Peace & Social Justice Committee

Formed in October 2002 as the Peace & Civil Liberties Committee, the Peace & Social Justice Committee educates about and organizes against unjust wars, such as the current US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and fights against encroachments on civil liberties in the name of patriotism. Understanding that wars are driven by economic forces, the committee also educates and organizes on issues caused by the global economic crisis. We generally meet at 12:45 p.m. (fall, winter and spring; 11:45 a.m. in the summer) on the 3rd Sunday of each month and we welcome all members and friends of UUCCSM to join us at our meetings and events and to participate in our e-mail discussion list. In December 2012, the Multi-Racial Development Committee merged with the Peace & Social Justice Committee. Contact Deirdre Dietel for more information.

To learn more about the issues we're involved with, please see our Peace & Social Justice Committee News page.

Annual Summary of Peace & Social Justice (PSJ) Committee Activities in 2015

During 2015, the Peace and Social Justice Committee (PSJ) continued activities in the areas of Labor and Economic Issues; Racism, Police Brutality, and Mass Incarceration; Immigration and Immigrant Detention; and Peace and Alternatives to War, in some cases expanding its actions in response to local, national and international events. It also collaborated with the Green Committee on activities focusing on Climate Change. 

Labor and Economic Issues 

PSJ continued to work with CLUE (Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice) on behalf of workers in the car wash and hotel industries in Santa Monica. Following the signing of the Clean Car Act by Governor Brown, several car washes in Los Angeles are now unionized, but the boycott continues against those owned by the Damavandi family, including Santa Monica Car Wash on Pico Blvd., Millennium Car Wash on Lincoln Blvd., and the Bumble Bee in Long Beach. During May through June, Rick Rhoads and James Witker, along with other members of the congregation, participated in a picket line with carwasheros of Bonus Hand Wash to support workers’ request for a new contract, including vacation days with pay. Bonus Hand Wash workers and their union came to an agreement for a new contract with the workers’ requests included.

PSJ is supporting workers at The Shore Hotel on Ocean Avenue who are accusing the owners of unfair labor practices. In October, members of PSJ joined with CLUE and UNITE HERE Local 11 organizers, as well as hotel workers, in a picket at the hotel protesting the dismissal of whistle blower Krista Fonseca who testified before the California Coastal Commission regarding intimidation by the hotel’s head of security. The Coastal Commission is suing the Shore owners for violating the terms of their building permit. 

FIA/PSJ have also joined with CLUE and other groups to support the “Raise the Wage” campaign, prevent wage theft, and guarantee paid sick days in Los Angeles and Santa Monica. In January, FIA joined CLUE-LA and other groups in a rally promoting the campaign and subsequently forming delegations to visit the offices of LA City Council members. In February, FIA/PSJ participated, with CLUE, other UUs and other faith-based and secular groups in a series of presentations on wage theft in Los Angeles County. In September, CLUE and UNITE HERE Local 11 held a living wage forum at UUSM to push for a living wage and an end to wage theft in Santa Monica. In June, the City of Los Angeles agreed to increase the minimum wage from $9.00 to $15.00 over the next five years. On January 12, 2016, Santa Monica’s City Council approved a minimum wage of $15 for most businesses in Santa Monica by 2020. 

In June, Second Sunday Cinema presented A Killer Bargain, which demonstrated how poverty wages and environmental destruction enable the production of cheap goods. PSJ also co-sponsored a public forum with the ACLU SoCal Westside Chapter on “Homelessness on the Westside” in September. Racism, Police Brutality, and Mass Incarceration Police shootings of young African American men in cities throughout the country have resulted in a heightened awareness of police brutality and led to massive mobilizations as well as the formation of the movement, Black Lives Matter. PSJ has worked with the Committee for Racial Justice (CRJ) to collect signatures for a petition enabling people in Santa Monica to report encounters with the police, which was presented to the Santa Monica City Manager and Police Chief at a May meeting. Members of PSJ and CRJ also participated in a City Council meeting in May where they expressed their concern regarding the police use of force. In June, several members of the congregation, including FIA/PSJ members, attended the UUA General Assembly where an Action of Immediate Witness was passed calling on UU congregations to support Black Lives Matter and to demand that racist killings stop.

Following the killing of three men in Venice: Brendon Glenn and Jason Davis by police, and Jascent-Jared Lee Wilson, by an armed employee of a Venice hotel, PSJ, CRJ and other groups (including a new group from First UU Church) sponsored monthly marches and rallies from August through October to protest police harassment and brutality against the homeless in Venice. PSJ, CRJ and other community groups as well as business representatives and LAPD officers are also participating in a series of meetings designed to improve community-police relations and promote public safety in Venice. Sarah Robson and Peggy Rhoads have attended several of these meetings and contributed a number of suggestions. At UU Santa Monica, PSJ has proposed, and the church Board has approved, a banner: Standing on the Side of Love/Black Lives Matter, which is placed in front of the church during Sunday services. Also, as of August, UUSM is the host location for meetings of the Coalition for Police Reform in Santa Monica, which among other activities responds to incidents of racial profiling.

As in the past, FIA/PSJ participated in the annual Santa Monica celebration of Martin Luther King Day with a UU information booth. FIA/PSJ also responded to the continuing need for textbooks for courses in California prisons, demonstrated by letters from student inmates who received textbooks in the past expressing their gratitude for the opportunities that the books and courses provide. The second campaign to raise funds for textbooks for incarcerated students during July-September brought in $2,212 through generous donations by the congregation.

Immigration and Immigrant Detention

Working with Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC) and Friends of Orange County Detainees, Peggy Rhoads, Cathie Gentile and other members of the UUSM congregation continue regular visits with immigrant detainees at the James Musick and Theo Lacey facilities in Orange County. In some cases, PSJ members have attended hearings for specific immigrants where an immigration judge determines whether the detainee can be released under bond, deported or granted asylum status and released to a sponsor. Two leaders from Friends of Orange County Detainees spoke at both services on March 1 and conducted an orientation session on the visitation program following the service. As in 2014, members of the congregation sent Valentines with personal notes to immigrants in detention On August 31 to September 2, several PSJ members attended a retreat organized by CIVIC that included visitation groups from all over the country to advocate an end to immigrant deportations and to discuss goals for the coming year, including expansion of visits to immigrant detainees, legal and political advocacy for immigrants, and publications of stories and poems by detainees.

Peace/Alternatives to War

PSJ sponsored two films dealing with issues of war and peace: Occupation 101 (March 8), an award-winning documentary on the history of the development of Israel and the lives of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation; and Faces of the Enemy (July 12), which portrays how people are dehumanized to justify war.

Members of PSJ as well as other members of the congregation attended a workshop during the UUA General Assembly in June presented by the UUs for Justice in the Middle East (UUJME) on the impact of Israeli occupation in Gaza and the West Bank. Beginning in October, Roberta Frye and Cathie Gentile are facilitating a series of workshops on the Seven Principles and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, based on a study guide by UUJME.

Given the backlash against Muslim Americans following the terrorist attacks in Paris, PSJ is planning initiatives to show solidarity with Muslim Americans, including plans to bring a speaker from a Muslim organization to update the congregation on the issues.

Climate Justice

During 2015, there was a heightened awareness of climate issues worldwide, including an Encyclical by Pope Francis calling climate change a major challenge facing humanity and arguing for a new partnership between religion and science in combating human-driven climate change, linking it to fighting inequality and poverty. In December, the climate conference in Paris brought together delegates from some 190 nations to discuss a possible agreement on the subject and establish goals and commitments to reduce greenhouse emissions in their respective countries. The UUA has established climate justice as a major goal through the movement, and the UUA General Assembly passed an Action of Immediate Witness in support of a meaningful and binding international agreement to combat climate change at the Paris conference.

At UU Santa Monica, the annual Pipes lecture, organized by Diana Spears (October 10), focused on climate change and featured James Dusenberry, a facilitator of Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project, as well as three other speakers. Approximately 85 people attended and contributed $129 in donations. PSJ also collaborated with the Green Committee in presenting two films for Second Sunday Cinema. The film Bidder 70 (April 12) portrays the civil disobedience of environmental activist Tim de Christopher, who thwarted an auction of oil properties by attending the auction and outbidding all potential buyers, resulting in his arrest, trial and imprisonment. He helped create a grassroots movement opposing climate change, and is currently studying to become a UU Minister. The anti-fracking film, Groundswell Rising, shown on October 11, traces the success of grassroots movements promoting bans, moratoriums, and referenda on fracking.

The PSJ also showed a film based on Naomi Klein’s book This Changes Everything in January. Rick Rhoads and James Witker will also lead a series of discussions on the book in February/ March.

Other Activities

Rick Rhoads led a series of workshops on Fundamentals of Marxism through the Lifespan Religious Program. The six workshops stressed the need for people to participate in class struggle as well as to study revolutionary theory. PSJ members also contributed to a fundraiser organized by Diana Spears (July 12), which raised a total of $624, of which $267 goes to FIA.

Nora Hamilton for the Peace and Social Justice Committee

2014 P&SJ Events:

During 2014, the Peace and Social Justice Committee continued its work in the areas of peace, economic justice, immigration and immigrant detention, and racism and mass incarceration.  Ongoing activities included participation in monthly anti-war vigils; actions on behalf of car wash and hotel workers in collaboration with CLUE (Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice), including distribution of flyers to boycott of Millennium and Santa Monica carwashes; participation in picketing at Doubletree Hotel, visits to immigrant detainees in Orange County detention facilities; and support for initiatives to oppose construction of additional prisons and jails, to reduce sentencing for certain offenses from felonies to misdemeanors, and to promote alternatives to prison such as drug treatment and facilities for the mentally ill.  Following are some specific activities.
January 11.  Los Angeles/Valley/Santa Monica Cluster Meeting of UU Justice Ministry in Forbes Hall attended by several members of congregation.
January 15.  Abby Arnold organized a celebration in Forbes Hall of hotel workers’ victory in securing a living wage and union card check agreement in future Oto hotels to be built in Santa Monica.  FIA, working with CLUE (Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice) was active in supporting this movement.
January 19.  Congregation member Lyman Johnson at UUSM service commemorating Martin Luther King Day.
January 20.  PSJ participated in MLK celebration and staffed a table, providing information about the activities of the Committee, at the subsequent fair at Soka Gakhai.
February 2.  Speaker, Tanya Golash-Boza, Sociology professor at UC Merced who has interviewed 150 deported immigrants and published several studies on immigration and deportation issues, gave a presentation, including slide show, on Mass Deportation, Racism and Global Capitalism.  Prof. Golash-Boza described the massive growth in immigration and deportations, linking the increase to changes in global capitalism, including the displacement of rural and urban jobs in immigrant-sending countries due to foreign trade and investment and the decline in middle class manufacturing jobs and the growth in low-wage jobs in the U.S. that attract immigrants.
February 11.  Over 50 Valentine cards sent by members of the congregation to immigrants in detention.  Many of recipients have responded expressing appreciation for support.
March 2.  At FIA Commission meeting, James Witker became co-chair, with Rick Rhoads, of FIA.
April.  FIA responsible for Art Wall, which included posters and photographs of carwash campaign, visits to immigrant detainees, textbook campaign, and various speeches.
April 20.  Presentation, Making Sense of the Syrian Tragedy by Ziad Abu-Rush, Ph.D. candidate in History at UCLA specializing in the political economy and culture of state formation in the Eastern Mediterranean.  Abu-Rush described how the initial non-violent uprising in Syria was transformed into a militarized conflict resulting in over 130,000 killed and the displacement of 9 million, and the respective interests of external powers – the United States, Russia, Israel and Saudi Arabia – in Syria.
May 22.  Annual Giants for Justice breakfast of CLUE, attended by Rev. Rebecca Bijur, who gave the benediction, Rev. Emeritus Ernie Pipes, and several members of UUSM congregation.  FIA has worked extensively with CLUE in union organizing campaigns for carwash and hotel workers.
July 13.  PSJ presented Robert Greenwald’s Unmanned:  America’s Drone Wars, at Second Sunday Cinema.
July 27.  Arts and Edibles Fair raised funds for co-sponsors, FIA and Adult Religious Education, through sale of arts, crafts, and food.
August 5.  CIVIC (Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement) presentation of videos and audio recordings of immigrants in detention, co-sponsored by FIA.
August 10.  Film Which Way Home? about the difficult journey of young Central American and Mexican migrants to the United States presented by PSJ and Second Sunday Cinema.
September 14.  Presentation by Angela Sanbrano, President of the Board of the Central American Resource Center (CARECEN) at 11:00 AM service on needs of Central American children who migrated unaccompanied to the United States and efforts of CARECEN on their behalf.  The non-pledge offering of the Sunday collections for the month of September went to CARECEN to support legal representation and other services for unaccompanied children immigrants. 
September 14.  Second Sunday Supper sponsored by FIA, attended by former immigrant detainee, Maynor, and his two children.  Members of PSJ Peggy Rhoads, Roberta Frye, and Carrie Lauer supported Maynor and his family through immigration hearings that finally resulted in his release in August.  Members of the congregation have been visiting immigrants in detention on an ongoing basis in collaboration with Friends of Orange County Detainees, sponsored by Tapestry, A Unitarian Universalist Congregation and is a member CIVIC.
September 27.  A narrative reading of If the Shu Fits, play on solitary confinement written by Andy Griggs, co-sponsored by FIA and Committee of Racial Justice.  Organized by Diana Spears and Peggy Rhoads, and directed by Morna Martell, the performance was followed by a discussion with Andy Griggs and panel with representatives from Californians United for a Responsible Budget,  (CURB), Justice Not Jails and PSJ as well as a former detainee in solitary confinement and family members of prisoners.  
November 9.  PSJ sponsored the film Oh Freedom, After A While, which portrays the struggles of black and white sharecroppers in Missouri during the 1930s, at Second Sunday Cinema.
November 16.  One man play, To Begin the World Again:  The Life of Thomas Paine, presented by Ian Ruskin, drawing on the works of Paine, including Common Sense, and Age of Reason, among others.
November 22.  PSJ presented introduction for annual Thanksgiving feast.
December 10.  Program on conflict in Israel and Palestine with discussion by Rick Chertoff of Jewish Voices for Peace and Mohammad Lahhan, of Nablus, and screening segments of the documentary: Occupation 101.  
December 14. The complete documentary, Occupation 101, was shown at Second Sunday Cinema.

2013 P&SJ Events:

January 12. Showing of film, The House I Live In, co-sponsored by The Church in Ocean Park’s  Committee on Racial Justice, which was attended by approximately 160 people. Film, a documentary by Eugene Janecki which won a Jury Prize at 2012 Sundance Film Festival, chronicles the history of the drug war in in the United States and features interviews with inmates, journalists, and law enforcement officers. It calls for an end to mandatory sentencing for low level drug offenders.
January 19. UUSM table at Westside Coalition event honoring Martin Luther KingJanuary 20. Special Sunday service at UUCCSM in commemoration of Martin Luther King.
March 12. PSJ and the ACLU of Southern California hosted a film and presentation on drones and their use in “targeted killings” of suspected militants in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen as well as for domestic surveillance in the United States, especially by police departments. ACLU attorney, Ahilan Arulananthom focused on targeted killing by Predator drones, pointing out the absence of due process and targeting of military-aged men whose actions are judged to be “suspect.” KNX reporter Charles Feldman and ACLU attorney Peter Bibring reported on the development of drones as small as birds and even insects for domestic surveillance. They also pointed out that citizen action in some cities has succeeded in blocking or preventing the acquisition of drones by their respective police departments.
April 14. Talk and power point presentation on the prison industrial complex by Mary Sutton, Program Director of the Center for the Study of Political Graphics and a member of CURB, Californians United for a Responsible Budget. Among other points, the presentation noted that between 1978 and 2007, California added 22 prisons, while the prison population grew from 21,325 in 1978 to over 170,000 in 2007. The increase in women inmates is particulaly striking. The federal requirement that California reduce its prison population by 33,000 has been met by realignment of prisoners from state prisons to county jails; some counties in turn, including Los Angeles are planning to build more prisons. CURB and other organizations are resisting prison expansion and calling for alternatives to reduce incarceration such as reduction of mandatory sentencing for minor offenses; release of low-level, incapacitated, and terminally ill inmates; mental health and drug treatment programs for those needing them; and re-entry programs focusing on support and services (housing, health, job-training, etc.) for released inmates, which can reduce recidivism.
June 14-23. UUA General Assembly attended by several members of congregation. Peggy and Rick Rhodes presented a resolution to condemn racist mistreatment of people of color, which was passed unanimously.
July 21. Showing of film, The Central Park Five. Documentary chronicling the harrowing experience of five African Americans and Latinos falsely convicted of the brutal rape and beating of Central Park jogger. Some spent up to 13 years in prison before they were finally released after the real perpetrator confessed. 
August 18. Showing of film on homelessness, Without a Home, followed by discussion with filmmaker Rachel Fleicher.
September 8. Showing of film Unlikely Friends, by Leslie Neede, which focuses on victims of brutal crimes who forgive their perpetrators, in some cases visiting them in jail and even becoming friends.
October 13. Frontline documentary and discussion on Syria. Follow-up discussion with speaker planned for 2014.
October 13. Beginning of weekly picketing of Millennium Carwash in Venice. See Review.
October 22. Showing of documentary Two Americas, co-sponsored with ACLU in Southern California, followed by discussion with filmmaker. Film demonstrates inequality in the United States through focusing on two families in the U.S., one wealthy, one just getting by.
December 7. Discussion of Affordable Care Act.

2012 PSJ events:

January 8. UUCCSM program on U.S.- sponsored torture and solitary confinement (recognized as a form of torture by NRCAT), including a video, “Ending U.S.- Sponsored Torture Forever”; a speaker on the three-strikes law; and a report by a mother whose son was in solitary confinement at Pelican Bay.

January 15. The annual Martin Luther King service featured a presentation by Victoria Gray, the mother of a student who was the victim of a racist event at Santa Monica High School. We learned about the failure of the school authorities to report or even recognize the seriousness of the event. Victoria Gray is a leader of the Santa Monica Committee for Racial Justice which grew out of these events and meets monthly at the Church in Ocean Park.

January 16. The Multiracial Development Committee had a table at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Westside Coalition Community Celebration. Will Coley videotaped interviews with participants, which are posted on our UUCCSM website.

April 14. We sponsored our second Seder this year, with a celebration of the deliverance of the Children of Israel from slavery and an emphasis on eliminating modern slavery.

April 18. UUA Pacific Southwest District Assembly, held at First Unitarian Church and attended by several members of PSJ, included an update on legislative initiatives and action; information on the Esperanza
Project, an initiative to provide legal assistance to detained immigrants; and information on the bail fund, which raises funds for detained immigrants eligible for bonding out.

June 20 to 24. Several members of the PSJ/MRDC as well as other members of UUCCSM, including four YRUU teenagers, participated in the UUA General Assembly in Arizona. The Assembly focused on immigration
issues, including the Arizona anti-immigrant law (SB 1070), and featured several workshops on how to combat
anti-immigrant legislation. Rick Rhoads of FIA participated in a panel “Partnering Congregations and Community Organizations” where he spoke of UUCCSM support for grocery workers during their strike in 2011 and ongoing collaboration with CLUE in organizing carwash workers. On Saturday night of GA, UUCCSM members participated with others in a demonstration in front of Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s Tent City, where undocumented immigrants are being held in horrendous conditions.

July. FIA sponsored the monthly art wall, “Put your faith in action,” which featured photographs and brief descriptions of events and activities sponsored by member committees.

September 29. In conjunction with efforts to organize carwash workers, the PSJ committee screened the film “Salt of the Earth,” which focuses on a 1951 miners’ strike in New Mexico; a discussion followed. Forty people attended, including six carwash workers.

October 13. A visit to the Great Wall of Los Angeles, a half-mile mural that documents the cultural and ethnic diversity of Los Angeles, was sponsored by the MRDC as a Dining for Dollars event for the third year in a row.

November 17. The PSJ presented the annual Thanksgiving Feast program, based on a service by the Rev. John F. Hayward. The program recognizes the efforts of those who have suffered persecution and oppression and have sought to find a place in American society, and gives thanks for the contributions of the diverse racial, ethnic, and cultural groups that have helped to build the country.

December 1. Presentation of the film “He Who Must Die,” based on a book by Nikos Kazantzakis, which focuses on plans of a Greek village for their annual Passion Play; their faith and humanity is tested when refugees from a neighboring village that has been destroyed solicit their help. 

2011 P&SJ Events:

The PSJ has collaborated with the UU  legislative Ministry of California (UULMCA) on various issues, including support for the TRUST Act, the Sustainable Communities campaign, and the Assembly Bill promoting the Human Right to Water. In 2012 the UULMCA organized its activities into a series of clusters; UUCCSM is a member of the cluster which also includes First Church and Pacific Unitarian Church. The PSJ has also supported other initiatives, such as efforts of the California Nurses’ Association to obtain Medicare for All for the State of California (formerly passed by the California legislature but vetoed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger); the anti-death penalty ballot initiative (Proposition 34); and efforts of NRCAT to end torture and solitary confinement, which are currently focused on efforts to close Guantanamo, eliminate indefinite detention, and ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture.

Previous PSJ events included:

Oct-Nov 2011: Working with CLUE-LA to support the carwash workers organizing campaign.

Oct-Nov 2011: Two trips to Occupy-LA, and several members have participated on their own.

June-Oct 2011: After proposing and passing an Action of Immediate Witness in support of the upcoming SoCal supermarket workers strike at the June UUA General Assembly, we worked with CLUE-LA and the United Food & Commercial Workers Union to support the workers demands, including "adopting" the Vons at Wilshire and 14th in Santa Monica. The dispute was ultimately settled w/o a strike.

Spring 2011: Slides and speaker on displaced women in Colombia who are caught up in the conflict between U.S.-supported government and guerilla forces.

Jan. 30, 2011:  Peace Sunday, sponsored by Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace, Unity-and-Diversity World Council, and UUCCSM Faith in Action. FIA Chair Rick Rhoads delivered the concluding call to action.

Jan. 2011: Screening of the film "Peace, Propaganda and the Promised Land: U.S. Media & the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict," followed by a scholar-activist led discussion. 

Jan. 31, 2010: Resolution from PCL supporting prompt US withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan passes at a Faith in Action Commission Town Hall Meeting. Now PCL will put the motion to a congregational vote and enlist the aid of other UU churches in promoting this resolution at the UU General Assembly in June.

Nov. 8, 2009: Panel discussion on the war in Afghanistan and what to do about it. Chuck O’Connell, lecturer in sociology at UC Irvine; Mohammad Nouri, Committee on American-Islamic Relations.

Oct. 25, 2009: Presentation of documentary film Afghan Women: A History of Struggle and discussion led by filmmaker Kathleen Foster.

Sep. 18, 2009: Presentation and discussion on capitalism and socialism. James Devine, Professor of Economics, Loyala Marymount University.

June 17, 2009: Video, Capitalism Hits the Fan, by Richard Wolff, Professor of Economics, U. of Massachusetts.

May 3, 2009: 7 members participated in a conference on Afghanistan at USC sponsored by Interfaith Community United for Justice and Peace.

March 21, 2009: Participated in a march and rally in Hollywood against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

January/February 2009: PCL collected 71signatures on a petition to President Obama to withdraw all troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. No reply from the White House.

Diana Spears