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May 30, 2004 - A Follow-Up on the Unitarians (Texas Theology Revisited)

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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 of belief.”

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. 

The 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. 

The status 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. 

Jesse 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." …


Oh good. 

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. 

Frankly, 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. 


Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
The inclusion of any text from others is quotation
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