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Northern Virginia Ethical Society (NoVES)

Public Policy Positions

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The Northern Virginia Ethical Society has adopted positions on a number of public policy issues since the Society's founding in 1983. When taking positions as a community on public issues, we require more than a simple majority endorsement of such positions, take them only when a large percentage of our members feel strongly about the issue, and do not require all members to agree. 

If you want to view American Ethical Union statements and positions, visit

Civil Marriage "a basic human right ... State should not interfere"

In February 2004, the Board of the Northern Virginia Ethical Society endorsed the following Civil Marriage Resolution being circulated by The Task Force for Same-Sex Marriage (

The Civil Marriage Resolution states: because civil marriage is a basic human right and an individual personal choice, resolved, the State should not interfere with same-gender couples who choose to marry and share fully and equally in the rights, responsibilities, and commitment of civil marriage.

Death Penalty

While there are differences in views among members as to whether the death penalty is justified in any circumstances, the members of NoVES authorize the Board to take positions on behalf of NoVES expressing concern on the pernicious racial and economic bias in the application of the death penalty. To the extent there is a death penalty, we urge that minimum chronological and mental age limits be established, and that the state take responsibility for providing adequate legal assistance to allow all prisoners to take full advantage of their rights of appeal. December 10, 1989

Economic Justice

We support the right of all people to economic justice.  An individual cannot achieve full potential without adequate food, shelter, education and medical care.  Even in our rich country, too many people are denied these basics.  Elsewhere in the world, starvation, malnutrition, and disease are rampant.  We support government policies which allow people to achieve a decent standard of living through meaningful work.  For people who are unable to work, we believe that the government should assure a minimum standard of living by using revenue from a system of taxation based on ability to pay.  We believe the United States should participate more generously in multinational efforts to help less developed nations achieve self-sufficiencies. June 10, 1990

Iraq War: Opposing Preemptive Military Action

The membership of the Northern Virginia Ethical Society adopted the following statement concerning the possibility of war in Iraq, before that war began. The vote was 47 votes for adopting the statement, 4 votes against, and 2 abstaining.

NoVES Statement on the Possibility of War with Iraq
In considering the possibility of the proposed preemptive military action by the United States government against Iraq, a substantial majority of the members of the Northern Virginia Ethical Society are in agreement with the statement that follows. However, we recognize and respect the diversity of views among our members on this issue. We encourage our members, whether or not they agree with the majority opinion set forth below, to share their views and act on their principles as we all participate in the ongoing national debate on this issue.

A central commitment of the members of Northern Virginia Ethical Society is to the importance of building a more humane world. Yet the world situation that we face today threatens that goal. Answers are not simple. Terrorist actions and governments like that of Saddam Hussein are clearly threats to security and humane living.

War is always a human catastrophe. It can only be justified, if at all, when a clear and compelling case can be made that there are no alternatives short of war for averting an even worse catastrophe. The case that has been made to date to justify attacking Iraq has not met this standard.

While Saddam Hussein is clearly a ruthless dictator, and one who is at least a potential threat to world peace, ruthless and threatening dictators have been successfully dealt with in the past without attacking them. No convincing case has been made for war that would justify the casualties and suffering among Iraqi citizens -- especially children --that may occur in the event of military action, as well as the inevitable casualties among U.S. military personnel.

Further, the occurrence of civilian casualties resulting from an American invasion will likely increase the number of radicalized Muslims ready to join Al Qaeda. No convincing case has been made that an American invasion would make the US and the world less vulnerable to terrorism than before.

For the above reasons, the majority of the members of the Northern Virginia Ethical Society wish to go on record in opposing preemptive military action against Iraq. We also urge our government to work through the U.N. Security Council and in cooperation with our traditional NATO allies toward developing policies and programs which have broad international support. We should reach out to the international community to ensure that our power and influence are tempered by the best common judgment.


In accordance with its long-standing policy of not discriminating on grounds of race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation, the Northern Virginia Ethical Society welcomes all persons who share its philosophy. March 10, 1991


We uphold the right of all people to live their lives in peace. Believing in the supreme value of every individual, we condemn war as the ultimate rejection of human worth. We urge strengthening of United Nations peacekeeping machinery, and the simultaneous and rapid reduction by all nations of armaments and armed forces. While all types of armaments are a threat to peace, we particularly call for an end to nuclear arms, which threaten the survival of the human race. The right to live in peace implies the right to live free from outside domination and interference. We therefore support the right of all people to self-determination. April 23, 1989


We uphold the right of all people to a healthful environment.  Our respect for human worth necessarily extends to the earth, air and water, which make human life possible.  We support the strongest action to prevent the pollution of these resources and to remedy damage already done.  April 23, 1989

D.C. Statehood


Whereas, this nation is founded on the belief that all people are endowed with certain inalienable rights and that to secure these rights, governments are instituted, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; and

Whereas, the rights of the residents of the District of Columbia are abridged when the U.S. Congress imposes its will on local matters and denies them voting representation on federal issues in both houses of the U.S. Congress;

Whereas, the people of the District of Columbia are the only Americans who still bear all of the responsibilities of citizenship, but who do not enjoy all of the rights of citizenship, including authority over state and local matters and representation in both houses of Congress, making the District, in effect, a colony under Congressional jurisdiction; and

Whereas, statehood will ensure that residents of the District of Columbia enjoy full rights in state and local matters and voting representation in both houses of the U.S. Congress just like every other citizen of the United States of America, and is a matter of simple justice:

Therefore be it resolved that the Northern Virginia Ethical Society urges Congress to support granting the people of Washington, D.C. the full rights of American citizenship by making the residential and commercial areas of the District of Columbia the 51st State of New Columbia, while preserving a smaller federal district as the nation’s capital.  Approved by the membership, December 2015

Gay Rights

The Northern Virginia Ethical Society regards homosexual preference as a normal human variation and not a form of sickness or perversion. We call for an end to all discrimination against gays and lesbians and we support the right of gays and lesbians to contract legal marriage. In accordance with its long-standing policy of not discriminating on grounds of race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation, the Northern Virginia Ethical Society welcomes all persons who share its policy.  March 10, 1991

Civil Liberties

We uphold the right of all people to civil liberties.  Human dignity requires freedom of speech, freedom of conscience and equal treatment under the law.  As the servant of the people rather than the master, government’s role shall be to promote these rights, assuring equal access to housing and employment for all. The government shall provide a system of public education, maintaining separation of church and state.

Gun Violence


While the Supreme Court has held that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to "keep and bear arms", they have also made it clear that this right is "not unlimited".

The Northern Virginia Ethical Society believes it is a moral imperative to reduce death and injury from gunfire and endorses comprehensive and effective public policy measures such as those recommended by the International Association of Chiefs of Police Association (IACP) and other experts, including:
  • Keeping guns out of the hands of prohibited persons by closing gaps in the background check system, including requiring Brady criminal background checks for all sales at gun shows;
  • Decreasing the firepower available to civilians by prohibiting large capacity ammunition magazines;
  • Implementing a common sense, comprehensive approach to help law enforcement prevent gun trafficking that will decrease the availability of illegal guns, including licensing handgun purchasers and strengthening the regulation of gun dealers;
  • Strengthening record keeping of gun transfers, and requiring the reporting of lost or stolen guns to law enforcement to ensure better accountability of guns for persons involved in the supply of guns to the illegal market;
  • Supporting efforts to increase resources and capacity for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and repealing existing statutory restrictions that hamper the agency's ability to combat illegal gun trafficking;
  • Supporting new technologies to help law enforcement more effectively trace crime guns and supporting development of safety features to childproof guns;
  • Encouraging local efforts to prevent and reduce gun violence;
  • Urging firearms retailers to implement protocols aimed at preventing the sales of firearms to prohibited purchasers and preventing "straw purchases"; and
  • Improving the National Violent Death Reporting System Data, and restoring firearms research funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Approved by the membership, January 2016



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