Special Session Abortion Ban Signed by Governor, Put on Hold by Judge
After a determined effort led by women in the South Carolina House and Senate and allies and activists for reproductive freedom and justice, defeating the House abortion ban and preventing the Senate ban from passing during the regular session, the six-week Senate ban (S474) passed this week in special session and was signed by Governor McMaster on May 24. However, a Circuit Court judge has now granted an injunction against the new law while it is challenged in court, so for now abortion remains legal in South Carolina up to 22 weeks.
A similarly extreme six-week ban was previously found to be an unconstitutional violation of privacy rights by the state Supreme Court, but the law's proponents are counting on the current all-male Supreme Court to ignore that precedent and uphold the ban. Regardless of what the Court ultimately decides, SCUUJA and our partners will continue to uphold reproductive freedom, gender justice, and rights for all people in South Carolina. We thank everyone who has called, emailed, and showed up for this and other justice issues. Our work at the State House will continue, but not everything is about the legislature. We will also continue working with our UU congregations on the spiritual, educational, and direct service sides of justice, including abortion access. Our efforts will be needed no matter what happens next, so thank you for remaining connected to SCUUJA and our partners through it all.
SCUUJA is a proud co-sponsor again of this year's DRUUMM Public Worship
You are invited to participate in a beautiful, multicultural on-line worship service with DRUUMM (Diverse Multicultural UU Multicultural Ministries) at 8:00 p.m., Thursday, May 11. This annual public worship supports DRUUMM as it serves UUs who identify as people of color with pastoral care, community organizing, and antiracism work.
The theme of this year's public DRUUMM worship is "Shine On, Resilient and Beautiful People," with guest preacher Rev. Katie Romano Griffin, musical artist Amanda Thomas, the DRUUMM Choir, and original works of music, prayer, and poetry by gifted black and brown colleagues. You can register for the service here:
Since this service happens to fall on the final day of South Carolina's legislative session, it can also be a healing reminder of our UU values after a long and challenging legislative season. We hope you will join in!
New Date for First-Ever Statewide UU Fall Festival in Columbia
SCUUJA Fall Festival October 7, 2023—SAVE the DATE!
Come join South Carolina UU Congregations in Columbia on Saturday, October 7 for a day of fun, learning, and building relationships across our state. This family friendly gathering will be held at the UU Congregation of Columbia starting at 10 am and winding up around 4 pm. We will have many different activities including an ingathering of all 10 UU congregations with a brief worship session, many different concurrent sessions on SC justice issues (such as Environmental Justice, Reproductive Justice, LBGTQ+ Justice, Racial Justice, Healthcare Justice, and Electoral Justice), and fun activities for the whole family including storytelling, arts and crafts, and games. We’ll eat together, laugh together, and make plans for justice across our state! What could be better?
Please note that this date is a change from an earlier tentative date in September. Make plans to come October 7! We hope you will take away a greater sense of connectedness, a sense of empowerment and UU identity, as well as a commitment to action.
Have expertise in an area of justice, storytelling, art, or ministry? Let Rev. Jean know at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are looking for individuals to help plan beforehand and to lead sessions on October 7!
SCUUJA Offers Transgender Inclusion Training
SCCUJA Offers Transgender Training
In March and April, three members from each Unitarian Universalist congregation in SC will have the opportunity to take the on-line course “Transgender Inclusion in Congregations” free of charge. This six-session training was developed by Alex Kapitan and Rev. Mykal Slack at the Transforming Hearts Collective. The workshop is designed to help congregations be more welcoming of transgender individuals. We will explore deeply the intersection of trans identity, spirituality, and our faith community with the aim transforming individuals and congregations. Taking the course not only helps us be more welcoming, but it also helps us create safe spaces for transgender individuals in our communities. We need to foster that safety in a state where transgender identities are under assault through proposed legislation.
If you are interested in being one of the three persons taking the course from your congregation, check with your minister and/or the chair of your social justice committee. You can also contact the Rev. Jean Heriot at SCUUJA (email@example.com) for more information (for example, the dates of the trainings) and to see if there are spaces available. Sessions start March 7.
We are almost to SCUUJA's second legislative update of the 2023 South Carolina legislative session, at 7:00 pm (by Zoom) on Thursday, February 23. To make sure your get the link to the meetup, sign up for newsletters and alerts on the front page of the website if you have not already, or email firstname.lastname@example.org to get the link.
Even as book bans, abortion bans, anti-trans and anti-"CRT" bills are considered by the legislature, there are still opportunities for some positive legislation. One of those is a hate crimes bill, H3014, the "Clementa C. Pinckney Hate Crimes Act" that will be in the House Judiciary Constitutional Laws Subcommittee tomorrow (Thursday) morning. While that is not much notice, it is always a good time to let your legislators know your support for a hate crimes bill, as South Carolina is one of only two states without one. You can find your legislators at https://www.scstatehouse.gov. There is a Stamp Out Hate coalition in South Carolina, and you can contact them at email@example.com if you wish to submit testimony, or get more information from their website at https://stampouthate.sc.
After this week, our next legislative update meetup will be at 7 pm on Thursday, March 23.
The South Carolina legislature opened on January 10, and SCUUJA will hold its first legislative update meetup on Thursday, January 26 at 7:00 pm (by Zoom). No need to sign up—if you are getting this newsletter, you will get an invitation with a Zoom link for that meetup.
As challenging as the legislative environment may be, there are positive bills that have been introduced. Among them are:
An inclusive nondiscrimination bill (H3738, a priority of SC United for Justice & Equality and LGBTQ allies)
A reproductive freedom bill (S29, a priority of several organizations supporting reproductive freedom and justice),
A hate crimes bill (S3, a priority of the NAACP and other allies)
Automatic DMV voter registration (S6, a priority of the League of Women Voters)
Some ACLU-supported rights bills (H3140 Tenant Right to Counsel, H3306 Ban the Box, and S278 Juvenile Justice Reform).
There are of course a slew of bills pushing abortion bans, book bans, voter disenfranchisement, and discriminatory anti-trans policies. We want to help you respond to these attacks. We will have more information to give in our legislative update January 26, so put it on your calendar now!
How Your Congregation Can Support SCUUJA
SCUUJA is connected with all ten Unitarian Universalist congregations in South Carolina so we can join with each other, with South Carolina nonprofit and interfaith allies, with national resources, and with people impacted by injustice to put UU values into action and create a more powerful voice for justice in our state. No matter its size or structure, there are a number of ways for your congregation to support SCUUJA:
Promote and take part in SCUUJA meetups, events, and educational programs
Endorse SCUUJA with a congregational covenant or letter of support
Make an annual congregational budget commitment to SCUUJA
Invite SCUUJA leaders to speak at a service in your congregation at least once a year
Hold a plate collection for SCUUJA
Support SCUUJA with discretionary funds or special grant funds
Encourage congregational members to sign up for SCUUJA’s newsletter list at www.scuuja.org
Encourage congregational members to donate to SCUUJA at www.scuuja.org
Help SCUUJA raise other funds by participating in matching campaigns
Encourage congregational members to volunteer, respond to action alerts, write letters, testify on legislation, and participate in anti-oppression educational programs
Share what your congregation and social justice team are doing (photos, too!) so we can put it in SCUUJA newsletters and share it with other congregations.
Most of SCUUJA’s programs are on-line so location doesn’t matter for participation, but a few events are in person. We do plan to hold an in-person meetup in the fall so that Unitarian Universalists across the state can meet and get to know each other. Watch for details later in the year, and thank you for your own support of SCUUJA!
Rev. Nathan at State House
Holiday blessings to all as 2022 comes to a close! Thanks to you, SCUUJA has come a long way in its first year, as Rev. Jean describes below. Now we are actively preparing for 2023. About two dozen SCUUJA supporters joined our December 7 all-state meetup, where we shared stories and shared our priority issues for the year ahead. Based on Board priorities, the meetup, what we have learned from our partner organizations, and what we have heard from you, here are some things we will be working on in 2023:
Support action against hate crimes (with NAACP and other partners)
Support any improvements to voting rights (with League of Women Voters)
Support any progress on protecting DACA (with Appleseed and others)
Support any openings toward Medicaid expansion (with several partners)
Oppose bans on abortion or health care (with WREN and Planned Parenthood)
Oppose book bans or “CRT” bans (with Right to Read Coalition)
Protect transgender youth and LGBTQ+ rights (with ACLU and other partners)
Watch other SC emerging issues (such as juvenile justice, education, gun violence, and climate)
The South Carolina legislative session begins January 10 and ends May 11. We expect to hold legislative issue meetups at 7 p.m. on January 26, February 23, March 23, April 20, and a May 25 wrap-up. This spring, we expect to offer a deeper six-session educational program on transgender welcoming in our congregations. We will dialogue with our partners, gather UU social justice leaders and ministers, and hold an in-person all-state Unitarian Universalist gathering in the early fall. Be sure you are signed up for email updates to get notices of all our events!
We know how much our UU congregations do, so we will highlight your work whenever we can. Please read Jean’s summary below of what South Carolina UUs have been doing to serve our communities in the holiday season! Please keep sending your updates and photos!
With best wishes for the New Year,
- Nathan South Carolina UU Justice Alliance
Rev. Jean with Aiken UU the Vote activists
2022 Scuuja review
In January of 2022, we launched the South Carolina Unitarian Universalist Justice Alliance (SCUUJA) with the support of the UU Funding Program and a few committed UUs. Who could have foretold that in just a year we would have so much support and engagement for the work of justice in South Carolina! Our congregations and our partners responded with optimism, faith, and commitment to bring changes in our state.
Early on we saw the introduction of anti-trans bills and anti-Critical Race Theory bills (anti-CRT) in our state legislature. The Rev. Lisa Bovee-Kemper, then development minister at the Greenville UU Fellowship, drafted a letter in opposition to the anti-CRT bills, SCUUJA shared it widely across the congregations, and nearly 200 individual UU’s signed it. We sent it on, and along with many other partners, those anti-CRT bills were defeated. The Rev. Pippin Whitaker, then director of SCUUJA, organized with the SC United for Justice and Equality and with the Women’s Rights and Empowerment Network (WREN) to speak out and lobby against anti-trans bills and all but one of these were defeated.
Meantime, Rev. Pippin and Rev. Jean Heriot (director of organizing and training) went across the state and spoke to all our congregations and heard what each congregation was doing with respect to justice work. We held state-wide meetups on Zoom so that folks could hear and learn from each other. We also did a trans training with Alex Kapitan, a trans UU leader. Rev. Jean took up the coordination piece for the UU the Vote initiative and worked closely with Ms. Brenda Murphy, SC NAACP president, to help organize get out the vote work in our congregations. Two congregations, Spartanburg and Aiken, took on the UU challenge to become “Good Trouble” congregations magnifying the voices of UUs. All congregations did voter rights work: our partner organization Vote Forward reported UUs across the country sent out 5.7 million letters! SC was a great part of this effort!
Then over the summer, Rev. Pippin accepted a call to the Athens congregation, Rev. Jean did interim work as director, and the board hired Rev. Nathan Woodliff-Stanley as the executive director starting September 1. Over the summer, the Dobbs decision by the Supreme Court brought the SC State Legislature into action as they tried to pass restrictive anti-abortion bills. This effort had us heading back to the State House, as members of our congregations and Rev. Jean came to Columbia to testify against these bills, and congregations sent letters and made calls to state representatives. Currently, things are in flux as the most restrictive anti-abortion bills did not pass and the bill banning abortion after six weeks is still being litigated in the courts. We know new anti-abortion bills will be forthcoming this January. We must be even more vigilant.
We were also working on building our board, our mission statement, bylaws, and financial base. Thanks to your generous contributions, we met a matching grant of $5,000 from Fathify. By September, we reached our full board complement of seven: with UU justice leaders and partner organizations serving the most vulnerable in our state. We have on our board an organizer from WREN, Kenya Cummings, the director of SC Appleseed Legal Justice Center, Sue Berkowitz, Esq., and the president of the SC NAACP, Brenda Murphy. Board members from our UU congregations include Rick Hahnenberg (Spartanburg), Board President; Pat Chaney (Greenville); Richard Hayes (Charleston); and Connie Quirk (Columbia). We held a board retreat in September to plan for the coming year, followed by a meetup with congregational members in December to elicit their priorities. We have also contacted our partners to determine what they are placing on their list of actions in the coming year. All these conversations are helping inform SCUUJA about next steps (see above by Rev. Nathan). We wrote another grant to the UU Funding Program and received it.
We kept you posted about all these actions and plans using emails, our newsletter, posts to Facebook and calls to action. We are so thankful for the many ways you work with us and with those centering the voices and authority of people experiencing injustice across the state. Together we work toward a more just South Carolina. Blessings indeed!
Rev. Dr. Jean Heriot
Clayton Memorial UU Church (Newberry) Provides Backpacks for Teens in Foster Care
SC UU Holiday service projects
Clemson Unitarian Universalist Fellowship collected warm weather items (gloves, mittens, scarves, tights, etc.) for Ripple of One, a Seneca organization helping families learn to balance budgets and be self-sufficient. Clemson also provides food for the Seneca meals for the homeless monthly. Clemson has a team working with Pickens County Habitat for Humanity, and food for the needy is collected (by the children) during our Sunday services. Other issues they work on include fighting racism, providing for Afghan refugees, voter’s rights, and reproductive justice.
The Unitarian Church in Charleston supports school children in need through monthly participation in 'Backpack Buddies' program sponsored by Lowcountry Food Bank. They support a 'Blessing Box' on site that provides food and dental care products to people living in projects near our church. In addition to this direct service, Charleston is working on racial justice including racial justice audits of local police, affordable housing, medical justice, refugee justice, environmental justice in Charleston, and addressing the needs of children in poverty.
The Unitarian Universalist Church of Spartanburg was in the first round of announcements from the UUA as a Good Trouble Congregation for their work with UU the Vote. Congratulations!! They are working with immigrant families and have adopted the middle school PTA as a community sponsor in their church neighborhood.
The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Lowcountry (Bluffton) collected items for Helpful Horizons in November and December. With “Sharing from our Abundance,” they work with a local weekly food pantry. In addition, they help with MLK celebrations and cleanup a Gullah Cemetery. They have ongoing efforts to help stop the forced eviction of island workers from their homes and to address affordable housing with the Hilton Head “Home” Coalition. They work with the local immigrant community and Afghan refugee resettlement. They are monitoring attempted book bans in their community. They support the Lowcountry Coalition against Hate and seek to get a Hate Crime bill through our legislature.
The Christmas Eve collection at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Beaufort goes to Family Promise, supporting families experiencing homelessness. Beaufort is also working against banning books. Several of their members attended a school board meeting to speak against the attempted banning of approximately 80 books in our school district. In February, they support Race for Love, which supports Hopeful Horizons.
The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Columbia participated in The Palmetto Project’s Families Helping Families (FHF). They took on two families and two elderly persons for a total of 12 individuals. All gifts were taken to the FHF collection center, with tremendous support from the congregation. They have expanded their collection of toiletries and warm clothing for the Inclement Weather Shelter which offers a place to stay when the temperature drops to 40 degrees or below. They have been collecting food for Harvest Hope. UUCC also worked on voter’s rights sending in postcards and letters for the general election and for the Georgia runoffs and distributed door knockers.
The Aiken Unitarian Universalist Church worked hard and successfully to become a Good Trouble Congregation, writing letters and postcards to voters, knocking on doors, volunteering and working to make sure our polls were safe. They supported the work of the Aiken Homeless Coalition and Aiken Family Promise and held a coat drive for the needy. For their Christmas project, they bought 100 gifts for families helped by the Cumbee Center to Assist Abused Persons. Over the year they routinely partner with the Aiken NAACP on local NAACP justice projects. In addition, they have a blessing box that is filled with food every day of the week.
The Greenville Unitarian Universalist Fellowship conducted a food drive for Upstate Food Not Bombs. In addition to food (FNB provides food-bags for 35 families on a weekly basis), warm winter wear was collected as well as toiletries, to be shared with the homeless population that they serve. GUUF also maintains a duplex that houses two families enrolled in the United Ministries empowerment program, which prepares them to transition from homelessness to independent living. Congregants provided them with Christmas trees and decorations. They also collected gift cards to be given to the families, to be used however needed.
For years Clayton Memorial Unitarian Universalist Church has provided gifts to teens in foster care in Newberry County over the holidays. They obtain individual wish lists collected by caseworkers. This year there are 12 teens in foster care, five boys and seven girls. Every teen received a backpack and a gift card (to get something else special for themselves!), as well as items from the wish lists. The focus on backpacks is to provide something that belongs to them that they can use if they need to pack up and move suddenly or frequently - hopefully to prevent foster kids from having to move their belongings in trash bags. They also are participating in the Newberry Helping Newberry winter supplies drive, which is collecting items to help people stay warm. These are distributed by the Living Hope Foundation in Newberry. In addition, they are collecting funds for our annual heifer international donation. All of this is seen by the congregation as blessings being given to blessings.
As part of its community outreach, All Souls Waccamaw UU Church in Myrtle Beach supports Homeless Period Project, Backpack Buddies, South Strand Helping Hands and New Directions of Horry County.
SCUUJA is a proud co-sponsor of "You Can Count On This" DRUUMM Public Worship
May 4th, 2022
8:30 PM Eastern/ 5:30 PM Pacific
Rev. Tyler Coles, Guest Preacher
Dr. Zanaida Robles, Musical Artist
Faith can be both a guiding light and sustaining force throughout the course of one’s life. Yet in a world that is all too cruel and harsh, faith can be twisted, becoming instead a tool that fosters both isolation and a sense of underwhelm. What do we do when this happens for us as Unitarian Universalists? Come, let us gather in the fortifying spirit of love made known in community as we re-member ourselves, for ourselves, in the presence of all that we choose to name as Holy.
We are at a sensitive moment after two difficult years of pandemic and loss in our DRUUMM communities. Your witness and solidarity are greatly needed to help us thrive into the future. Our goal is to connect more deeply with our wider Unitarian Universalist community to share DRUUMM’s mission, highlight some of our key activities, and raise funds in support of expanding our chaplain and pastoral care work with Black, Indigenous, and People of Color in Unitarian Universalism.
For more information on the service and speakers, click here. DRUUMM is the Diverse & Revolutionary UU Multicultural Ministries, a UU People of Color organization. Learn more at www.druumm.org
Medicaid Expansion Training Pt. 2
The Unitarian Church in Charleston will co-host a forum on Medicaid Expansion in SC, Pt 2 – March 23, 7 PM ET. This is the second session, in a 2-part series. For more information and to register, click here.
Action for Trans Liberation
On March 10, SCUUJA joined with SC United for Justice & Equality at the South Carolina State House. Find out more about the action here and follow links to get involved.
1st Social Justice
Thank you to all who could join on Feb 22 for a fantastic beginning to the SC UU Justice Alliance! This was our first statewide justice leaders network meetup and we had over 40 participants from across the state. In case you missed the event and want to engage with UUs on statewide justice work, you can complete this online survey here. This will let us know who to connect you with, and how we may share your information.
New Issue Groups Forming
Out of the Feb 22 meeting, we have possible emerging justice issue groups in Education, Environmental Justice, Immigration & Support for DACA Recipients, Transgender* Justice, & Voter Rights & Access. Please complete this brief and secure online survey to indicate your interest in a group and allow us to connect you with other organizers!
UU Voices at the Capital
The South Carolina Legislature is considering several bills that would censor public education to prevent teaching history of slavery, Native American genocide, and the Holocaust. As Unitarian Universalists, we believe using knowledge and reason are essential creating a more just and humane world. We invited Unitarian Universalists and congregations/groups across the state to oppose passage of these bills. With 165 signatures and counting, this letter calls on South Carolina lawmakers to oppose these dangerous bills and ensure the betterment of society, not through denial and violence, but through dialogue and accurate education. Read more in our February newsletter here
New Challenges, New Opportunities
The new year is off to a full start, full of many pressing needs and new hopes, too. One pressing need you can act on right now is voting rights. Check out UU the Vote for details and to take action.
We will need one another for support and inspiration this year! This is why we are so excited to join you and other social justice leaders at our first statewide Social Justice Leaders Meetup on Tuesday, Feb 22, 2022 from 7 to 8:30 PM ET via Zoom. Register Here for the Zoom meeting
Check out to full January e-news here (note some links may not work).
Defend Our Democracy
On January 6, 2022, SC UU Justice Alliance representative Rev. Dr. Pippin Whitaker spoke to a crowd gathered at the South Carolina State House. Check out the video to recall the significance of Jan 6 and recommit to defending democracy!
Press Coverage here at this link!
December: Ready to Launch
SCUUJA is gearing up and ready to launch! Check out the December e-news here for more on: Visits to a congregation near you; Profile of a justice leader; Updates from across the state; and more!
November: Grant Awarded
October: New Beginning
Forming a SC UU Justice Alliance, what is this all about?