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NBOP February Newsletter: Moral Authority

Did you know NBOP organizes religious leaders from over 10 faiths? We are honored for Rev. Bev Spears, of Unitarian Universalist Congregation Santa Rosa, and an active member of our NBOP's Religious Leaders Caucus, share her reflections in our newsletter this month.

Before coming to Sonoma County a few years ago, I lived in Seattle Washington. In the greater Seattle area, it has been common practice since the 1960s Civil Rights Movement for Faith communities and secular, non-profit justice organizations to form alliances and build coalitions together for the common cause of bringing economic, racial, and social justice to marginalized people and communities.

These coalitions between Faith communities and secular non-profit organizations have included marching in the streets in the 1960s to end discrimination against Black people and providing asylum and safe haven in churches in the 1980s for Central American refugees fleeing civil conflict in their own countries. This was in response to federal immigration policies that made obtaining asylum difficult. In recent years, alliances were formed to lobby in the state capitol against immoral budget cuts that disproportionately harm low-income, Black, Brown, Indigenous, people of color, and other marginalized communities.

Black churches and denominations have long recognized the power, authority, and responsibility people of Faith have to bring about justice. The Civil Rights movement of the 1960s was galvanized and organized exclusively in Black Churches, led by Black clergy, and achieved by Black people who risked and sometimes lost their lives, speaking out publicly against segregation, marching in the streets, sitting at lunch counters, and registering people to vote. Churches of other denominations, people of other ethnicities and races, labor and other secular organizations were allies in the movement.

The reason non-profit justice organizations seek out Faith communities as allies in their movements is because secular organizations for justice recognize that people of Faith, bring a certain “moral authority” to justice work.

A few years after I moved to Sonoma County, I was very excited to find that the North Bay Organizing Project had a Religious Leaders Caucus.

Speaking as a progressive Christian in a Unitarian Universalist church, I find more and more, Faith communities shying away from claiming their moral authority. For Christians and liberal religious faith communities, I think it is in large part because, in the last 30 years or so, some denominations and faith-based organizations have so abused and misused their perceived moral authority that the rest of us don’t want to be painted with that brush. But moral authority is not inherently a bad thing as long as it is used to further justice for the common good, and for marginalized communities.

The Faith communities represented in the Religious Leaders Caucus share the same justice goals as NBOP, but we approach it from a different perspective. As people of Faith, we have a “Divine Call” –– we are “Spirit driven” to work for justice.

That doesn’t mean that people who work in secular organizations aren’t spiritual individuals, but Spirituality is not the organizing principle of secular justice organizations.

The Divine call for justice is integral to all the Abrahamic religious traditions; Judaism, Islam, and Judeo-Christianity. In Hebrew Bible, which is also the Christian Old Testament, we read from the prophet Micah, “What does the Lord require of us, but to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God.” In Christian New Testament scriptures, love, justice, and inclusion are the central tenets of Jesus’ message. Though my knowledge of the Qu’ran is very limited, I know that there are many passages that essentially say working for justice is a Divine command. In spiritual but not religious communities of faith, the same spirit of love is central.

As people of Faith, we are called by a unifying Spirit –– called by the God of many names and no name to be the face, hands, feet, mouth, mind, and heart of Love and justice in the communities in which we live. That is our moral authority, and it’s here that the faith communities represented on the Religious Leaders Caucus stand in solidarity with the North Bay Organizing Project in its multi-issue justice mission.


Rev. Bev Spears, Unitarian Universalist Congregation Santa Rosa

for the NBOP Religious Leaders Caucus


Photos from a Feb. 14 picket in Sebastopol organized by leaders of Raizes Collective in solidarity with Deysi Lopez.

From our members

New member of NBOP: Raizes Collective

We’re excited to announce our newest NBOP member: Raizes Collective! NBOP was formed in 2010 with one purpose in mind: to build power. Born out of Sonoma County’s day laborer struggle, we sought to bring together different groups of people – from community-based organizations to congregations – to win the changes we need in our communities. Established in 2015, Raizes Collective empowers bilingual and bicultural communities of Sonoma County through art, culture, and environmental education. On Feb. 14, we joined Raizes Collective at an early morning picket to recover over $4,000 in stolen wages for domestic worker and community leader Deysi Lopez.

Solidarity with NBOP member UNITE HERE Local 2

"We're not going to give up this fight. We're going to keep fighting until we win." – Alè Santorio, worker leader at Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn and Spa

Earlier this month, several of our leaders joined our member Unite Here Local 2 at a vigil organized by Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn workers who are fighting for dignity and respect in the workplace. We saw the power of labor, faith and immigrant leaders standing together for a worker’s right to organize!


Upcoming trainings

Art Build and Tenant Spokesperson Training

Saturday, March 4 • 3pm-5pm

Unitarian Universalists of Petaluma

16 5th Street, Petaluma CA

Make posters with your community and learn how to speak to the media to tell impactful stories about housing justice!

We The Future Conference 2023

We The Future Conference 2023

Friday, Apr. 21 • 9:30am-1:30pm NBOP is proud to co-sponsor this social justice conference every year, offering trainings and political education as we build power and develop leaders toward social transformation in Sonoma County. This year will feature keynote speaker Chris Smalls, co-founder and president of the Amazon Labor Union. Click here to RSVP

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