Texas Unitarian Universalist Justice Ministry (TXUUJM)
Rev. Chuck Freeman, Executive Director, Free Souls Church of Round Rock
Mike Phillips, Committee Chair, First UU Church of San Antonio
Alexandra Neville, Committee Treasurer, First UU Church of Austin
Gabe Gelb, Emerson UU Church of Houston
James Finn, Westside UU Church of Fort Worth
Peggy Morton, First UU Church of Austin
Alan Lummus, First Unitarian Church of Dallas
Rev. Mark Walz, Oak Cliff UU, Dallas
The Texas Unitarian Universalist Justice Ministry is a statewide justice ministry that raises the voice of Unitarian Universalist values in the public arena and seeks to have those values enacted into legislation and promulgated in public policy. Guided by Unitarian Universalist principles, TXUUJM will educate and organize member congregations, and partner with sympathetic organizations, in order to advocate for public policies that:
- Uphold the worth and dignity of every person;
- Further justice, equity, and compassion in human relations;
- Ensure the use of the democratic process;
- Protect religious freedom; and,
- Promote respect for the interdependent web of all existence.
Our faith calls us to change policies and structures that inhibit human development and harm the environment and communities. We are called to educate and organize for justice.
Our UU voice has been missing on issues such as women’s and gay rights, immigration, education financing, evolution, economic justice, access to affordable quality health care, and many other issues that are considered by the Texas Legislature and its committees. It’s time for Unitarian Universalists to speak out based on our liberal religious viewpoints. TXUUJM will allow our congregations to provide a vehicle for the members of our association to make a difference in our state and to help those learning about Unitarian Universalism see the values for which we stand.
Bending Texas Toward Justice
The purpose of TXUUJM is to educate the members of our Unitarian Universalist congregations on important public policy issues that may impact the values and lives of our members.
TXUUJM, Education Network is a 501(c)(3) designated educational nonprofit organization working in tandem with a 501(c)(4) designated nonprofit. A Steering Committee guides the activity of the TXUUJM and solicits input from an Advisory Board made up of members and ministers across the State of Texas. An Executive Director coordinates and implements the policies and plans of the Steering Committee.
The Advisory Board allows for two members from each Texas Unitarian Universalist congregation. Members of the advisory board work within their own churches, as well as with other churches in their clusters, through their social justice and other related committees, to conduct small group conversations and individual meetings. These meetings are used to identify issues and to help educate congregational members on effective advocacy.
Advisory Board Members also act as ambassadors of the TXUUJM and work to ensure that church membership dues are paid and a high level of individual membership encouraged.
The Steering Committee is made up of volunteer members including roughly equal numbers of clergy and lay members. Terms of office are for three year terms renewable for a second term. The Steering Committee members meet annually in the fall to assess progress from the previous year and to plan the succeeding year’s work. Between annual face-to-face meetings, the full Advisory Board will collaborate and conduct geographically dispersed meetings to conduct its business.
The Steering Committee shall:
- Elect the Steering Committee Chair.
- Develop the overall program of the Texas UU Legislative Ministry, including the selection of target priorities and the identification of focal issues as well as strategies to address them.
- Write and adopt bylaws for the organization.
- Recruit and hire the Executive Director.
- Provide direction, advice, and assistance to the Executive Director.
- Promote organizational sustainability and approve relevant plans and budgets.
- Make regular reports to the Advisory Board.
- Coordinate efforts with sympathetic organizations.
To harness more power for policy change, TXUUJM encourages Texas UU congregations to also join their local Texas Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) organization and organizations such as Texas Impact.
The Texas IAF network is a statewide coalition of congregations, unions and schools from many faith traditions. Its mission is to work for the common good through progressive advocacy on issues that impact their members. Eight of our Texas UU churches are already part of this Statewide Network and are working to represent the interests of all the families of Texas.
Texas Impact is a statewide religious grassroots network whose members include individuals, congregations, and governing bodies of the Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths. Texas Impact exists to advance state public policies that are consistent with universally held social principles of the Abrahamic traditions.
The Texas Legislature only meets for six months every other year and we want to have a presence in the upcoming 2015 session that begins in January. We already know there will be a raft of anti-immigrant legislation, bills to further restrict women’s reproductive rights, further cuts to education funding, continuing efforts interfere with the right to vote, and new restrictions on the right to earn a family living wage. We intend to organize our UU congregations to make their voices heard through the TXUUJM. Our work this year will focus on three issues as many of our Texas congregations have already engaged in local action around them, and they are grounded in the work of the UUA. As more congregations join TXUUJM we will coordinate training and lobby days around these issues, and meet with our elected state officials.
In the work around access to quality affordable health care, economic policies that address growing economic inequality, and threats to women’s reproductive rights, we will coordinate variously with the Texas IAF, Texas Impact, Stand with Texas Women, Planned Parenthood and other groups involved with these issues.
Membership in the TXUUJM is open to all Unitarian Universalist congregations in the State of Texas who covenant to be members and who pay $2 per congregational member per year. Individual memberships will also be strongly encouraged. Two Advisory Board members from each congregation shall be asked to serve by the board of their church, Minister, or by the Steering Committee.
Amendments to the Bylaws
Amendments to these bylaws shall be submitted to the Steering Committee one month before a vote. Approval of the proposed change shall be made by a 2/3rds vote of the Steering Committee.
A congregation will be an institutional member of the TXUULM if it budgets or raises the equivalent of $2 per member per year as reported to the UUA. TXUULM Member Congregations will have representation on the Advisory Board and are eligible to be elected to the Steering Committee. Individual Memberships by members of the congregation will be encouraged.
Congregational Membership Levels
$2/member/year – Texas Covenantal Justice Level
The following congregational awards will be incentives to encourage more individual memberships in TXUULM:
Creating Justice Banner Level – Congregations receive this award if 25% – 49% of members hold Individual Memberships in TXUULM.
Moving Justice Banner Level – Congregations receive this award if 50% – 74% of members hold Individual Memberships in TXUULM.
Bending Justice Banner Level – Congregations receive this award if 75% – 99% of members hold Individual Memberships in TXUULM.
Embracing Justice Banner Level – Congregations receive this award if 100% of members hold Individual Memberships in TXUULM.
Sustaining Individual Membership levels – (minimum $5/month) – recurring:
$200/month – Texas Platinum Membership
$100/month – Texas Diamond Membership
$50/month – Texas Marble Membership
$20/month – Texas Quartz Membership
$10/month – Texas Bedrock Membership
$5/month – Salt of the Texas Earth Membership
Annual Individual Membership levels:
$5,000. – Texas Shootin’ Star Membership
$1,000. – Texas Change Partner Membership
$500. – Texas Free Spirit Membership
$250. – Texas Hold ‘Em Winner Membership
$100. – Texas Family Heritage Membership
$50. – Texas Ranger Basic Membership
$25. – Texas Senior Membership
$10. – Texas Youth/Student Membership
Our goal is to build power by organizing so we may actively participate in dialogue on legislative issues with our representatives as well as provide important information regarding existing and proposed legislation to our member congregations.
We will serve the approximately 50 Unitarian Universalist churches in Texas, utilizing congregations’ existing Social Justice committees, and foster communication with our representatives including candidates and elected local, state, and federal officials.
How We Will Communicate
Communication among member congregations and interfaith organizations will be done online through email, through regular in-person meetings and conference calls, and possibly through the use of social networks and blogging. Our strongest forms of communication will be face-to-face conversations and small group or house meetings to determine action issues, and in-person meetings with key representatives. Secondary forms of action through communication may include letter-writing or telephone call campaigns, paper petitions, or postcards.
We will need a functional website. Our director will need a computer with 24-hour Internet access to send emails, update media, and perform conference calls; a printer to create fliers and other paper communications; postage; a cell phone; and access to transportation. Member congregations will need a computer with Internet access and one or more individuals in charge of coordinating Legislative Ministry work within their congregations. A Texas UU Legislative Ministry email list must be set up to communicate among member congregations; additional email lists pertaining to specific legislative issues can be created as needed.
Texas UU congregations will understand the importance of having a Texas UU Legislative Ministry and are willing to actively participate.
Texas UU congregations will be talking with each other and building relationships.
We will build relationships with our representatives by securing meetings and having purposeful dialogues with them.
Congregations will be informed about key issues, registered to vote, and coordinating with sympathetic organizations.
We will hold actions on issues important to us as a statewide network.
- We will build stronger Unitarian Universalist social justice ministries at the congregational level.
- We will have a visible and a vocal presence at the state legislature.
- We will transmit timely information to clergy and lay leaders on issues important to Unitarian Universalists.
- We will be making a difference on the specific issues we select.
- Unitarian Universalists will be valued among partner organizations for our contributions.
- We will present our mission and vision at the district conference and promote at all district conferences thereafter.
- We will build our Advisory Board and then elect our Steering Committee team by June of 2012.
- The Steering Committee begins networking with and learning from effective faith-based lobbying groups such as Texas Impact, the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF), and so forth. 4. In the 83rd Legislature beginning in January of 2013 (see full calendar below), we will partner on one issue with another faith-based group and initiate one issue of our own on which we can make a substantive difference and communicate this to our Advisory Board and congregations.
Our next steps will be determined at the Southwest Unitarian Universalist Conference (SWUUC) Annual Meeting/Spring Conference in April, during the Organizational Meeting of Texas UU Legislative Ministry Interest Group.
2013 Legislative Calendar
Tuesday, January 8, 2013 (1st day)
83rd Legislature convenes at noon
[Government Code, Sec. 301.001]
Friday, March 8, 2013 (60th day)
Deadline for filing bills and joint resolutions other than local bills,
emergency appropriations, and bills that have been declared an
emergency by the governor
[House Rule 8, Sec. 8; Senate Rules 7.07(b) and 10.01]
Monday, May 27, 2013 (140th day)
Last day of 83rd Regular Session; corrections only in house and senate
[Sec. 24(b), Art. III, Texas Constitution]
Sunday, June 16, 2013 (20th day following final adjournment)
Last day governor can sign or veto bills passed during the regular legislative session
[Sec. 14, Art. IV, Texas Constitution]
Monday, August 26, 2013 (91st day following final adjournment)
Date that bills without specific effective dates (that could not be effective
immediately) become law
[Sec. 39, Art. III, Texas Constitution]