The Right of Conscience and the Use of the Democratic Process Within Our Congregations and in Society at Large
Teaching each person that their voice is important requires us to also teach each other all of the different ways that one can raise their voice. For most folks in the U.S., the primary symbol of democracy is the system of government and politics that create, evaluate, and enforce our laws and public systems. The 5th Principle calls UUs to closely consider their role in that democracy.
In Children’s Ministry at UUCP, we look at democracy in three ways:
- Democracy is a structure in which the will of the largest part of a group determines the group’s actions
- Democracy is the system through which political leaders in the U.S. are chosen.
- Democracy is a symbol for social equity
Each of these three lenses presents challenges as we grow as individuals and work to build strong community both within UUCP and the greater community.
When we think about civic action and responsibility we often exclude community members under the age of the 18 or limit their role to “be a good community member”—but living in a large metro area, there are tons of ways for kids to be active and aware in democracy.
While folks under the age of 18 can’t vote in most elections, there are a whole lot of 17-year-olds out there that can be registered. Arizona statute specifies that to register to vote in Arizona you must meet the following qualifications (A.R.S. §16-101):
- Be a United States citizen.
- Be a resident of Arizona and the county listed on your registration.
- Be 18 years of age or older on or before the day of the next regular General Election.
In our congregation, high school students have been trained and worked in the schools to help get classmates registered. Though the deadline for November’s election is past, they will keep on working to make sure that their peers vote as soon as they are old enough.
For younger kids:
- Take your kids to the polls with you!
- Show them your ballot!
- Talk about how you decided who to vote for!
- Show off your “I voted today” sticker.
Protests & Rallies
Phoenix’s activist culture is strong and effective. If you have questions about what kinds of events are appropriate for kids, come talk to folks from Children’s Ministry. We have resources for helping kids understand public actions and for helping them stay safe at larger events. UU kids have been spotted at vigils, marches, sidewalk protests, sit-in, walk-outs and jailhouse receptions.
Political Shirts, Signs & Stickers
(the upside of becoming a billboard)
In general, it’s a strange thing for a kid to wear someone else’s slogans. Just like in deciding to let a kiddo wear a SpongeBob shirt, when a child wears a shirt with a political message, they broadcast a belief and affinity. Show your kids the brochures that canvassers leave behind, describe the ballot initiatives to them. One of the best ways to build your own understanding of these measures is to figure out how to explain it to a youngster. Once they figure out what they are on board with, have them make yard signs, let them put stickers on their water bottles to represent their candidates, and yes, kids can make financial campaign contributions.
Got a candidate or issue the whole family is on board with? Get out there and pound the pavement together. Spend an afternoon knocking doors and letter voters know why and where your support lies. Connect with a campaign—you’ll get training, materials, and a map to follow. It’s easy, is amazing family time, and is like going for a walk with the family with the added bonus of connecting with a neighborhood and making change happen
Your kid may find passion in a candidate or issue. A kid’s voice can be extremely helpful to a campaign. Think about how your family might be comfortable being a direct part of a campaign, what are your boundaries on public statements, are you willing to become a recognizable face? At UUCP we have had nine kids (plus one young adult) become active spokespeople for various issues. If it’s something that might work for your family, let the campaigns know or come talk to children’s ministry about where to begin.
While candidates for state offices must be 18, individual towns in Arizona have variation in how young a person can be to hold public office… just saying.
Participating in Government Meetings & Visiting the Legislature
Take your kids to city council meetings and legislative hearings. Nope, it’s not catered directly for them, in fact it may not be catered directly to anyone very well, but they will still get to see how this system works. They can take the mic when they have something to say.
Seeking Committee Positions
Throughout the valley, cities have youth boards for art, volunteerism, education, and other issues. Kids can serve their city and get experience with committee work (which we all know is a very important UU skill). Youth have also served on traditional committees: mayor’s victim service committee, parks and recreation, and diversity council.
Joining Organizers / Becoming a Follower
UUCP has amazing, active social justice partners. Youth are welcome to become part of the work.
Attending Issue and Action Day & Day at the Legislature
Do This. Visit this website to find out how: https://www.uujaz.org/. Worried that it’s not Kid Focused enough? Work with Children’s Ministry to make it more so.