Category Archives: Legislative Ministry

Opening Prayer – Maine Senate

Prayer for the Opening of the Maine Senate
by Rev. Carie Johnsen
Wednesday, April 27, 2011, 10:00 a.m.

God of Grace, God of Wisdom and Creativity, God of love divine.
As we open today’s session of the House, we invite the spirit of justice, liberty and freedom to gather and mingle in the chambers with us. We invite the spirit of truth, love and compassion to be their companion in the day ahead.

In the quiet of this morning, in the still of this day, let us remember the people of Maine who have elected the officials who gather now to begin their work on behalf of the people. Let us remember the people of Maine who seek to live with dignity and hope for a bright tomorrow. Let us remember those who are vulnerable and afraid, suffering and at risk, disenfranchised and marginalized.
The work ahead of this legislative body is no easy task. It is demanding and relentless. It is at times powerful and rewarding; yet is has the potential of being harsh and ruthless. We pray that it may never be heartless.

God of Grace when the day is long and hard, and when we find ourselves in the middle of dialogue unforgiving, may we pause and look into each other’s eyes and remember we are all in this together.

God of Diversity remind us to listen deeply and compassionately to the constituents and the leaders who bring divergent and conflicting ideas to the table.

We pray that our words be kind rather than divisive. We pray our words bring forth solutions rather than barriers. May we be reminded our religious, social, political, and ethnic diversity is a precious and fragile gift to be treasured and celebrated.

God of Creativity open our hearts as we work together in the direction of a sustainable tomorrow. Open our minds to the collective wisdom of our colleagues, our constituents, our state, our country, the global community and our universe.

God of Wisdom remind us No one person or group of people can comprehend the full reality of any situation. May we be reminded not to discard our convictions but rather to hold them lightly as if they were resting in the palm of our own hands. In this way, we invite the others to take them from us to refine them, strengthen them or perhaps replace them.

God of Courage and reason, give us strength. Grant us the audacity to stand forever vigilant to the values of justice, integrity, and equality. May we be bold and brave in our attempt to render legislation that is reasonable, fair and just.

God of Humility remind us to laugh at our foibles and be kind to our fellow travelers. May we be reminded we are one among many in a vast interdependent web of existence that is never ending and always unfolding.

And finally, God of Wisdom remind us to bow toward the greater mystery that something more powerful than ourselves exists in the universe.

God of Justice. God of Glory. God of Wisdom and Creativity, we bow to you as we enter this auspicious day. So may it be, amen.

Gun Control Press Conference in wake of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Shooting

This testimony was written by Jane Field, Executive Director of Maine Council of Churches. After some modifications, I delivered the statement in the Maine State House Hall of Flags.

Hello, my name is Rev. Carie Johnsen. I speak here today on behalf of Maine Council of Churches. Each of the Council’s eight member-denominations has taken a clear stand in efforts to end gun violence. I am a Unitarian Universalist Minister serving a congregation here in Augusta.

On February 15th, as congregations here in Maine gathered to mark the beginning of Lent with the sign of ashes—ashes that remind us of our mortality and of our need for repentance—students, teachers, administrators, families and first responders in Parkland and Coral Springs, Florida, suffered a horrific and unthinkable tragedy: a young man armed with a semi-automatic rifle and multiple magazines of ammunition entered the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and opened fire, killing seventeen, wounding fourteen, and profoundly traumatizing the community.

We grieve with those who suffered injury and lost loved ones; we pray for continued healing, peace and comfort for all those affected. While our Ash Wednesday reminder of mortality was merely symbolic, theirs was all too real.

In light of all shootings, we at the Maine Council of Churches call all people of faith and good will to repent from our participation in a culture that fails to take the necessary steps to end gun violence, and we call for a renewed commitment to work for sensible solutions to a problem that has plagued our nation for far too long.

We grieve with a nation. We pray for the suffering. And our faith call us, no requires us, to take action. We call upon all elected State and Federal officials to enact common-sense measures to reduce gun violence beginning with LD 1761 An Act Regarding the Prohibition on the Possession of a Firearm on School Property. The Maine Council of Churches joins with the Maine Principles Association, Maine School Boards Association, and Maine School superintendents Association in opposition of LD 1761. We urge people of faith and no faith to join us in this call to action to keep our children safe.

LD 912 – An Act to Clarify the Scope of Practice of Certain Licensed Professionals Regarding Conversion Therapy.

Senator Volk, Representative Fecteau and members of the Committee on Labor, Research and Economic Development
My name is Carie Johnson. I am the ministe
r at the Unitarian Universalist Community Church of Augusta. I have served on the board of the Religious Coalition Against Discrimination. We are here today to speak on behalf of Maine Unitarian Universalist State Advocacy Network.

Unitarian Universalism is a welcoming faith tradition, with a call to continually put our beliefs into action. We promote social justice, equity and compassion through words and actions. It is with that as a foundation that I am here today to ask for your support of LD 912 – An Act to Clarify the Scope of Practice of Certain Licensed Professionals Regarding Conversion Therapy. These dangerous and discredited practices that attempt to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity must be prohibited by Maine’s state-licensed mental health providers.

So-called “conversion therapy” is ineffective. Sadly, some religious groups who consider being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender a sin have promoted this idea of “reparative therapy.” Through these harmful practices, LGBT people may be wrongly led to believe they are unacceptable to God, their families, and their community. Our theology teaches otherwise.

Unitarian Universalism’s First Principle is the inherent worth and dignity of every person, and the Second is justice, equity and compassion in human relations. We teach that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people are created in the image of God, as are all people, and therefore do not need to be repaired or changed in sexual orientation or gender identity. Our Principles call me as a Unitarian Universalist minister to condemn the dehumanizing practices of so-called conversion therapy and to urge you to ban these practices in Maine.

As a faith leader I often find myself counseling people, young and old, straight and gay who are trying to find their way in the world. Nothing in this proposed legislation would stop that. I tell people to explore their own sense of self and ask what is true for them and talk about the things that confuse them or spark their wonderful sense of curiosity. I build relationships with people who have different sexual orientations and gender identities by being respectful and helping them to experience all the joys of this world. As a spiritual leader I invite all people to cross-divides of difference and take risks by authentically choosing to get to know one another.

Just this month a panel of eight gender diverse youth with various sexual orientations presented their stories of coming out to a community of supportive and affirming members, friends, and family. In bearing witness to their experiences we celebrated their dignity, worth, and value. These courageous young adults are leaders in strengthening and advancing messages of love and acceptance, affirmation and celebration of all God’s children. They open the doors for their peers and adults to live authentically and to find their way out of depression, anxiety, and self-destructive behavior including suicide.

I urge you to join these young leaders in the work to protect the inherent worth and dignity of every Maine child and youth; to promote justice, equity and compassion in human relations; and to prevent dangerous harm by prohibiting licensed professionals from engaging in so-called “conversion therapy” in Maine. Thank you.

We stand with immigrants.

Press Conference Augusta State House
June 7, 2017

Good morning. My name is Reverend Carie Johnsen. I serve the Unitarian Universalist Community Church of Augusta. I am here to speak on behalf of the Maine Unitarian Universalist State Advocacy Network. We are a statewide advocacy and public policy network anchored in Unitarian Universalist values and principles. We stand with immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers. We oppose any and all unjust government actions to arrest, detain, and deport people who are undocumented immigrants.

This past year, across this great nation Unitarian Universalists and the congregations they gather in, signed Declarations of Conscience… [As people of faith] we affirmed our profound commitment to the fundamental principles of justice, equity and compassion, to truth and core values of American society. As people of conscience we declared our commitment to stand on the side of love with the most vulnerable among us.[1]

Today I stand with people of all faiths and no faith to celebrate the diversity of humanity with a call to love boldly, act justly, and faithfully resist racism, fear and exclusion.

As people of faith and conscience, we will always welcome the stranger. We will always shelter the refugee. We will always offer a safe home. We will not remain silent when the most vulnerable among us are being turned away. We will not remain silent as families are torn apart, children terrified, and parents detained. We will not turn our backs on our brothers and sisters, neighbors and friends who are suffering and being persecuted.

As people of faith and conscience we are called to love beyond borders. We are called to open our hearts. We are called to open our doors. We are called to welcome God’s people, all of God’s people, regardless. We are called to radical hospitality, period.

We are called to live as Jesus lived, profoundly committed to justice, equity and compassion, to truth and to love in all relations, with all people, in all times, in all ways.

May we the people live this call.
May our daily actions reflect this call.
May our public policies affirm this call.
May our great nation celebrate this call.
So may it be, may it be so!

[1] UUA Declaration of Conscience https://www.uua.org/loveresists/declaration-conscience

Ranked Choice Voting (2017)

PRESS CONFERENCE
Hello my name is Reverend Carie Johnsen. I serve the Unitarian Universalist Community Church of Augusta, Maine. I speak to you today as a representative of the Maine Unitarian Universalist State Advocacy Network.

We support ranked choice voting.

Ranked Choice Voting

As Unitarian Universalists we affirm and promote “The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large.” As people of faith we believe working toward a more just, kind and compassionate global community is our mandate.

We believe a flourishing democracy requires robust engagement in the electoral process and the promotion of civility in politics. Extreme rhetoric and mean-spiritedness in politics has left Mainers and Americans deeply divided, making it difficult to recognize shared values, engage in constructive dialogue, find common ground, and advance the common good. Ranked choice voting creates more generous spirit and greater respect for the dignity of our differences. When a candidate is required to win votes across parties, the dialogue is moved from divineness to civil engagement and compromise, from negativity to values and visions, from vitriol to experiences and capabilities. When voters have a broader range of candidates and more choices in the booth, their vote is not wasted. Their voice is amplified.

Ranked choice voting will improve Maine’s political climate, strengthen the electoral process and empower voters. Ranked choice voting is a natural and simple solution to ensure candidates win elections with a majority vote from the people of Maine.

RANKED CHOICE VOTING, LETTER TO THE EDITOR (2017)
Next Tuesday the people of Maine have an unprecedented opportunity to improve Maine politics by voting yes on Question 5. Ranked choice voting will improve Maine’s political climate, strengthen the electoral process and empower voters. Ranked choice voting is a natural and simple solution to ensure candidates win elections with a majority vote from the people of Maine.

As people of faith, the Maine Unitarian Universalist State Advocacy Network supports Questions 5. As Unitarian Universalists we affirm and promote “The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large.” We believe working toward a more just, kind and compassionate global community is our mandate.

We believe a flourishing democracy requires robust engagement in the electoral process and the promotion of civility in politics. Extreme rhetoric and mean-spiritedness in politics has left Mainers and Americans deeply divided, making it difficult to recognize shared values, engage in constructive dialogue, find common ground, and advance the common good. Ranked choice voting creates more generous spirit and greater respect for the dignity of our differences.
When a candidate is required to engage civilly with people across their deep difference, voter participation increases and issues are at the center of the campaign. When a candidate is required to win votes across parties, the dialogue is moved from divisiveness to civil engagement and compromise, from negativity to values and visions, from vitriol to experiences and capabilities.
When voters have a broader range of candidates and more choices in the booth, their vote is not wasted. Their voice is amplified.
Ranked choice voting is good for politics in Maine. It is good for the people of Maine. It is good for the future of Maine. We encourage the good people of Maine to join us in voting Yes on Question 5.

LD 1475: An Act to Reduce Child Poverty by Leveraging Investments in Families Today

Senator Brakey, Representative Hymanson and Members of the Committee:

My name is Carie Johnsen. I am a minister at the Unitarian Universalist Community Church of Augusta and a founding member of the Maine Unitarian Universalist State Advocacy Network. I am here today to speak in support of LD 1475.

I live in downtown Augusta and serve one of the center city churches. Every day I encounter the working poor of this city who are striving to make ends meet in an economy where the cost of living is rising faster than their daily income. Every day I bear witness to effects of deep poverty on our citizens, our children, and youth. Homelessness, hunger, addiction, insufficient resources to heat homes, unreliable transportation, and lack of access to affordable childcare create insurmountable barriers for a family seeking to improve their living situation.

As a Unitarian Universalist, I affirm the inherent worth and dignity of every person, and I call upon each of you to do the same. Instead of punishing and shaming those seeking help, I call upon our government to create effective paths out of poverty.

Just this morning the leaders of the Capital Area Multi-faith Association met with city officials to discuss the future of community and faith-based supports to the fore mentioned families. This faith community works tirelessly to support the programs like the Augusta Food Bank and Warming Shelter. Programs like the essentials pantry that provides toothpaste, deodorant, famine hygiene products, laundry detergent, toilet paper, shampoo, and body soap without question. Programs like the Angel Food Supper where over 150 meals are served every Saturday night to a gathered community of people who are hungry, homeless, and lonely.

Where the state fails to live up the task of helping individuals and families to thrive, the local faith community fills in the ever-widening gap with housing and heating assistance to families living on the brink. We all know filling in the gap is not an effective means of helping our citizens, our families, our children and youth to climb out of poverty, create stability, and thrive.

Today I call upon each of you to narrow that gap by voting ought to pass on LD 1475, reducing childhood poverty and improving outcomes for families, is the right thing to do.

Public Utilities Commission, December 2015

Public Utilities Commission
Sponsored by: National Resource Council of Maine
December 8, 2015

Press Conference at PUC, Hallowell, Maine

Hello, my name is Rev. Carie Johnsen. I am speaking on behalf of the Maine Unitarian Universalist State Advocacy Network. As Unitarian Universalists we affirm and promote the interconnected web of all existence.

From the forest to the sea to humanity itself, each thread of being is woven into a single fabric of existence. We embrace nature’s beauty and are in awe of its power. We care for our environment so that it may sustain life for generations to come… Creating a sustainable way of life is central to our view of a just and compassionate world. uua.org/environment

As Unitarian Universalists we recognize humanity’s part in creating climate change and the urgency of mitigating its damaging effects. We are committed to acting responsibly to protect the quality of the environment and working to lessen our dependence on fossil fuel by encouraging the use of sustainable, clean energy.

Maine congregations are starting to look more at solar power, for their church buildings and with their members. Solar energy is an important part of our response to the threat of climate change, which people of faith are deeply concerned about. Solar power is also a way for individuals and communities—including congregations—to take direct action to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. With state policy as a partner, there is tremendous opportunity for us to work together for a solar future for Maine.

We are both stewards and consumers of earth’s resources. It is a moral imperative that we act now. I call upon our state leaders to act now to reduce barriers, improve policies and increase access to solar power for the people of Maine, for future generations and for the sustainability of planet Earth as we know it.