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IUUWAN Statement on Racial  Profiling

As Unitarian Universalists, we pledge to put our faith into action.   Our belief in the inherent dignity and value of every human life calls us to work non-violently, inclusively, and constructively towards justice, healing, and reconciliation within and with other faiths and communities. As a welcoming but still a mainly majority – white religious organization, we also acknowledge the hard work the white community must do to recognize privileges we take for granted are not shared by those of non-white skin.  Such privileges include a lack of fear of racial profiling during a traffic stop, or not needing to educate our children how to act for their own physical protection.  As we work within the white communities, awareness of these privileges and the implicit and explicit biases affects how we think, act, and engage with people of color.  This awareness prepares us to listen and work together in active partnership with Black and other people of color and their communities, towards an anti-racist world.  This results in a deepening of our own understanding of racial bias within and around our beloved communities of faith.

Proposed Bill

A racial profiling bill has been drafted by a coalition of organizations, including the NAACP and ACLU.  The proposed bill would

  1. Ban racial profiling and defines key words (“stop”, “profiling”, “discriminatory pretextual stop”)
  2. Ban pretextual stops
  3. Require annual data collection and date collection release to the public
  4. Create a citizen’s review board, and
  5. Require annual data collection training

Requested Action

  1. Contact your legislator to ask her/him to support a meaningful racial profiling bill and urge to co-sponsor the bill
  2. Contact House and Senate leadership to urge them to support a meaningful racial profiling bill and to ensure that a meaningful bill gets a vote in each chamber.

Senate    President, Charles Schneider    Majority Leader, Jack Whitver    Majority Whip, Amy Sinclair    Judiciary Comm Chair, Brad Zaun 


House   Speaker, Linda Upmeyer   Majority Leader, Chris Hagenow   Majority Whip, John Wills  Judiciary Comm. Chair,                                                                                                                                     


 Last year, Senate Judiciary Chair Brad Zaun sponsored the bill, and Senator Schneider chaired the Subcommittee which reported it out (3-0) to the Judiciary Committee, which in turn approved it and recommended it for floor debate.  Senator Dix, however, never brought up the bill for debate before the funnel killed the bill. 

Iowa is one of a minority of states that do not prohibit racial profiling, and the racial disparities in our criminal justice system—arrests as well as incarceration—are notable and cause for action.  Moreover, Iowa does not try to collect data or undertake to collect data on the racial and ethnic impact of law enforcement traffic or other stops.  That makes discrimination and disparate impact very hard if not impossible to prove. 

In addition to defining and prohibiting racial profiling and saying what law enforcement practices do not constitute profiling, the bill requires the collection of data on stops by law enforcement officers. Most of that information can readily be input through the computerized system 85-90% of Iowa law enforcement use. 

Discrimination and pretextual stops, of course, harm citizens, their families, their communities, law enforcement itself, and the rule of law. 

The bill also calls for the Governor to establish a Community Policing Advisory Board for the examination of data, discussion of ways to reduce and eliminate racial and ethnic profiling and develop best practices.  It also explicitly requires training and would rely initially upon the Iowa Civil Rights Commission for enforcement, though a complainant is not precluded from seeking remedies available under the Constitution, Code, and common law of Iowa.

The U. S. and the Iowa Constitutions require a showing of probable cause, or in the case of a traffic stop, reasonable suspicion, before one can be stopped and detained.  pretextual stopis one made ostensibly for a traffic law violation—for example, a driver’s license plate light bulb is out, or a rear end light is out, but that is something for which law enforcement would ordinarily not stop a person—but the real reason for the stop is a suspicion of  wrongdoing that is not reasonable or supported by probable cause (and as a result, the Constitution forbids and condemns the stop, search or seizure), or the law enforcement officer just wants to see what he/she might find.   Once the driver is stopped, the law enforcement officer may require the driver to step out of the car and begin a visual search of the car and “request” permission to search the trunk.  We have reason to believe this is done disproportionately to racial and ethnic minorities.  The process can be intimidating and demeaning.

Full Bodycam Video from traffic stop of Montray Little and Jared Clinton from July 2018:

Primary Issues for IUUWAN

Wage theft and a Liveable minimum wage:  Because living wage referendums were won even in red states, we need to push to increase Iowa’s minimum wage.  Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, 

Interfaith Allianceand Interfaith Justice Workerare our likely coalition partners. UU Society of Iowa City is currently working with Interfaith Justice Worker.

Immigrant Justice:  There are many efforts to be made. Driver’s licenses for immigrants meets requirements for driving and being able to carry insurance is a benefit for everyone.  To function in Iowa, driving is virtually a necessity.  We want your help to prod our legislators.  We join a broad coalition: the ACLU, law enforcement (who want positive IDs) and immigrant advocates.  

Several of our Iowa public libraries have created resources for immigrants like the

NYC Libraries

Marshalltown and Ames UUs are involved with AMOS and other coalition leaders.

Death with Dignity: Although Death with Dignity could be a long term goal for IUUWAN, we’ve Tami Haught, an HIV and AIDS lobbyist is on our team to make this happen.  She is received the

“Friends of Iowa Civil Rights” award along with Tom Harkin.   She was the lead lobbyist who got another long shot law changed.  

Here’san article about her work.  First Unitarian Church in Des Moines has been leading the work on Death with Dignity and Ames has taken an interest but to make this happen, we will need to build a bigger coalition and Iowa UUs will need to be engaged. 

Restorative justice and racial justice in Iowa.  Iowa has the highest rate of incarceration for African Americans in the country.  We arrest African Americans eight times more than white Americans.  African Americans are 12 times more likely to be convicted and incarceration rates run around 14 times more than whites because they serve longer sentences.  And studies show that drug use is almost identical for whites and blacks (the most common reason for incarceration)…and some studies show whites, with more money, are more likely to use drugs. AMOS and First Unitarian Church of Des Moines and Cedar Valley UU are leading this effort.

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Please contact TerryLeeLowman  @  gmail.comif you’re interesting in working on these justice issues.  Or give him a call at 


How we Choose Issues

Unitarian Universalist seven principles guide us in selecting issues that are important to us–they’re listed below.

We welcome you to submit proposals (an email?) on issues that you would like us to join you in working for change.  It’s even better if you find a consensus in your own congregation, but always feel free to point us towards justice.  With board approval, we will ask for others to lead and help with this issue.  

We are look for issues that we feel the UUs can uniquely support–for example, issues surrounding Reproductive Rights.  We look for issues that we can join a coalition as Iowa UUs are unlikely to be able to go it alone.  And because our efforts have limits, we prefer to work on issues that we have some chance of changing–we will not try to achieve the impossible when there are lots of wonderful justice issues just waiting for a little work to make them happen.

There are many ways to advocate for change.  Of course, lobbying is a good idea.  But sometimes it’s even better if you ask your city council to endorse this advocacy.  State legislators are much more likely to work for justice, if others are on record in supporting this issue.  

Some things, like the Affordable Care Act just need volunteers to find people who need healthcare and get them signed up.  

And sometimes we advocate for enforcement of good laws or non-enforcement of bad laws.

Our Unitarian Universalist Seven Principles that inform our advocacy.

We, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association,                             covenant to affirm and promote

* The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
* Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
* Acceptance of one another and encouragement to the spiritual growth in our congregations;
* A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
* The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
* The goal of world community with peace, liberty and justice for all;
* Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

The living tradition which we share draws from many sources:

* Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life;
* Words and deeds of prophetic women and men which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion and the transforming power of love;
* Wisdom from the world’s religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life;
* Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God’s love by loving our neighbors as ourselves;
* Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit
* Spiritual teachings of Earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.

Grateful for the religious pluralism which enriches and ennobles our faith, we are inspired to deepen our understanding and expand our vision.  As free congregations we enter into this covenant, promising to one another our mutual trust and support.

Justice racial economic gay lesbian bisexual transgender queer ally church congregation society fellowship unitarian universalist uu uua Iowa religion advocacy lobby racist black african american people of color equality respect dignity democracy spiritual