Throughout our history Unitarians have stood for inclusivity, reason and social justice including gender equality (we’ve had women ministers for more than 100 years), gay rights (we’ve performed same sex blessings for more than 30 years) and the abolition of slavery.
We support equality of respect and opportunity for everyone. We totally oppose all oppression and discrimination, including on the grounds of any arbitrary or accidental factors such as race or gender, sexual orientation or religious belief.
Unitarians consider that unless your moral standards are truly your own, then they do not really constitute morality. If they are imposed on you, then they are just a means of social control and nothing more. Of course, a commonly accepted moral framework must exist in any human society. But that is not enough if people don’t also have a personal morality.
Unitarian acceptance of the underlying unity and connectedness of humanity is also important in this context. We are all individuals, with a right to our own beliefs, but we are also members of society with a responsibility to help make it work. As such it is incumbent upon each of us to behave in ways that respect others and make our community, and our world, a better place for everyone.
The ‘Unitarian position’
It is impossible to give the Unitarian position on specific ethical and moral issues. First, there are too many to deal with. Second, Unitarians do not impose a moral orthodoxy any more than a theological one. Individuals are encouraged to arrive at their own conclusions.
On many things, though, there is a near universal consensus. Even then the right to dissent is fully respected and such statements are not seen as binding on all Unitarians, either in the present or the future.
Unitarians approaching any moral issue will seek balance and a stance that affirms love, life, compassion, and justice. We will be conscious, though, that our personal decision is ours alone. We will recognise that other sincere people may reach a different conclusion. Where there are differences, Unitarians seek respectful dialogue. Where there is consensus, we will speak and act together as the times demand.
Equal LGBT rights
Unitarians see human sexuality as a perfectly natural and healthy dimension of our existence. We recognise and value its role in bringing intimacy, tenderness and pleasure to loving relationships.
For the most part, Unitarians take the view that the natural spectrum of sexuality includes both homosexuality and bisexuality. We therefore affirm that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people have the exact same rights as anyone else, including when it comes to getting married.
We have played an active and leading role in campaigning for equal marriage rights, including emphasising our support for it during a meeting with the Prime Minister at Downing Street in 2013. We are delighted that same-sex marriage legislation has now been passed in England, Wales and Scotland. A list of Unitarian churches currently registered for same-sex marriages is available here.
Unitarians recognise the worth and dignity of all people, and one of our objectives as a movement is "the service of humanity". We support human equality and oppose racism. We stand for the values of tolerance and inclusivity.
As a faith community we are concerned by the disparities suffered by people of colour in all aspects of our society: our education systems, housing, health, immigration, economics, policing and employment.
We passionately condemn all forms of racism and discrimination. We continue to educate ourselves in this endeavour, listening to the voices of movements like ‘Black Lives Matter’, and examining our privileges for ways we perpetuate system injustice.
We are aware that like many organisations in the UK, historically, some of our income within our movement was derived from slavery and racial exploitation, and many individual congregations are beginning the process of revisiting our past, understanding our present position and accepting that our forebears were not always who we might want them to be.
Today, we seek to follow those Unitarian forebears who believed in the worth and dignity of every person and fought for the abolition of slavery. Today, we seek to understand through open and respectful discussion how we can work towards a future without racism or racial privilege.
The Unitarian movement has passed several resolutions on racial equality since 1963, and we acknowledge that there is more that must be done if true equality is to be achieved.
As people who place their primary religious concern on life in this world, Unitarians are generally interested in environmental issues. Historically, we have been deeply interested both in the scientific study of our natural environment and in seeing it as a spiritual.
This remains the case today. Many Unitarians are active in environmental and conservation organisations. Unitarian worship often reflects spiritually on these subjects, and also celebrates the natural cycle of the seasons.
Unitarians regard the maintenance of a sustainable, diverse and beautiful environment – natural and human – as essential both for our survival and for our wellbeing as a species.
War is not the answer
Unitarians affirm the values of peace, justice, forgiveness and reconciliation. Some call these divine values. They are held to be necessary for the wholeness and happiness of any human community, from the family to the nation and the world.
On pacifism, as on all issues of personal conscience, each Unitarian is free to come to his or her own conclusions without fear of judgement or censure. So although there are many Unitarian pacifists, there is no explicit requirement or implicit expectation on the matter.
Unitarians do agree that war is wrong, but a wide range of opinions as to its necessity exist. Some rule out the use of force entirely, believing that it can never be justified in any situation. For others there are sadly, tragically, situations in which the use of proportionate force is necessary in order to prevent or defeat a greater evil, particularly to defend the innocent and the weak in immediate peril. A unanimous position is that humanity must find better ways than war and violence to resolve conflicts and disputes.
While recognising the need for armed forces and respecting servicemen and servicewomen, we do believe that the minimum age for armed forces recruitment should be 18 years old. We have campaigned and will continue to campaign for that, as well as for ending the practice of armed forces recruitment in Welsh schools.
As a movement, Unitarians are religious, not political. But our religion has political implications, and our politics have a spiritual foundation.
Although many Unitarians are active in the social and political sphere, as a movement we are not aligned with any political party or single-issue political organisation. Unitarians can be found across the whole spectrum of democratic political parties, sometimes as dedicated activists. They can also be found in all manner of groups campaigning on humanitarian and environmental issues. In this we make no claim to be different from many people in other denominations and faith traditions.
In as much as these matters are political in the broadest sense, then Unitarians do mix religion with politics. This means, for some, active involvement in campaigns, marches and demonstrations. It may mean lobbying politicians and making legislators aware of Unitarian concerns in particular areas of policy. It certainly means using one's democratic rights responsibly and purposefully for the common good.
Unitarians are interested in the whole range of challenges facing our society and our world. We believe that our liberal religious ethos, our affirmation of human dignity and our one-world vision have something truly valuable to offer in that regard.
The unitarianism FAQs contain even more detailed information on all things Unitarian.