Delegates refine Doctrine of Discovery resolution

Ted Fetter

Ted Fetter, chair of the mini-assembly about the proposed Responsive Resolution repudiating the “Doctrine of Discovery.” (©Christopher L. Walton)

Thursday afternoon around a hundred delegates attended a mini-assembly to finalize the language for a responsive resolution on the Doctrine of Discovery. Delegates will vote on it Sunday.

The doctrine, which dates to the fifteenth century, is a legal philosophy that European Christian rulers created to permit subjugation of people who were not Christian. The doctrine continues to be used as a basis for contemporary legal decisions. Indigenous groups that the UUA is partnering with in Arizona had asked the UUA to study the doctrine as a way of understanding oppression of native peoples.

The original resolution called for the UUA to invite congregations to study the doctrine. It further asked that GA delegates vote to repudiate the doctrine and that the UUA lobby the U.S. government to sign a UN declaration repudiating the doctrine.

At the mini-assembly, chaired by Ted Fetter, president of the Metro New York District of the UUA, delegates approved several changes.

They approved amendments replacing the phrase “American Indian” with “indigenous nations of North America and the Hawaiian kingdom.” Another change directs the UUA to conduct an examination as to how Unitarians and Universalists have been involved in oppression of native peoples, and then move to eliminate any vestiges of the doctrine from UUA policies and practices.

Votes taken in the mini assembly indicated overwhelming support for repudiation of the doctrine. Around a dozen offsite delegates also voted, most of them also supporting repudiation. Finley Campbell of Chicago opposed the resolution, claiming it slandered Christianity  and that capitalism was the real culprit in domination of indigenous peoples.

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