florida next June, much less explaining it to our congregations. The estimated $800,000 loss that the Association would have to absorb in order to change venues could be just as tough to justify to the fiscal conservatives among us. And nearly everyone seems too well-behaved to ask why the Planning Committee hasn't taken a harder line with officials who assured UU site visitors five years earlier that the convention center would be outside the security zone in June 2008.
Other clergy are lamenting security precautions that don't make anyone safer and asking what others think.
UU layperson Chalicechick, meanwhile, thinks the ministerial hubbub about ID checks rings a little false: "[D]oesn't almost everyone who attends GA fly to get there? Don't they need government issued ID to get on the plane?" She adds: "I get that some un-documented immigrants can't attend GA if government-issued ID is required, but honestly, I'd say the $300+ entry fee and the fact that GA is entirely in English would be greater barriers than getting ahold of a half-convincing fake ID."
In case you're curious, here's a Google Maps satellite image of the port and convention center, though you may need to zoom in a bit to see just how close the convention center is to the docks:
Questions: Are UUs opposed to port security? Are UUs opposed to government-issued IDs — or simply the fact that some people don't have government-issued IDs? Is the concern primarily about the potential for racial profiling? Or is it at all possible that the real concern is not the potential behavior of security personnel at all but the potential behavior of our very own people? Finally, dear ministers, will a boycott of your very own General Assembly (or, more dramatically, a symbolic last-minute move to some other location) bring change to the world, or will it simply burden your own Association with huge amounts of debt that limit its ability to serve your congregations?
("UUA leaders respond to General Assembly security concerns," Donald E. Skinner, uuworld.org 12.14.07; "Memorandum on Fort Lauderdale Site," William G. Sinkford, Gini Courter, and Beth McGregor, UUA.org 12.11.07; "Security at 2008 General Assembly concerns UUA board," Jane Greer, uuworld.org 11.2.07)
Copyright © 2007 by Philocrites | Posted 16 December 2007 at 6:01 PM