143 people were peacefully arrested, more than doubling previous days’ totals; Unitarian Universalists were the highest officially represented faith community of the protest

August 30th, 2011 – Washington, DC – People of faith from across the country converged in Washington, DC yesterday for the Interfaith Day of the two week long peaceful civil disobedience to stop the construction of the Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline. The purpose of the protest is to pressure the Obama Administration, which has the sole authority to decide the fate of the pipeline. 143 people were arrested yesterday bringing the total number arrested to date to 522. It was the largest number of people arrested in one day thus far, more than doubling previous totals.

Of those representing a denomination, Unitarian Universalists were present in the highest numbers. Fourteen Unitarian Universalists were arrested, including two clergy, while an additional eleven served as observers and support, and one chaplain was present for pastoral care. Unitarian Universalists were called to participate by the denomination’s largest environmental organization and the national headquarters. One of those arrested is the Unitarian Universalist Association’s (UUA’s) Witness Ministries Director, Rev. Craig Roshaven.

Unitarian Universalists have historically been committed to environmentalism and racial/economic justice. In recent years these commitments have converged in recognition of the racial and economic dimensions of environmental issues, including our reliance on fossil fuels and the consequences of global climate change. Both nationally and globally, while wealthier communities consume a greater proportion of fossil fuels, the effects of the resulting pollution are disproportionately felt by poorer communities, and these communities tend to be predominantly of color. In the case of the Tar Sands pipeline, the resulting increase in the production of tar sands oil and the construction of the pipeline will devastate Native American/First Nation lands even though these peoples will not benefit from the pipeline and have had no say in its construction. Because of this, Unitarian Universalists see the construction of the pipeline and the nation’s continued commitment to fossil fuels as unjust and immoral.

The Unitarian Universalist Association’s 2006 statement on “The Threat of Global Warming/Climate Change” remains one of the strongest on the moral dimensions of climate change made by a religious denomination.

For more information or to schedule an interview, please contact croshaven @

About the Author
Kat Liu


  1. Elz Curtiss

    It really mystifies me that the denomination has such a detailed position of this secular issue. It is not that I do not believe in global warming, or in our responsibilities to act, but this really seems to set up a right and wrong form of secular political participation.

    The primary danger to UU growth is that we have elevated these demonstrations — which tend to be unilateral statements rather than interactive dialogues — into a ritual with hierarchical sanction. I’ve done many a demonstration, including some highly impassioned guerrilla theater against Vietnam, but it was the one-to-one petition signing conversations outside grocery stores and at downtown bus stops that really opened conversations on a basis of mutual respect. And you cannot beat a petition drive for establishing the sacred pathway of listening rather than pronouncing.

    I’m not saying these folks did right or wrong with their demonstration’s goals, I’m just saying we do not present this religious community as a covenant for listening and learning — what the Puritans called “mutual edification” — when we speak with giant placards to mass media cameras. We may win the passion of those who agree with us at that time, on that issue, only to later find they had little interest in the UUA as a spiritual and covenantal institution.


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