Friday, December 14, 2007

Controversy about GA 2008 in Ft. Lauderdale

I've been following a heated conversation on the UUMA ministers' chat about the pros and cons of having General Assembly 08 in Fort Lauderdale, where attendees will be required to show an official ID (more than a GA badge) in order to enter the conference center. Concerns center on the justice issues involved, the potential for our youth to be excluded unfairly at times, and generally the atmosphere that such heightened security involves.

A message came out today from UU leadership about this issue and its concerns, and I've reprinted it below. I've got problems with the scenario myself but am mostly watching it develop because there's no way I am going to be able to attend GA in Ft. Lauderdale, whether I think it's just dandy to be attending a UU event in a locale where suspicion and threat of punishment abound or not.

If you're going to GA, you ought to be aware of the controversy. Some are calling for GA to be cancelled if it can't be scheduled in a friendlier location or, at the very least, for there to be strong opposition shown to the security policies of the Port of Ft. Lauderdale.

Here's the email that went out to the UU-News list:

General Assembly Planning Committee Chair Beth McGregor, President
William G. Sinkford, and Moderator Gini Courter have sent a memorandum
to the UUA Board of Trustees and the General Assembly Planning Committee
regarding security issues at the Fort Lauderdale site of the 2008
General Assembly. The memorandum notes, "Our concerns include the
possibility of an unfriendly environment for youth, particularly youth
of color, and the problems inherent in using a site that is not open to
those not eligible for government-issued identification." The complete
memorandum can be found online at
http://www.uua.org/events/generalassembly/updatesannouncements/60305.shtml .

After studying reports on the Fort Lauderdale conference site and
following meetings held by UUA staff with convention center and law
enforcement officials in Fort Lauderdale, McGregor, Sinkford, and
Courter have concluded that "the conditions in Fort Lauderdale provide
us with an opportunity to shine a light on the issues that concern us
and to use the situation as a teaching moment: What is it that we, as
religious people, are called to say at this time and in this place? What
privilege do we enjoy that is denied to others?" They have recommended
to the Board of Trustees that the Board not take any steps to change the
location of the 2008 General Assembly.

Further information, including the security protocols at Fort Lauderdale
and a report from an onsite visit, can be found at
http://www.uua.org/events/generalassembly/updatesannouncements/60305.shtml (see related content links).


So whaddya think?

9 comments:

LinguistFriend said...

You're unlikely to get much response until the UUA and Fort Lauderdale links work, unless I am missing something.

ms. kitty said...

Both the links took me to the UUA website, LF, when I tried them just now.

Chalicechick said...

You have to cut and paste the links into your browser, LF.

I think:

1. Changing the site of a GA that is six months away is impractical to the point of impossible.

2. Sinkford is encouraging us to make the best of it.

3. If a whole ton of my friends weren't going, I would think about not going myself since I suspect people talking about this issue and protesting this issue will dominate GA in a way I will find really irritating.


CC

Miss Kitty said...

Wait--Ft. Lauderdale, Florida? Home of Spring Break debauchery? And they want ministers and UU youth group members to show ID?

Oh, for pity's sake. To hell with the whole state of Florida. I hope the UUs change their minds and have it elsewhere. BLEH.

ogre said...

I wasn't going to go--this would be the first time in five years. I'm really not a fan of Florida in high summer, and the idea of flying across the continent to get there didn't help.

But our minister gets final fellowship then. And she is looking forward to people being there.... Plus, I certainly enjoy getting to see a bunch of folks I only see once a year (usually).

And I'm not sure about how important it may feel/be to attend now that I'm pursuing a career in ministry. And my wife went to Portland, is close to our minister and seems inclined to go.

Maybe I'll observe it's an ethical issue and find some have-to class that I can go take at the same time, in order to just resolve the issue for myself.

Ugh.

ogre said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
ms. kitty said...

Ogre, I'm going to delete one of your multiple, identical comments.

kathleenuu said...

Wow! Another opportunity for us to learn.

Why is it that UU's continually navel gaze, discuss and wonder at our privilege rather than actually do something.

The committee had five years to work this out. At some point during the 5 years it did not become apparent that a verbal assurance was not enough?

How welcoming are we, really, to folks that are not white, middle class, educated adults?

Lance Brown said...

From the memorandum: Although convention center officials indicated when the GA contracts were signed that the security perimeter was to be relocated so that the convention center would not lie within it, this has not yet taken place, nor will it prior to our Assembly.

I would like to know when the UUA learned the security perimeter was not going to be moved in time for GA 2008. If they only recently learned of this, than the current message makes sense. If they have been sitting on this information for some time (long enough to make alternative plans), than I'm going to be very upset.

I realize booking convention centers for events such as GA takes place years in advance and changing things at the last second is almost always financially impossible. Still, I wonder if something more can't be done.