In the work of CUUSAN and the State Networks, we acknowledge the importance and value of religious voice in the public debate. The United States stands proud of its commitment to the separation of church and state. However, separation does not mean silence. And churches have rarely been silent during the history of this country. Religious groups have been at the forefront of many of the major political debates of this country. For UUs, the natural voice of religious leaders combined with our own Principles requires us to be an active voice in the public arena. This is reflected in our history of leadership in many of these debates including the abolition of slavery, work for suffrage rights and civil rights and most recently in the work for marriage equality.
State Networks focus on increasing the power of our voice and making those voices an effective tool for change. The voice of a single church can be very strong, but the building of a network around the state enables us to strengthen the voice of our individual churches and expand our reach, build on-going relationships with legislative leaders, and develop political skills needed to enact the changes we are seeking. But even more importantly, State Networks give visibility to Unitarian Universalists. Through the small acts of many we have the opportunity to become a respected voice in our State Houses for the oppressed, the needy and the poor.
California and New York were the first states to establish networks. The growth of networks was significantly enhanced by the UU Service Committee (UUSC) decision in 2004 to support local activist as agents of change and bearers of a powerful, progressive religious voice by offering start up grants to state networks. The UUA has further supported the networks by encouraging congregations in states where there is a Network to join the Network and providing opportunities for joint programming between the UUA and the Networks.
Today CUUSAN is an informal organization, which operates under shared leadership. We meet monthly and work in a consensus model. Monthly conference calls are organized by the UUSC and attended by representatives of the UUA Office of Advocacy and Witness and the UUA Washington office. We share current work efforts, best practices and look for opportunities to work together in support of our shared vision so we can make a difference in creating a world in which each person realizes their full human rights