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Side With Love (formerly known as Standing on the Side of Love) is an interfaith public advocacy movement that seeks to harness love’s power to stop oppression, sponsored by the Unitarian Universalist Association, but open to all faiths. This campaign was started in response to a shooting on July 27, 2008, at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville, when Jim Adkisson walked into the church’s sanctuary during the performance of a children’s musical and began shooting. He killed two people and injured six others. Among the fatalities and injured were members of the TVUUC and the Westside Unitarian Universalist Church, also of Knoxville.

In the letter found by the police, the shooter had written that he targeted the church because of its liberal values: “The church is the Fountainhead, the veritable wellspring of anti-American groups…”

After the shooting, both Knoxville congregations pledged to remain open and welcoming, and many religious communities from across the theological and political spectrum rushed to provide food, comfort and assistance. The extensive media coverage of this event led to an influx of visitors to these two churches as people heard about Unitarian Universalism, some for the first time.

The courageous responses of both churches, as well as the broad-based Knoxville community support, inspired organizers to create Standing on the Side of Love. This campaign is based on the Unitarian Universalists' first principle of affirming and promoting the “inherent worth and dignity of every person.”

We believe that no one should be dehumanized through acts of exclusion, oppression or violence because of their beliefs or identities. In public debates on immigration justice, LGBTQ equality, Black Lives Matter, standing up against acts of fear and hate and more, we Side With Love, calling for respect for all, inclusion for all and compassion for all.

As Unitarians, we believe that if individuals or groups are being discriminated against, bullied or marginalized, we should take a moment to stand up for them and with them. We believe in giving support, encouragement and love that others need and taking the time to educate the person or people doing the marginalizing. It will only take a little of our time and effort to make this a better world for all of us. For example, just taking some time to smile at a hurried cashier, listen to someone who needs to vent, stand up to someone marginalizing another, or give smiles and hugs freely could make a difference in their lives and yours.

In February, most Unitarian Universalist societies take time to reflect on this and work for love, justice and support for all people. We are having a special service honoring Side with Love at 10:30 a.m. Sunday, Feb. 17. If this is something that is of interest to you, please come and visit us and contribute to a community and a world that is in dire need of love and support.

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Kathy Haendle is president of the Auburn Unitarian Universalist Society, which was founded in 1833 and is located at 607 N. Seward Ave., Auburn. Services are held at 10:30 a.m. Sundays. All men, women and children of every race, religious creed, political conviction and sexual orientation are welcome.

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