Right of Sanctuary
Woody's plea for "political asylum" was in the tradition of people who were fleeing persecution seeking asylum in churches and obtaining the protection of the people there, who understood and respected sanctuary as a right. This right has a long history dating back to ancient times, and including in the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages and in Nazi Germany. In the 1980s the Unitarian Universalist Church became known for providing sanctuary to refugees fleeing wars and persecution in Central America, activism which continued in the 1990s with organizations such as the Unitarian Universalist Central America Network. Woody well understood this as he had studied the wars in Central America, and had many friends who were raised as or are currently Unitarian.
The issue of violation of sanctuary has received little attention in the press, and was avoided by an article in the U. U. World magazine. It was also not examined in Sorrell's flawed Woodward Shooting Report even though, according to eyewitnesses who were voluntarily in the sanctuary with Woody at the time the police arrived, the situation was under control, and several churchmembers attempted to persuade the officers not to enter.