Testimony January 21 on Carbon Tax Bill SB 6306

January 23

 William McPherson, President UU Voices for Justice, Washington State

Senators: There is good news and bad news about Washington State emissions. At about 10 tons per person, we are well below the national average but we are still above our neighbors, OR, CA and BC. We are more than twice the world average (4.6 tons) and five times the average that scientists consider safe for climate stability (2 tons).

I was in Paris for the conclusion of the Paris Agreement and I can tell you that there was strong support throughout the world for climate stability. The High Ambition Coalition, including the U.S., pledged to keep increases in temperature “well below” 2 degrees C and to strive to keep below 1.5 C. This will require major efforts including a price on carbon, which is the intent of SB 6306, but it is not ambitious enough to support the U.S. pledge.

We have pledged to reduce emissions 24-28% by 2025, which would make a major contribution to the Paris Agreement provision of 2C.

In order to make a significant contribution to our efforts, we should put a price of at least $25 a ton, as in I-732. It the legislature does not pass I-732, it will be on the fall ballot. Please consider raising the tax to $25.

Thank you for the opportunity to testify.



Testimony on 1449: Oil Transportation Safety

January 23

William McPherson, President UU Voices for Justice, Washington State

Thank you for the opportunity to address the Update From the Department of Ecology on the Implementation of House Bill 1449 (2015).

The Department of Ecology, along with other state agencies*, must review the environmental impact of oil trains. DEIS’s for Vancouver, Grays Harbor and Anacortes terminals tend to ignore the moral issue of how we contribute to climate change by restricting the reviews of permits to emissions in Washington state, for example, from diesel emissions of locomotives. This shortchanges our contributions by 136 million tons, more than twice our current emissions.

According to Sightline Institute, Oil train facilities in the Northwest could facilitate shipment as much as 382,000 barrels per day of new tar sands production that would otherwise not be extracted. The resulting greenhouse gas pollution could be as much as 106 million metric tons per year of carbon dioxide.

Northwest oil train terminals could also lead to as much as 114,000 barrels per day of Bakken crude beyond what would be produced without the terminals. The resulting greenhouse gas pollution from this extra production could be as much as 30 million tons per year of carbon dioxide.

Do we have no moral responsibility for these emissions? Just because we do not burn the petroleum in Washington, we think we can escape this responsibility. But we contribute because we do provide facilities which otherwise could not be used to transport the oil.

* EFSEC is a council comprising the directors of five state agencies

(or their designees) and a chair appointed by the governor. The state agencies with designees on EFSEC are:

• Department of Commerce

• Department of Ecology

• Department of Fish and Wildlife

• Department of Natural Resources

• Utilities and Transportation Commission


Inspiring Words from Sharon Abreu

December 30

I am taking the liberty of transmitting inspiring words from Sharon Abreu, who has participated in our UU Climate Week. She is reacting to a chain of comments on the friction between CarbonWA, whose I-732 initiative on carbon tax we support, and the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy. Rather than focusing on the dispute, we should focus on the positive aspects of the efforts of all groups. Here is her message:

I just want to give thanks to everyone on this list for pouring your energy and heart into this challenging endeavor.

What I learned years ago as a volunteer with Hudson River Sloop Clearwater in New York is that we need to celebrate ourselves and our efforts, get together, have fun, sing, laugh, cry, and really celebrate our small victories.
You are all awesome, caring people. I KNOW that you care about people, and that you are very concerned about people who might lose their jobs or experience any financial hardship because of this major transition, which we know needs to happen, one way or another.
I first started hearing the Trade Union delegation at the U.N. Commission on Sustainable Development talk about the - need for a "Just Transition" back in 1998,  and they were talking about it before I joined them. We are behind in this country, perhaps tragically so. But I don't for a minute think of giving up. Okay, maybe for a minute. But then I pick myself up, do self-care, re-energize, and move forward in whatever way I can, personally and with excellent company.
This is not just a pep talk. This is love and gratitude flowing to you all.
As one of the people I portray in my Climate Monologues show says, "It's probably too late for many things, and that just requires profound grieving. But there is abundant life on this planet. And there is always, always, always something left worth fighting for." I truly believe this with my whole heart. She also says, "How we keep our energy up is so important, because you can't work on climate change without having your moments when you're just like 'Oh my GOD!', you know?"
Here's to working together in 2016 and doing the best job we can!

Report on the Paris Conference

December 29

The Paris Agreement
William McPherson

Six Unitarian-Universalist observers attended the Paris Conference of Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris, November 30 to December 12, 2015. The six were: Peggy Clarke, Minister, First Unitarian Society, Hastings on Hudson, NY; Jan and Lynn Dash, Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Monmouth County, NJ; David Tucker, Eno River Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Durham, NC; Doris Marlin, All Souls Church in Washington, DC; and William McPherson, University Unitarian Church in Seattle, WA. We were credentialed as representatives of the UU Association UN Office. Others, including Carlo Voli and Aly Tharp, UU members, were in Paris to participate in climate actions, but were not admitted to the conference center. In the following report, information from observation and some news sources is combined to review the negotiations for the agreement and some of its implications for future action on climate change.
The Setting
Le Bourget, the airport where Charles Lindbergh landed at the end of his historic flight in 1927, was the first airport in France. Today it hosts a number of private corporate jets but no commercial flights. The hangars not used by corporate jets have been reconstructed as meeting halls, and they can hold a large number of people in multiple meetings. That was a good setting for the 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which had over 36,000 participants.
The French organized COP21 well. They set up two enormous tents, each the size of a football field, to handle the large crowds of attendees. One was a security tent with more than 20 security lines to facilitate entry, a problem that had plagued earlier COPs such as Copenhagen. Of course, the French were also being extra cautious with security after the Paris massacre with police and soldiers evident everywhere around the conference site.  A second tent held all of the “civil society” groups that tend to flock around COPs. This tended to drain off some of the actions that might be disruptive at the main conference buildings.  
The French had also, in cooperation with the UNFCCC secretariat, planned the conference schedule in a way to insure success. Having heads of state and heads of government appear at the beginning, rather than the end, helped get some of the rhetoric and posturing out of the way early. The conference was also designed some years in advance to be the end stage of the “Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action” (mercifully shortened to the acronym ADP). ADP did in fact end its work on December 5, in time to compile a text for the negotiations beginning on December 7 with the oversight of government ministers, both foreign ministers and environmental ministers. ADP was the “working level” group that actually came up with the text after five grueling sessions. Its final session was in fact the first week of COP21, when work sessions were held in parallel with the high-level speeches. The text was whittled down from 54 pages to a final agreed text of 11 pages and some of the disputes over wording were settled with "bridging proposals," that is, links between similar wording by different parties.
The French adopted some interesting tactics for the second week of negotiations. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius set up a "Paris Committee" with five subcommittees to handle the main issues such as mitigation pledges and finance. Each was chaired by two foreign ministers, one from developed countries and the other from developing countries. They thrashed out the text for each area and brought it back to the plenaries for final decisions.   
The Negotiations
Negotiations in Paris began early, on Sunday November 29, 2015, a day ahead of the opening of COP21. The Sunday negotiations were the final meeting of the ADP, the group that had met throughout 2015 in Geneva and Bonn. At the ADP session, delegates reviewed the text that came out of the previous four ADP sessions. No decisions were made, but the review was an essential step in preparing for the decisions that would be made by the higher-level delegations.
In their discussion of the text, the delegates tended to link issues such as INDCs, CBDRs and Finance. Negotiations are reviewed below based on these linkages. Where appropriate, statements by heads of state in the first week are reviewed in the context of the negotiations on these issues. During the final week, negotiations got down to wordsmithing the text that was introduced after the first week, and agreed on December 12, 2015.
Negotiations began with discussions of INDCs (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions). At the outset developing nations invoked the principle of CBDR (common but differentiated responsibilities). India indicated that developing countries were likely to have different INDCs than developed countries: “Justice demands that, with what little carbon we can still safely burn, developing countries are allowed to grow. The life styles of a few [developed countries] must not crowd out opportunities for the many still on the first steps of the development ladder.”
President Xi Jinping of China echoed this sentiment: “Addressing climate change should not deny the legitimate needs of developing nations to reduce poverty and improve their people’s living standards.” President Dilma Rouseff of Brazil emphasized CBDR as the cornerstone of the Paris agreement. Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany proposed a binding review mechanism with a five-year cycle to begin in 2020 to ensure credibility and increased ambition of the INDC pledges. This would stiffen the concept of five-year reviews by making it binding, a suggestion that may arouse opposition from some member parties. President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation also proposed that the agreement be legally binding, a nonstarter for the U.S.
As expected, some parties such as the small-island states called for keeping global temperature rise below 1.5 degrees Celsius, instead of the 2°C limit agreed in Cancun. The Maldives, which has taken the lead in pushing for the lower limit, called for the agreement to set medium- and long-term emission reduction pathways at levels less than 1.5°C of warming.
One issue that arose during the negotiations was the gap between INDCs proposed by approximately 180 member parties, and the level of emission reductions required to attain the 2C target. ADP Co-Chair Daniel Reifsnyder suggested mentioning the gap resulting from the aggregate effect of INDCs communicated by parties as of October 2015. He proposed inserting figures to illustrate the gap and including language from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on lowest-cost emission pathways. If adopted, this proposal could create dissent, as member parties might be reluctant to show how they have fallen short. Member parties seemed to favor “taking note” of the gaps rather than incorporating any text into the agreement.
Some parties continued to press for 1.5°C limits. Tuvalu, one of the small island states affected by sea-level rise, suggested that the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) analyze the INDCs and compare them to the level of emissions reductions required for the 1.5°C limit. Saudi Arabia and parties questioned the value of such analysis, beyond the already-available information from IPCC reports.
One party, Nicaragua, indicated some hostility to the way that the agreement handled the question of INDC commitments. Nicaragua called for a “carbon budget,” which would allocate emissions based on a worldwide limit and criteria of “fairness” in allotting carbon distribution by country. This concept did not have much traction from most of the parties, however.
In the end, the agreement included the 1.5°C limit as an aspiration: “Holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels…” Some countries, such as Maldives speaking for small island states, emphasized that 1.5°C is essential for the survival of low-lying states.
Finance and CBDR
Finance became an early issue in the negotiations, just as it had been throughout the intersessional meetings. “The cost of action is not $100 billion,” said Prakash Javadekar, the Indian environment minister. “It is trillions; $100 billion is just a reparation.” Talk of “reparations” is likely to set the teeth of some delegates on edge, as this arouses all of the problems of CBDR discussed earlier. President Obama in his speech to delegates did acknowledge the burden on developed countries: “We know the truth that many nations have contributed little to climate change but will be the first to feel its most destructive effects.”
A recurring issue on financial responsibility surfaced in Paris. The EU and the US agreed that developed countries should meet their financial obligations, and that others in a position to do so should contribute. This was a reference to emerging economies such as China that are in a position to contribute to the Green Climate Fund, which is intended to help less developed countries mitigate emissions and adapt to climate change. The EU emphasized that its commitment to mobilize climate finance would continue after 2020 and the $100 billion commitment could be scaled up with an expansion of the donor base. Contributions by all countries in a position to help are a key to the success of the agreement.
In the end, the agreement did mention finance in the text of the agreement but kept the $100 billion figure in the accompanying COP decision. (The COP decisions are not part of the text, so they are not as binding on signatories.) Compare text from the COP decision to the text in the agreement:
COP Decision: in accordance with Article 9, paragraph 3, of the Agreement, developed countries intend to continue their existing collective mobilization goal through 2025 in the context of meaningful mitigation actions and transparency on implementation; prior to 2025 the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement shall set a new collective quantified goal from a floor of USD 100 billion per year, taking into account the needs and priorities of developing countries.
Agreement (Article 9, paragraph 3): Developed country Parties shall provide financial resources to assist developing country Parties with respect to both mitigation and adaptation in continuation of their existing obligations under the Convention.
Finance provisions of the agreement are administered through the Green Climate Fund. The GCF is already in operation and has a number of features:
•    The initial mobilization is $10.2 billion;
•    Commitments are allocated for a 50-50 balance between mitigation and adaptation;
•    More than 50% of adaptation funding goes to most vulnerable countries including small island states;
•    Direct private sector engagement is through the Private Sector Facility (a funding mechanism for channeling non-governmental finance);
•    Risk-bearing capacity allows for innovation and leverage in additional funding;
•    A variety of financial instruments are available including concessional loans, debt equity, and grants.
In the end, the Paris Agreement leaves open the question of how parties will divide up the $100 billion obligation, and how developing countries will use the funds. Developed country parties are concerned about the accountability of the funds and want as much as possible to be used for mitigation, not adaptation. Developing country parties are facing immediate crises of adaptation, and want the flexibility of using the funds for crises as they arise.
Closing Plenary
President Francois Hollande and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon accompanied Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, the COP21 president, for the final plenary on December 12. Fabius declared the text agreed and everyone at the COP celebrated with applause and hugs.
Fabius commended facilitators of sessions on transparency, ambition and compromise; they had managed to overcome differences in order to complete the text. He said it is a balanced text with principles of differentiated, fair, dynamic and legally binding, provisions; and the text acknowledges climate justice. It affirms the objective of keeping increasing temperatures below 2°C and strives to limit them to 1.5°C. The agreement has made it the business of all parties to keeping their commitments by subjecting them to review every 5 years; and increased role of cooperation of parties on funding adaptation and loss and damage.
Fabius acknowledged that the negotiations were difficult. Each party put forth proposals and set red lines; but not everyone was able to attain all they wanted. He said that negotiations succeeded because parties tended to focus on green lines, not red lines and all can go home with head held high. He quoted Nelson Mandela: “it always seems impossible until it is done.”
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon spoke next. He thanked Fabius and Hollande for guiding negotiations.  He said that the agreement will send the world on the path to low-carbon future. He thanked delegations who brought us so far and were able to finish the job, while the whole world was watching. He said that their various national interests are served by acting in common interest. He said he had talked with all leaders about completing this agreement and they have responded with positive support. He called on parties to provide financial support for developing countries and embark on low emissions pathway, and asked developing countries to continue on low carbon development.
Finally, French President Francois Hollande spoke. He said that the international community has proved that it can act. He noted that hard work has been done, day and night, and we now have a universal agreement that is differentiated and legally binding. He commended delegations for overcoming gridlock on international cooperation. The agreement text is ambitious and realistic, and reconciles responsibility of richest countries while includes differentiation for developing countries. He said the Paris Agreement is the first universal climate agreement in  history. The Paris Agreement cannot satisfy all imperatives and claims, but we will not be judged on the text but on the whole approach and its implications for the future. An agreement among 196 delegations is unprecedented. He said that we can be sure there will be opposition, but with this agreement you have the opportunity to change the world.
Many delegations spoke in a similar vein. Among the delegation heads, Secretary of State John Kerry said that delegations had provided critical multilateral stewardship and the agreement is a victory for all citizens of world, victory for the planet and for future generations. He noted that of 196 delegations, 186 parties had submitted emission reduction plans, which represents remarkable global commitment. There are things everybody doesn't like, but the agreement will prepare us for changes coming, including a transition to a clean energy economy and a way to prevent the worst effects of climate change. He said that we are sending a signal to the markets, where the genius of the American spirit of innovation will provide solutions. He expressed, gratitude to France, on behalf of President Obama, for setting an example to world. He said that many may not like it but the Paris Agreement is in the interests of earth. We will leave legacy for children and grandchildren better than we would otherwise.  
Virtually all delegations lauded the success of the Paris Agreement, except for the delegation from Nicaragua, as noted earlier.
Did Paris Succeed?
But did Paris succeed? Some climate activists do not think so.
Friends of the Earth International, in a statement released on December 12, 2015, said “The climate deal to be agreed today is a sham. Rich countries have moved the goal posts so far that we are left with a sham of a denial.” Naomi Klein said, “The deal unveiled [December 12], to much fanfare and self-congratulation from politicians, echoed by an overly deferential press, will not be enough to keep us safe. In fact, it will be extraordinarily dangerous. We know, from doing the math and adding up the targets that the major economies have brought to Paris, that those targets lead us to a very dangerous future. They lead us to a future between 3 and 4 degrees Celsius warming.”
While some opposed the agreement as too weak, others considered it too strong.
The campaign of Governor John Kasich of Ohio released a statement: “While the governor believes that climate change is real and that human activity contributes to it, he has serious concerns with an agreement that the Obama administration deliberately crafted to avoid having to submit it to the Senate for approval. That’s an obvious indicator that they expect it to result in significant job loss and inflict further damage to our already sluggish economy.” This is a typical form of the familiar canard that climate action means job losses. It attributes nefarious motives to the Obama administration for crafting the agreement to avoid Senate review. It does not directly address the substance of the agreement itself.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R- KY) described the accord as “nothing more than a long-term planning document. The president is making promises he can’t keep, writing checks he can’t cash and stepping over the middle class to take credit for an agreement that is subject to being shredded in 13 months.” McConnell is of course referring to the possibility that a Republican president would be elected in 2016 and renege on the agreement.
Since both sides find something to criticize, the agreement may be the best compromise possible. As the Malaysian delegate said: “The agreement is balanced – everyone is unhappy.”
Carbon Budget and Climate Justice

“Carbon Budget” has become a contentious issue in the negotiations, as described above. Scientists have estimated the total amount of carbon that can be emitted to limit global warming the 2C as 1000 gigatons. This amount can be calculated as a “budget” for allocation among countries that are parties to the UNFCCC. We have already burned about 515 gigatons. For the remaining 485 gigatons, member parties will have to decide how much is available to each.
The Paris Agreement called for member parties to commit to carbon reductions, but the total amount of carbon emitted under these INDCs was more than would fit within the 485 gigaton carbon budget. As a result, some have said that the Paris agreement has not sufficiently addressed the question of budgeting emissions. UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres, referring to the concept of a carbon budget, said “I don’t think it’s possible. Politically it would be very difficult.”
And yet, the morality of climate justice seems to demand a carbon budget. “Today, I see the carbon space occupied by the developed world. We are asking the developed world to vacate the carbon space to accommodate us. That carbon space demand is climate justice,” according to Prakash Javadekar, India’s environment minister. How the developed world can “vacate the carbon space” is a profound question. While INDCs are a promise to leave developing countries with more space for their emissions than business as usual would leave, “vacating” space is a much more difficult issue.
Still, there is an outer limit on how much carbon the atmosphere can absorb before climate change gets beyond control. Until UNFCCC member parties agree on an equitable division of that space, there will be a moral vacuity to the negotiations. The Paris Agreement did not address that issue, but only set temperature limits to guide future discussions of allocations and fairness.
A carbon budget would be a game-changer for UNFCCC negotiations. Instead of voluntary pledges of INDCs, member parties would have to fit their emissions into tight limits and would have to calculate how much each country would be allocated. This, in turn, would mean that they would have to commit to limits far below what they currently envision for their home societies. In terms of the negotiations, there would probably be pandemonium as each delegation maneuvered to get more while looking over their shoulders to see if the home government would accept tighter limits. This possibility has led one expert, Michael A. Levi, an energy expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, to say that negotiators “would have all run screaming from the room.” Most governments would fight tooth-and-claw against such encroachments on their sovereignty.
However, without a budget, the total amount of emissions permissible to each country cannot be estimated. If countries cannot calculate the limits for their own emissions, how can they set policy to achieve those limits? More ominously, the idea of a carbon budget raises issues of climate justice. Large industrialized countries such as the U.S. and Europe, and large emerging economies such as China and India, have used up most of the carbon budget already. Smaller, less industrialized countries see their chances for fossil-fueled development fading, as most of the budget is already gone. Bolivia, for example, has complained that the U.S. and other countries are ignoring the limits imposed by such a budget and making it much more difficult for less developed countries to achieve their development goals. They may indeed prevail on the UNFCCC to allocate them higher limits at the expense of developed countries, but only if delegates in future COPs are willing to operate on a foundation of climate justice.
In the faith community, we must keep all of these possibilities in mind as the Paris Agreement is implemented. Our role in society requires us to monitor the actions of all of the players in governments and the private sector. We need to understand the concepts of low-carbon growth and our vocation as advocates in the halls of government and suites of business. We must constantly keep in mind that the world has a whole has limits and we are morally obligated to keep within those limits. As Ban Ki-Moon has said, there is no Planet B.


COP21 Progresses Toward a Final Agreement Tonight

December 07

Report by William McPherson from Paris

From Paris:

COP21 progressed toward a final agreement in a Monday night session with French Foreign Minister Laurence Fabius presiding over a meeting of the "Paris Committee," which he set up to expedite agreement on the text of the climate change agreement. He had appointed ministers from member parties to facilitate four consultations on the most contentious remaining issues:



UUA Sponsors COP21 panel

December 07

At COP21 in Paris there are sponsored Side Events, open to delegates and official observers. The UUA has co-sponsored one. Here is the official summary.

"In discussions, participants considered, inter alia; opportunities for faith-based organizations to influence climate narratives; UNFCCC language and opportunities for ethical language in the agreement; and the place of the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities in the discussion of ethics."

Panel (L-R): Hugh Breakey, Griffith University; Peggy Clarke, UUA; Jan Dash, UUA; John Dernbach, Widener Law School; Donald Brown, PERC; Prue Taylor, University of Auckland; Peter Adriance, National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the US; and Peter Burdon, University of Adelaide.

Examination of How Nations Have and Should Consider Equity and Justice in Setting INDCs

Presented by: Pennsylvania Environmental Resource Consortium (PERC), National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States, Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), and Widener University

This session, moderated by John Dernbach, Widener Law School, considered the role of ethics, justice and faith-based positions in relation to countries’ Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs).

More Information:

Spring is Coming

November 23

Since first discovering UUism through the UU Church of Vancouver (then called Michael Servetus Unitarian Universalist Fellowship) at the age of fifteen, I've been continually inspired by the way in which our tradition empowers us to come together and enact our religious values in the wider world through service, advocacy, and sacrifice.

After years of involvement, I completed my orientation for membership, and I was excited and galvanized to learn how deeply the UU commitment to social justice work goes- that during the civil rights movement of the sixties, more ministers came from UU congregations to support the nonviolent fight for racial equality than from any other denomination.

Now, there is a new civil rights struggle, one that affects all Americans and has a bearing on virtually every progressive cause UUs care about. The importance of reclaiming our democracy, of our right to an equal voice in our government, through a constitutional amendment and federal legislation to overturn Citizens United and allow for regulation of political spending was affirmed in an Action of Immediate Witness deliberated on and endorsed by our General Assembly in 2013.


Paris Climate Conference: Questions and Answers

November 20

[UU Voices board member Bill Mc Pherson is an official observer at the Paris Conference, November 30 to December 12.]Bill_addressing_district.jpg

William McPherson

1. What is the Paris Conference on climate change? It is a Conference of Parties (COP) of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), an international agreement signed in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and ratified by over 192 countries including the U.S.  This is the 21st COP so it is known as COP21. The UNFCCC is not designed to specify limits on the greenhouse gases that cause climate change. It is a “framework” agreement that requires specific “protocols” to designate limits on greenhouse gas emissions. The first protocol under UNFCCC was the Kyoto Protocol, which included only about 40 countries. Major emitters such as the U.S. and China did not ratify the Kyoto Protocol so another agreement is needed.

2. What will the Paris Conference accomplish? The Paris agreement will set voluntary limits on emissions, unlike the Kyoto Protocol that had mandatory limits with an enforcement mechanism. Because limits are voluntary, individual countries will not need to ratify the Paris agreement. The U.S. has made this a central part of its strategy, contending that the original 1992 UNFCCC agreement authorizes countries to set limits and that any agreement in Paris will not be subject to ratification in the U.S. Senate, where it would surely fail to get enough votes. Other countries have reluctantly accepted this strategy, recognizing that they must accommodate the elephant in the room.



On the St. Louis Church burnings

October 27

Here’s a story for you regarding the St. Louis church burnings.  After you read, please check out the fundraising and letter signing sites below.  Donate if you can, but if nothing else, please sign the letter and support our fellow UUs.


Sign the letter:

A few days ago, I came across a Facebook posting of this article:

The thing that struck me the most was Pastor Burton’s comment:  “’One thing I am disappointed about is I haven't heard anything from the rest of the faith community in terms of solidarity," Burton said. "St. Louis is a racially divided city. If I was a white pastor, I would be more intentional about reaching out to a black church and being like, 'Hey, we're with you, we're not for this,' I haven't heard anything.’"

So, impetuous soul that I am, I drafted the following email to the First Unitarian Church of St. Louis.

Hello Gents,

My name is Deb Cruz and I'm with the Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship located in Bellingham, WA.  One of our members just posted an article related to the New Northside Missionary Baptists church fire about a week ago.  In the article, Rev. Roderick Burton of the Baptist church stated he hadn't heard any word of support from the rest of the faith community in St. Louis.

Is there a chance that your congregation could contact him and show some support for their situation, if you haven't done so already?  In map questing the distance between your congregation and Pastor Burton's, it looks as though you're only about 15 minutes away.

The contact info I have for them is:

8645 Goodfellow Blvd, St. Louis, MO 63147

(314) 388-0710

I know this is an odd request, but the situation there is making impacts even here in Washington State and I felt compelled to contact you and ask for your support.  One of our goals here in the Pacific Northwest, particularly regarding our Native and Latino communities, is to work on a interfaith level against these kinds of situations.  Thought maybe you might too if you're not already.

Thanks for your ears. 

What was truly amazing was the response I got back from Brian Mason, the Ministerial Intern for the First Unitarian Church of St. Louis. 

Hi Deb,

How wonderful and humbling it is to hear from such a vibrant and active UU community! Thank you for reaching out to us here in St. Louis, Missouri! 

Regarding your questions: 

The faith, as well as civic, law, and academic communities throughout St. Louis have responded to the (now seven) church burnings that have happened in St. Louis City (where First Unitarian is), as well as in St. Louis County. Just this past Wednesday, Rev. Perchlik and I, as well as hundreds of other religious professionals, gathered at New Northside Missionary Baptist church to pray and show our solidarity. The event was powerful and evocative. The local newspaper, the "St. Louis Post-Dispatch," details the prayer meeting here: You may be pleased to know that Rev. Roderick Burton specifically mentioned how touched he was by the gesture and efforts of the St. Louis area UUs! 

Additionally, regional UU clergy sent letters and visited individually with almost every one of the congregations that were targeted. A letter of our support, which was hand delivered, I have attached to this email. You will see my own, Rev. Perchlik's, and the signature of several other area UU ministers that have pledged our support.

For individuals and organizations that would like to support the churches that were burnt, Metropolitan Congregations United & Faith for Justice (two very legitimate area organizations that many UU congregations work with) has set up a fundraising campaign to aid in restoration and security efforts. Here is the link to that campaign:

 I would like to personally thank you for keeping me accountable. Furthermore, I want to thank you for your compassion and your own efforts to combat racism, bias, and oppression. UUs like you give me hope and you fill me with pride. 

Please be in touch if you have any further questions.

Grace and Peace,

Brian Mason, Lewis Ministerial Intern

First Unitarian Church of St. Louis

I asked his permission to forward his email on, and that is what I’m doing.

Please show your support for the affected St. Louis churches and for UUs in the region there for stepping up to the plate!




Support for I-1366 waning (Hurray!!!)

October 19


This chart is from a report issued by the Institution on Taxation & Economic Policy. The report, which examined all states, says that our reliance on sales tax insures that Washington State has the most inequitable tax system in the country, while maintaining one of the lowest tax rates on the highest incomes in the country. The initiative would require the legislature to initiate a constitutional requirement for a legislative supermajority on all bills that would increase taxes or close loopholes. It would sound the death knell for most progressive legislation and for an overhaul of our medieval tax system.

I-1366 would ensure that we remain in that most ignoble position. So it is good news that Eyman's latest assault on the poor and middle class has lost significant ground with likely voters.



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