Readers will find the original
items on this matter both on the weekly virtual magazine here or the on daily web log here.
These items noted that Texas grants tax-exempt status to the Church
of Scientology, founded by L. Ron Hubbard, who indeed has written more than a
few science-fiction novels. But the office of Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton
Strayhorn had taken away the tax-exempt status of a particular Unitarian Universalist Church.
Yea, the do-gooders who say all religions basically worship the same God, or universal force, or whatever. Carole Keeton Strayhorn says that is not religion, as the organization “does not have one system
The items reviewed the history and beliefs of the Unitarians.
This made no sense. And now the decision has been reversed.
See Denison church's tax-exempt status granted
Jay Root, Dallas Fort-Worth Star-Telegram (Austin Bureau) - Posted on Mon, May. 24, 2004
The head of the item –
Reversing an earlier decision, state Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn announced Monday that
a Unitarian church in Denison would get its tax-exempt status after all.
decision came after the Star-Telegram reported on May 18 that the comptroller's office had ruled the Red River Unitarian Universalist
Church was not a religious organization for tax purposes.
was denied, the state said, because the church "does not have one system of belief."
Stunned church officials said it
was the first time in U.S. history that any state had denied tax exempt status
to the Unitarians because of their religious philosophy. Father-and-son presidents
John Adams and John Quincy Adams are among past adherents of the Unitarian church.
Ancira, the comptroller's general counsel, sent a letter Monday to Dan Althoff, board president of the Denison church, informing
him of the change.
"Comptroller Strayhorn asked that I review the file
on your congregation's application for tax exemption," Ancira wrote. "After reviewing
the submitted application ... it is my opinion that the Red River Unitarian Universalist
Church is an organization created for religious purposes and should be granted the requested tax exemption." …
Previously from the Star-Telegram (on the 22nd) this was posted:
… "She's either abysmally ignorant of the law or a religious bigot," said Robert London,
spokesman for Americans United for Separation of Church and State in Washington, D.C.
"She's acting like a grand inquisitor in deciding what should be a religion."
Jesse Ancira, general counsel
for the comptroller's office, said Strayhorn is no bigot and isn't prejudiced toward any religion. He said that other Unitarian Universalist church groups have been granted tax exemptions but that each
case is evaluated separately.
"In this case, we didn't think they met
the test of religious worship," he said this week. "We know they have a common
belief in moral and ethical principles, but there is no one statement of faith. It's
a free and open belief in several religions, including those that believe in a higher power."
Ah, that is curious. It was just this ONE church seemed a bit too free and easy in its beliefs for the
State of Texas. But, what the heck, let it go.
A most curious reversal.
One analysis of this all from
deep in Texas is offered by Charles Kuffner over at Off the Kuff and it goes like this -
Now then. In surveying the many, many blog posts
and comments on the original story, one theme I saw was the belief that Strayhorn was attempting to court the fundamentalist
bloc as part of her plan to challenge Rick Perry for Governor in 2006. This makes
no sense to me on several levels - for one thing, Perry has that constituency very tightly locked up (why else would he have
taken that secret trip to the Bahamas to discuss school finance "reform" with the likes of Grover Norquist and James Leininger?),
and for another, Strayhorn has largely criticized Perry from the left as of late.
other than her public expression of distaste for strippers, I can't think of any other recent examples of her pushing a religious
conservative agenda item. Finally … there are still rumors that Strayhorn
may switch parties before making her run for the Governor's mansion.
So it might have been that
electoral politics was behind this all? Who would have thought such a thing?
But as Kuffner points out, "never attribute to malice that which can be chalked
up to stupidity."
Well, sometimes they are hard to distinguish from each other.
And sometimes they are the same thing.