Religious Bullying is Real

- Aug• 10•15

by Erin Langus, ’14

After becoming more involved at All Souls over the past year, I thought it would be a great experience to connect with Unitarian Universalists from all over at General Assembly. One particular workshop that resonated with me was about responding to religious bullying. It was titled “Being a UU Isn’t Easy,” and it was presented by the High Plains UU Church in Colorado Springs, CO.That city, I learned, is a center for many evangelical Christian churches and organizations.

When one child was bullied at school for being UU, the congregation formed awareness and support groups. When Jessica Laike, Director of Faith Formation and the interim minister, Rev. Beatrice Hitchcock, had a meeting with more parents and children, they learned that children were being told things such as they were going to Hell if they didn’t accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior, and that Christians couldn’t be friends with someone who wasn’t Christian. “As Unitarian Universalists, help your children to understand and appreciate their unique theology,” Laike counseled them, “not to argue religion with their bullies but for their own spiritual support system.”

Langus

Erin Langus

This workshop made me aware what children, as well as adults, may experience in more conservative areas of the U.S. As UUs in New York City, we have the privilege of expressing our religious and spiritual views fairly openly without concern about criticism or bullying. For the most part now, I feel comfortable sharing my spiritual beliefs with others, confident that they will be accepted and positively received. However, there were times in my childhood when this was not the case. While I didn’t grow up UU, throughout my life I can recall hearing negative or insensitive comments, particularly regarding Judaism, Islam, and other non-majority religions. While I occasionally said something to address the comments, there were many times I felt too uncomfortable to do so.

In following our Third Principle—acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations—learning about these experiences in other congregations is an important part of growth and awareness, especially since individual beliefs vary greatly within Unitarian Universalism itself. In doing this, we can equip and prepare our children to cope with challenges they may face when expressing their faith and spiritual beliefs within the congregation, and in the community as a whole.

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