Quaker Relgion and Action

By Marguerite Helen

Quaker religion, long regarded as progressive, was founded on “religious values” that led Quakers to be known as the strongest and most actively involved people in causes such as prison reform, emancipation, and women´s rights, even though the religion is small in numbers.

Many people mistakenly think Quakers are related to oats or Shakers. Many know truths: Mary Dyer, whose statue is in front of the Massachusetts State House, was hanged on the Common because of her Quaker beliefs; William Penn founded Pennsylvania to be a model of governance based on those beliefs. Quakers´ core belief is that each person can communicate directly with god, however they describe or understand god, without any intermediary, such as a minister, or any prescribed beliefs, such as a creed. Their form of worship is to listen in silence in which they learn truths and are helped in living their lives. What is most important is not to talk about their beliefs but to try to act in accordance with them, guided by set of principles that include peace, equality, integrity, community, and service – all also bases for Guild work.

Quakers organize from the bottom up; individuals gather as congregations that then usually connect into a regional gathering of congregations which may approve a position on an issue but has no authority to require action on it. However, acts of conscience taken in conjunction with Quaker principles are approved even by Quakers who personally think that some action is illegal or pointless.

The “Peace Testimony” is embodied in most Quaker action. It comes from the belief that you cannot kill anyone because everyone has in them “that of god”; that core of communication. Quakers hold Good Friday peace vigils at Park Street and join other vigils, marches, and demonstrations, often helping prevent altercations and to be observers. Quakers lead, participate in, and help with matters related to civil disobedience. One 90+ year-old Friend, who has been arrested numerous times, was instrumental in closing the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant. When a Quaker who, with others, vigiled regularly at Polaroid in Cambridge against its work on military equipment, was arrested for a sit-in there, he was assisted by other Quakers during his trial, incarceration, and writing about it. A number of Quakers withhold income tax money that would pay for war; the congregation of one held a celebratory party for her and two members who disapproved of her action as unlawful yet still offered to help pay for any fines or interest she might incur. In New England there´s a fund into which tax resistors may deposit what they withhold and into which contributions are made to help pay such fines and interest. Quakers oppose military recruiters at high schools, recruiting stations, and military display fairs. Quakers and the NLG work on the GI Rights Hotline, Military Law Task Force, and against “Don´t Ask, Don´t Tell.”

Quakers have long been active against the death penalty and in prison work. Quakers have joined the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, which focuses on ending torture done or sponsored by the USA. Quakers boycott Israel. Quakers from New England have spent long periods of time in Palestine, including Gaza, and New England Quakers strongly supported the Gaza Freedom Flotillas. Quakers show deep friendship for LGBT’s. In Boston, they testified at hearings concerning gay marriage (one plaintiff in the landmark lawsuit was a Quaker), are board members of Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians & Gays, and form a proud contingent in the Gay Pride parade.

Quakers – religious, progressive allies with the NLG.

Marguerite Helen, a Quaker and a member of NLG-MA, works as  a counselor on the GI Rights Hotline and with the Military Law Task Force.

Find it!

National Lawyers Guild - Login
14 Beacon St. Suite 407 - Boston, MA 02108
Phone: 617-227-7335 Fax: 617-227-5495