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Unitarian martyrs

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Unitarian martyrs

Unitarian martyrs are individuals who died for their adherence to Unitarianism, a theological position which claims to derive from the Christian Bible and denies the Trinity, instead maintaining that there is one God in one person (the Father). And in modern times as the Unitarian moment broadened to embrace more than simply Christianity, Unitarian martyrs may rightly now also included, individuals who died for their adherence to Liberal religion. Following is a partial list ordered by date of some of these martyrs.

Ancient times

260 AD: Dionysius of Alexandria - was denounced at Rome for calling Jesus a "creature of God." Later (likely due to pressure), he recanted.[1]

336 AD: Arius - claimed to have been murdered by a mob in the streets of Constantinople shortly after Constantine I's death. However other accounts suggest that he was poisoned or that he was not murdered at all (see the article on Arius).

339 AD: Eusebius of Caesarea - is suspected to have been murdered; his Ecclesiastical History ends abruptly with the death of Constantine I. In any case he was definitely excommunicated[2]

Dark Ages

476 - 1000 AD. - Dark Ages. Little history recorded.

There is a lot of recorded history for this period, some relates to the Unitarian belief, or questions regarding the Trinity.


1529: Ludwig Haetzer - beheaded in Konstanz, Germany; believed Jesus was a leader and teacher, not a God due worship

1553: Michael Servetus - burned at the stake after a prison term because of writing a book criticizing biblical evidence for a Trinity.

1579: Francis David - Lutheran pastor in Transylvania; after Unitarian King John Sigismund died, orthodox views regained power. Francis David was placed in prison, where he ultimately died.

Modern times

1697: Thomas Aikenhead - a medical student, executed for dening the Holy Trinity, an offence under England's Blasphemy Act 1697. On the morning of January 8, 1697, Thomas wrote to his 'friends' that "it is a principle innate and co-natural to every man to have an insatiable inclination to the truth, and to seek for it as for hid treasure. . . So I proceeded until the more I thought thereon, the further I was from finding the verity I desired. . ." Aikenhead may have read this letter outside the Tolbooth, before making the long walk, under guard, to the gallows. He was said to have died Bible in hand, "with all the Marks of a true Penitent".[3]

1942: Norbert Capek – preached religious freedom (including Unitarianism). Was sent to the Dachau concentration camp, and later gassed to death at Hartheim Castle. Founder of the Czech Unitarian Church, and author of many hymns in Czech. Mother Spirit, Father Spirit and View the Starry Realm are both in Singing the Living Tradition, published by the Unitarian Universalist Association.

1965: Viola Liuzzo was a 39-year-old white mother and a civil rights worker from Detroit who came to Alabama to help with voter registration. She was murdered March 25, 1965 en route to a civil rights meeting.

1965: James Reeb clubbed in Selma, Alabama, after responding to a call by the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. for a second Selma–to–Montgomery–march. Selma's public hospital refused to treat the Rev. Reeb, who was taken to University Hospital in Birmingham, two hours away. Reeb died on Thursday, March 11, with his wife by his side. His death inspired thousands to join King in the successful third march to Montgomery.

1988: Toribio Quimada, founder of the UU Church of the Philippines, shot on Negros Island by unknown assailants believed to have been responding to his social justice ministry.[4] While Rev. Quimada is listed as a Unitarian martyr, his theology was clearly Universalist, rather than Unitarian. His church was founded with Universalist beliefs, but became Unitarian Universalist about the same time (1961) that the Unitarian and Universalist denominations in the United States merged. The church remains affiliated with the denomination in the United States.[5]

2008: Greg McKendry and Linda Kreager, killed as a result of a politically motivated shooting that took place at their church the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church.


  1. ^ CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Dionysius of Alexandria
  2. ^ Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series II, Vol. I
  3. ^ Thomas Aikenhead
  4. ^ Greer, Jane (August 30, 2010). "Morales visits Unitarian Universalists in the Philippines". UU World Magazine. Retrieved September 26, 2011. UUA President Peter Morales is visiting Unitarian Universalists in the Philippines from August 26 to September 2 
  5. ^ Muir, Frederic John (June 1, 2001). Maglipay Universalist: A History of the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Philippines. 

External links

  • July 28, 2008 blog post citing news stories and recognizing Greg McKendry as a martyr, including picture
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