Peace & Social Justice Committee News

Speakers from the Santa Monica League of Women Voters will attempt to explain the 17 state ballot initiatives as well as the Santa Monica initiatives on Saturday, October 29 from 7:00-9:00 p.m. in the Sanctuary. Please plan to attend and bring your over-200-page General Election Voter Guide with you to follow along!

The Peace & Social Justice Committee meets on the 3rd Sunday of every month after second service. New members are welcome and needed. For more information please email Cathie Gentile or Roberta Frye. If you do not have email, please stop by the Faith in Action table in Forbes Hall.

The Westside has been affected by the growing homeless crisis caused by poverty, unemployment, mental illness and a lack of affordable housing. Many remain homeless because they cannot access affordable housing, permanent supportive housing, medical care, or benefits. Forced to live in public spaces or their cars in neighborhoods where they are unwelcome, they often face criminal penalties for engaging in necessary activities that are a direct result of their homeless status.Adding to the crisis is the lack of housing for LA’s growing homeless veteran population, the largest in the US. Come hear the ACLU of Southern CA staff and partners discuss law and policy developments on this important issue.
 Heather Maria Johnson, ACLU of Southern California
 Eve Garrow, ACLU of Southern California
 Carol Sobel, Law Offices of Carol Sobel
 Representative from the LA Community Action Network
Co-sponsored by the ACLU SoCal Westside Chapter and the Santa Monica UU  Church Peace & Justice Committee
September 29, 2015
7PM – 9PM
Peace Center West
3916 Sepulveda Blvd, Culver City
Parking in Rear lot
This event is free of charge.  RSVP to:
On July 12, after 2nd Sunday Supper, P&SJ is presenting 2nd Sunday Cinema: "Faces of the Enemy," a documentary that discusses the dehumanization of people as a justification for war; the documentary was made in 1987, but it comes with a supplemental DVD on the Middle East War.


The Peace and Social Justice Committee is renewing the campaign to raise funds for student inmates in the California Prison System.
The fund provides for textbooks for inmates who are taking courses through a community college.  Although the courses are free, students must pay for textbooks, which are often quite expensive.  Letters from inmates who received textbooks through the fund point out how important they are for the continuation of their education and their hopes for the future.  
For those interested in contributing, checks can be made out to UUCCSM, with FIA Textbook Fund in the memo line, and sent directly to the church. (Those donating cash should indicate that the funds are for the Textbook Fund.  In addition, for tax purposes, please provide your name, date, and amount of donation.) Cash and checks will also be collected at the FIA table in Forbes Hall. Online donations are also accepted. This is an opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of inmates in the California prison system.
8/5/15 UPDATE:  
A member of our congregation, John Sussman, has pledged to add $500 when donations for the textbook fund reaches $1,500!  As of August 5, donations are at $1,100.  

Please join the Peace and Social Justice Committee to hear speakers: Rick Chertoff with Jewish Voices for Peace and Mohammed Lahham, former Gaza resident discuss the lead up to the tragic events that occurred in Gaza this past summer. We will also show a segment from the documentary, "Occupation 101."

Wednesday, December 10, 7:00 - 9:00 p.m., in the Sanctuary. For more information please contact Cathie Gentile.


The U.S. system of mass incarceration came under solemn scrutiny Saturday Sept. 27 when UUCCSM presented a dramatic reading of  “If the SHU Fits”, by Andy Griggs and Melvin Ishmael Johnson. The play is based on original letters and poetry from inmates living in Security Housing Units (SHUs), mainly in California’s Pelican Bay Prison, in which they spend 23 hours a day in solitary confinement. The play was commissioned by the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) and Interfaith Communities Untied for Justice and Peace (ICUJP), and partially funded by a grant from the Fund for a Just Society of the Unitarian Universalist Association.

The evening was sponsored by UUCCSM’s Peace and Social Justice Committee and by the Committee for Racial Justice in Santa Monica. The eight readers came from a variety of backgrounds but a unity of purpose: to see an end to the growing mass incarceration of working class people, particularly people of color. The readers were Paula Brooks, Bob Gordh, Kevin Michael Key, Rev. Sidonie Smith, Anthony Taylor, Sherri Walker, Craig Walter, and Dayvon Williams. They were directed by Morna Murphy Martell, a member of UUCCSM, with assistance from Diana Spears and Peggy Rhoads.

Following the reading, a panel of speakers from organizations involved in fighting against the continuance of this legal torture discussed their current efforts in prison reform, including incarceration in immigration detention centers, and how our communities can help.  The speakers included Andy Griggs, ICUJP; Melvin Ishmael Johnson, Director, Dramastage Qumran; Geri Silva and Ernest Shepard, California Families Against Solitary Confinement; Mary Sutton, Critical Resistance and CURB; Diana Zuniga, Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB); Kay Brown, Los de Abajo Printmaking Collective, from our Art Wall exhibit, "Behind Bars;" and Nora Hamilton, UUCC Faith in Action Peace & Social Justice Committee.

Thanks to Sidonie Smith for her painting “Miscarriage of Justice”, to James Witker for filming, Bob Dietz and Karl Lisovsky for tech support, Tom Ahern for logistical support and to the members of the Peace and Social Justice Committee who facilitated the evening. To contact PSJ and become involved in our work, please email co-chairs Cathie Gentile or Roberta Frye. You can also obtain information at the Faith in Action table at church.

Further information on solitary confinement can be found at and

-- Peggy Rhoads


On Sunday, September 14, Angela Sanbrano, President of the Board of the Central American Resource Center (CARECEN), spoke briefly at the 11:00 AM service, outlining the continuing needs of the Central American children who migrated unaccompanied to the United States, and the efforts of CARECEN on their behalf.
CARECEN has been working on behalf of Central Americans in the Los Angeles community for over thirty years, providing legal assistance, advocacy, organizing skills, and education programs. Its current work to assist the unaccompanied children migrants includes finding lawyers who can provide guidance and represent them during their hearings before an immigration judge. Legal representation often makes a difference in enabling children to obtain asylum or another protected status in the United States; those without such assistance are much more likely to be deported. There are recent reports that several children deported back to their home countries have been killed by drug gangs on their return. 
Migration to the United States without documents is extremely dangerous, as demonstrated in the documentary Which Way Home, shown at UUSM in August. Many come through Mexico riding on top of la bestia - the beast – freight trains through Mexico to the U.S. border, where they risk falling and losing a limb or even their lives, as well as robbery, extortion, and/or rape by drug gangs. But the risks of remaining in – or returning to - their countries of origin are much greater.
 While children migrate for a number of reasons, including poverty in their home countries, perceived opportunities in the United States, and family reunification, the recent upsurge in the number of children corresponds to the growing presence of drug cartels and the growth of gang and drug related violence in the Central American countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Today, Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world; El Salvador and Guatemala are fourth and fifth. In some cases, drug gangs have taken over schools and entire neighborhoods; students and others are submitted to relentless pressure to join the gangs or work for cartels with threats of killing them or members of their families if they refuse. Several young migrants report that members of their families and/or friends have in fact been killed, in some cases in their presence. 
The United States bears considerable responsibility for creating conditions in Central America giving rise to violence, including support for repressive governments; economic policies favoring corporations at the expense of national interests; and drug-related policies, including resistance to the legalization of drug possession, as well as the trafficking of guns and other weapons from the United States into Mexico and other countries, and anti-drug policies in Latin America that have tended to simply displace drug trafficking from one region to another. The United States is the major market for drugs; guns and other arms from the United States have aggravated the violence that has accompanied the growth of the cartels in these countries. In addition, many of the gangs heavily involved in the drug trade, such as the Mara Salvatrucha, have their origins on the streets of Los Angeles and other U.S.
While some U.S. officials have recognized that many of the children as well as other immigrants are fleeing conditions from the home countries, efforts to improve these conditions should include revisiting U.S. policies and their impact in the region, including trade policy and the drug war.
The response in the United States to the unaccompanied migrant children has been mixed. Officially, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, originally passed in 2000 and amended by the Bush administration in 2008, entitles all unaccompanied children from non-contiguous countries (i.e., other than Mexico and Canada) to a hearing before an immigration judge to determine whether they are eligible for asylum or other types of protection. However, in its efforts to discourage further migration, the administration has sought to facilitate deportation of the children, in part by eliminating this protection, a move that has been resisted to date. At the local level, reactions have ranged from strong opposition and rejection of their presence, epitomized by the ugly demonstrations in Murietta, to the more welcoming policy of some cities. In the case of Los Angeles, Mayor Garcetti has met with various advocacy groups to provide various types of assistance to the young immigrants, including housing and food, transportation to enable them to reunite with distant families, and legal aid, including access to lawyers who can represent them in court proceedings.
Although the children migrants from Central America are no longer in the news, they continue to need humanitarian and legal assistance. During September our non-pledge offerings have gone to CARECEN (Central American Resource Center); one can also send a donation directly to CARECEN at 2845 West Seventh Street, Los Angeles, CA 90005, or through its website (, indicating it is for unaccompanied minors.