From one of August’s InterConnections feature stories, now online at

Would you know what to do if your congregation’s Sunday morning service was disrupted by people who despised your beliefs? It happened July 20 to the congregation at First Unitarian Universalist Church of New Orleans.

In the middle of a service—during a period of meditation—activists from the anti-abortion fundamentalist Christian group Operation Save America began speaking about “abominations” and shouting that the church was “not a true faith,” said the Rev. Deanna Vandiver, who was leading the service. She is executive director of the Center for Ethical Living and Social Justice Renewal, a group affiliated with UU congregations in New Orleans.

The service was dedicated to commissioning UU youth leaders from around the country who were completing a youth justice training program in New Orleans.

The congregation responded appropriately to the disturbance. Vandiver invited the protesters to stay if they could worship respectfully. When they continued to speak out, the most vocal ones were escorted out by members of the congregation and police were called. Others were made to leave later when they engaged youth and others in inappropriate conversations during coffee hour.

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About the Author
Sonja L. Cohen
Sonja L. Cohen is managing editor of InterConnections and senior editor of UU World magazine.

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