Rival Unitarian groups settle lawsuit over name of organization

Posted: Friday, October 26, 2001

BOSTON (AP) -- The Unitarian Universalist Association has settled a trademark lawsuit against a maverick group that accused the denomination of replacing spirituality with social activism.

The rival American Unitarian Association has agreed to change its name to the American Unitarian Conference, the two sides said in a joint statement Oct. 20.

''Our goal is to promote traditional Unitarianism,'' said David Burton, president of the American Unitarian Conference. ''We reached the conclusion that going forward under a new name would better enable us to achieve our goals than devoting resources to continuing litigation.''

The Unitarian Universalist Association had argued the name American Unitarian Association, which they never registered as a trademark, became their property in 1961 when Unitarians and Universalists merged.

The Rev. William Sinkford, president of the Unitarian Universalist Association, said the goal of the lawsuit was to protect his group's right to the name, not challenge the existence of Burton's organization.

''I will operate on the assumption that this dispute was among persons of good faith,'' Sinkford said.

The Unitarians, with roots in a movement that rejected Puritan orthodoxy in New England, are famously resistant to dogma, instead supporting a free search for spiritual truth. The denomination also has a long history of support for progressive causes, such as civil rights.




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