Frequently Asked Questions about


What is the Civil Liberties List For?

The delegates at the 2002 General Assembly in Quebec City, Quebec, selected "Civil Liberties" to be the 2002-2004 Study/Action Issue of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations.

This is a core value for UUs, and we have a real opportunity to once again take a leadership role in championing the inherent worth and dignity of every person, justice, equity, freedom, liberty, the right of conscience, and the democratic process in america.

Here is the theme statement for the list, inspired by the text of the SAI:

What can Unitarian Universalists do to protect civil liberties against governmental violation in the name of "homeland security", via the wars against terrorism and drugs, or based on undemocratic lobbying from corporations?

Congregations and districts are invited to engage themselves in two years of study and action on the issue with programs of discussion, public witness, service, education, advocacy, and community organization.

In June, 2004, a Statement of Conscience on the topic was adopted at General Assembly.

See for more information about the process of the Commission on Social Witness (CSW).

What is the Civil Liberties Wiki at UUWiki?

See the Civil Liberties Wiki is a "wiki" (a web page that allows anyone to edit or contribute to it) for UUs to collaboratively organize information about Civil Liberties. It is part of UUWiki, for general UU collaboration.


Unitarian Universalists have a longstanding reputation as champions of the civil liberties guaranteed by the Bill of Rights in the United States Constitution. Unitarians Roger Baldwin, John Haynes Holmes and Helen Keller were among the founders of the American Civil Liberties Union in 1920. Ellery Schempp, as a Unitarian youth, was the plaintiff in the 1963 US Supreme Court case that prohibited mandatory prayer in public schools.

In the wake of the 2001 terrorist attacks against the United States, civil liberties have again been seriously endangered. In addition, globalization and other trends, e.g. in the realm of copyright and patent practice, have been chipping away at our fundamental rights for years.

More background is at

An excellent overview of recent changes is The State of Civil Liberities: One Year Later Erosion of Civil Liberties in the Post 9/11 Era - A Report Issued By The Center for Constitutional Rights

Digital Rights

Recent laws, proposals and court cases have restricted civil liberties related to technology and communications, including Internet blocking in libraries, helping media conglomerates deny Fair Use of copyrighted materials to their customers and prohibit the right to reverse-engineer software (DMCA), requirments on how computer hardware is designed (CBDTPA), State-Level "Super DMCA" Initiatives and even letting private firms demand names and account information from Internet Service Providers without due process.

How do these trends affect the future of ideas? How do they relate to the constitutional rationale for copyrights and patents: "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts"

Possible Study Questions

Possible Actions

What Information is Available from UUA?

The UUA has gathered information on the Civil Liberties SAI in a packet available at

It is an excellent resource - please take the time to read it. An update is expected in October.

The UUA Social Justice Resources page includes information and tips on Effective Lobbying, Letters to Elected Officials, Letters to the Editor, Contacting Government Officials, and Getting Information on Government Activities.

Guidelines for Local Social Responsibility Committees is for the committees focusing on "social concerns," "social responsibility" or "social action," that many Unitarian Universalist churches and fellowships have.

See the UUA Social Justice Statements categorized under

Including these:

Other Resources

Many other resources are listed at

What to Post

If it is about civil liberties and of general interest, post it.

Here are some sample topics:

What Not to Post

NEVER forward anything, no matter how compelling, that looks remotely like a "chain letter" or "urban hoax" without verifying the facts and deciding that it effectively serves the purposes of the list. These messages are often written in clever ways, but can cause enormous confusion and pain. Many Internet providers reserve the right to cancel accounts of people that send such email. For more information, or to see if the mail you're looking at has already been reported and analyzed, see or

If it is unsolicited commercial email (spam, junk mail), don't post it, even for a "good cause".

If it doesn't clearly and directly relate to civil liberties, don't post it.

If it continues irrelevant content in any way (rebuttal, rebuke, rerun, revision, remark), don't post it.

If it is a personal message to a single subscriber, don't post it. Even if mail to that person bounces.

If you aren't sure, don't post it.

If it is something off-topic but cute, interesting, or funny that you found on the Internet (e.g. Dr. Seuss on Tech Writing, press release about Microsoft God, origin of spam), don't post it. The time of the readership is precious.


Please check your facts on anything you post. Do not under any circumstances post virus warnings or anything else designed to be "forwarded to everyone you know" to this list.

Do not directly attack anyone for anything on the list. Take issue with ideas, not personalities, and please do NOT point out grammatical, spelling, or usage errors. This forum is not the place to exercise editorial frustration :-)


The mailing list will only accept plain text messages. I.e. not HTML, MIME, Postscript, Word documents, RTF, nor anything else. This policy is based on years of experience. It helps ensure that viruses and worms are not transmitted to our lists and that "webbugs" and javascript can't be used to invade the privacy of our members. And it ensures that all subscribers can read all of the messages. You can include a link to documents on a web page, but note that proprietary document formats like Microsoft Word are inaccessible to or avoided by many Internet users.

Instead, please convert the attachment into plain text and just include it (e.g. cut-and-paste) in the body of a message, or point to a web page which has the information you're talking about.

UUA Email List Policies

The UUA has gathered a lot of experience in how to promote constructive online discussions. We've all probably experienced the frustration of messages being misinterpreted and discussions getting out of hand. These experiences have been distilled into a set of email list policies that all subscribers are urged to read and apply:
Participation in UUA's lists and bulletin boards is a privilege and not a right. The UUA (and its list managers) have the right to determine what information is distributed via its Internet resources, and to create boundaries for appropriate topics and modes of expression. Cries of "Censorship!" and "First Amendment rights!" are specious in this context, as they relate to governmental actions. Anyone who wants to can start their own mailing list somewhere else.

How to Subscribe

To subscribe to this list, go to

In the "Subscribing" section, you can fill in your email address and a password that you choose. Choose whether you'd like to receive messages individually or in a daily batch ("digest"). Then click the Subscribe button.

Note: Remember your list password, which you'll need when you want to change your list settings or unsubscribe.

You'll receive a message by email asking you to confirm your subscription (to make sure that some prankster didn't sign you up). Reply to that message and you're in! In most email programs, just click Reply and then Send. (Read the message for specific instructions.)

Finally, you'll get a welcome message from the mailing list you just joined. Be sure to save this welcome message! Not only does it have useful information about the list, including the rules about participating, but it also contains instructions for how to get off the list if you decide to do so later.

To subscribe to other UUA lists, see

How to Unsubscribe, Change your Email Address, etc.

To unsubscribe or change your email address, go to and follow the directions.

The other way to sign off, or unsubscribe, from a list is to send a message with the word "unsubscribe" followed by your list password in the subject line to For example, if your list password were "worth-dignity" , you'd send a message with the words "unsubscribe worth-dignity" in the subject line. You can click here to start sending the message

If you've lost your list password (which was sent with your original Welcome message), just leave it off and mailman will immediately send you a message asking you to confirm the request. (Otherwise, nasty people could maliciously unsubscribe other people from mailing lists, which could cause big problems.)

How to Contact the List Managers

If you have a problem or question about this list or about your subscription which is not answered here, or via the pages at, you can write to the managers at the email address: "CivilLiberties-owner at uua dot org" (this address has been obfuscated to slow down spammers).

Feedback on this FAQ

Send feedback on these Frequently Asked Questions to neal at

Thanks to Eric J. Ray, TECHWR-L Listowner, for some of this material.

Last modified: Thu Jun 16 11:41:58 MDT 2005