May 18, 2004
Strayhorn gets into the religion business

I'm at a loss to describe this.

Unitarian Universalists have for decades presided over births, marriages and memorials. The church operates in every state, with more than 5,000 members in Texas alone.

But according to the office of Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn, a Denison Unitarian church isn't really a religious organization -- at least for tax purposes. Its reasoning: the organization "does not have one system of belief."

Never before -- not in this state or any other -- has a government agency denied Unitarians tax-exempt status because of the group's religious philosophy, church officials say. Strayhorn's ruling clearly infringes upon religious liberties, said Dan Althoff, board president for the Denison congregation that was rejected for tax exemption by the comptroller's office.

"I was surprised -- surprised and shocked -- because the Unitarian church in the United States has a very long history," said Althoff, who notes that father-and-son presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams were both Unitarians.

His church is just one of several Unitarian congregations in North Texas, including churches in Fort Worth, Arlington and Southlake.

Strayhorn's ruling, as well as a similar decision by former Comptroller John Sharp, has left the comptroller's office straddling a sometimes murky gulf separating church and state.

What constitutes religion? When and how should government make that determination? Questions that for years have vexed the world's great philosophers have now become the province of the state comptroller's office.

Questions about the issue were referred to Jesse Ancira, the comptroller's top lawyer, who said Strayhorn has applied a consistent standard -- and then stuck to it. For any organization to qualify as a religion, members must have "simply a belief in God, or gods, or a higher power," he said.

"We have got to apply a test, and use some objective standards," Ancira said. "We're not using the test to deny the exemptions for a particular group because we like them or don't like them."

The courts have ruled against this "test", and I must say I'm a little disappointed with John Sharp for creating it. That was bad enough, but Strayhorn is vowing to keep fighting it, for reasons unclear to me. Doesn't she have better things to do, like throw rocks at Governor Perry?

Via Julia, whose news aggregator is clearly mightier than mine.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on May 18, 2004 to The great state of Texas | TrackBack

I very recently joined a Unitarian Universalist church here in MN, and I have to say that while I'm mightily offended by Strayhorn's (et al.) statements, I'm not very suprised. "UUs" ("you-yous," which, frankly, is a lot more fun to say than "Catholic," or, more accurately, "ex-Catholic") put great emphasis on personal spiritual exploration and experience of the Divine, and refuse to dictate to anyone else what form that experience takes. Because of that, UUs expressly have no creed which a member must profess to join. Having lived as a Catholic in Texas, I can understand how "unreligious" that must seem to Strayhorn's eyes. The fact that every UU church pretty much does its own thing service-wise probably doesn't help.

And while you can't by definition make too many generalizations about UUs, you can say that we tend to be a liberal bunch. UUs have been celebrating same-sex weddings for years, and have ordained gay ministers since the 60s, I believe. You may recall that a pair of UU ministers were arrested in New York a few months back for performing same-sex weddings. I would hate to think there's any kind of political motive behind Strayhorn's remarks. I can't imagine it's purely economics; the uncollected revenue from a 5k-member church can't be that huge, can it? Or is this another school funding scheme? ;)

Another thing that doesn't help is the fact that UUs are almost categorically allergic to evangelizing about their church (that emphasis on personal rights again). My wife and I stumbled across our church somewhat blindly, but we're happy we did.

Posted by: CrispyShot on May 18, 2004 11:20 PM

OK, before, I was just offended and a little sad. Then I read the whole Star-Telegram article, and now I'm f***ing p***ed. If I may quote:

"Strayhorn vows to continue the legal fight to the U.S. Supreme Court, if necessary. 'Otherwise, any wannabe cult who dresses up and parades down Sixth Street on Halloween will be applying for an exemption,' she said in a April 23 news release."

With all due respect (and I ain't sure how much is due, frankly), this is the tradition that claims the aforementioned Adamses (plus Abigail), Ethan Allen, Thomas Paine, Daniel Webster, William Cullen Bryant, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Robert Shaw (the conductor), Emerson, Isaac Newton, T. Berry Brazelton (an important name for prospective parents to know, Chuck!), and Beatrix Potter(another one!). The church's traces its history traces back to at least the 16th century, and if you want to consider the whole Trinitarian vs. Unitarian debate, back to the 3rd century. Does Strayhorn know anything about what she's ruling on!?

Sorry. I feel a little better now.

Posted by: CrispyShot on May 18, 2004 11:54 PM

"simply a belief in God, or gods, or a higher power,"

Buddhists? Wiccans? Pagans? Jews who decline to name G_d? Who else? Who's next? I suppose UU's are first on Strayhorn's agenda because there's more shock value in persecuting a large, mainstream, well-established liberal religion. Well, our 16th-century predecessors CrispyShot mentions above were sometimes burned at the stake; at least we recognize the gathering of firewood when we see it.

The question comes down to this: if you have a sense of something which transcends or informs this world, and a church in which you express that sense, and that church has had a national organization in America for over a century and roots that go back many centuries, but your church doesn't have a specific single creed or test of faith, or a specific name for God, or a standardized worship service... does it lose its tax-exempt status? And if so, what does that spell for separation of church and state?

It can't be argued that UU's lack age, widespread geographic distribution or a religious tradition; even in the U.S., considering both the U part (Unitarian) and the U part (Universalist) of our heritage, we're older than many Christian denominations. My particular UU church was founded in 1914, and its roots in Houston go back before the turn of the 20th century. That's all readily available in print, on the web. Is wanna-be Governor Strayhorn unable to read, as apparently former Governor Bush is? Or does she just adopt his policy of not reading anything that doesn't agree with her limited mindset?

Let's face it: this is a crude and heavy-handed pitch to Strayhorn's fundamentalist Christian base. And it may well backfire: many liberal Christian denominations (and even a fair number that are not so liberal) whose votes Strayhorn might seek have friendly relations with the UUA... and they, too, might ask the question, "who's next?"

If there were not already enough evidence that a Governor Strayhorn would be no better than a Governor Perry, I think I at least have just received the last bit of evidence we need.

BTW, I believe the estimate of 5000 UU's in Texas is low. I don't have the actual numbers, but 5000 seems about the number of UU's I myself know in Texas. :)

Posted by: Steve Bates on May 19, 2004 12:42 AM

Heh. The exemption on taxation requires the state to determine what is and what is not a religion, which is a constitutionally unsound requirement to place upon the state. So, let's kill two birds with one stone and remove the exemption. Second Baptist's property taxes alone could fund a significant part of the state's current budget crunch.

Hey, it worked for Henry VIII...

Posted by: Michael on May 19, 2004 5:26 AM

I should have known to come here for sensible Strayhorn-ragging rather than bothering to read about it anywhere else.

Strayhorn is an ass. And the other test I've read she applies (closed services) is equally wrong-headed. While I know many Texans think the LDS church isn't a religion but a cult, the fact that temple services are closed to the public makes no sense as a possible reason to deny tax exemption either.

Posted by: Ginger on May 19, 2004 5:30 AM

Oh, be careful about Brazelton - he's got some good things to say, but he also has a bit of a cult. If someone uses him as an authority, you really want to go to the source, because he's really popular with Parents with Theories.

Oh, also Rod Serling.

Posted by: julia on May 19, 2004 7:47 AM


Posted by: wŇÓ† on May 19, 2004 9:23 AM

It won't fly. The Ethical Society, which makes no pretense about not being unitarian, binarian, trinitarian or any other sort of deistarian has been involved in this sort of dispute for quite some time. The members call themselves ethical humanists and are considered members of a religious organization. From their website:

Texas Supreme Court Refuses State of Texas Appeal of Ethical Society of Austin Case

Earlier today (April 23, 2004) we received notice that the Supreme Court of Texas has denied the State of Texas petition to review the tax-exempt status case they brought against the Ethical Society of Austin. The State of Texas may now appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court however, the attorneys for the Austin Society have “confidence” the Court would not accept. The State of Texas has just a few weeks to make this appeal.

Posted by: piegrrrl on May 19, 2004 9:29 AM

I'm amazed, I'm amused -- but I also have a serious question that maybe someone can help me with:

What does it matter what the Comptroller's opinion of the UUs or ANY church is? They're obviously a non-profit organization that doesn't participate in political lobbying. What benefit is there to being an "official" religion approved by the state of Texas? Why can't the Wiccans or Druids or Star-Bellied Sneetches set themselves up as a tax-exempt org?

Posted by: dix hill on May 19, 2004 9:35 AM

crosspost with piegrrrl

Posted by: dix hill on May 19, 2004 9:37 AM

Dix Hill - We're talking about property taxes, which is why the Comptroller's office is involved. I daresay it's a five-figure distinction to this particular church.

And may I just say, I've clearly arrived as a blogger if the estimable Woot is doing his boobie thing here. :-)

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on May 19, 2004 9:44 AM

So, for instance, the Baptists are exempt from property taxes, but the Boy Scouts and the Kiwanis Club are not?

Posted by: dix hill on May 19, 2004 9:50 AM

We don't have one system of belief? How about that literature available in every Unitarian church that includes "What we believe". Does that count as a system of belief?

For the record, the most important part of becoming a UU includes a promise to abide by Seven Principles:

These infuse every aspect of life and worship in a UU congregration.

Posted by: Randy P on May 19, 2004 9:56 AM

First they came for the Unitarians, but I said nothing because I was not a Unitarian...

Posted by: renato on May 19, 2004 9:56 AM

piegrrrl (did I get the right number of r's in that?), thanks for the update. I agree with you and your society's lawyers that "it won't fly." As soon as a government makes its determination of tax-exempt status based on the number or nature or names of gods or higher powers an organization must believe in to qualify as a religion, it has crossed the line.

BTW, piegrrrl, despite the "Unitarian" in the name, the modern UU church takes no doctrinal position on the existence of a god. It's true that I know only a few atheist UU's, but such a belief is not a requirement for membership. Such a requirement would be a restriction on a UU's freedom to explore literally all avenues of religious thought, and we rather insist on that freedom.

Michael, your point is well-taken in both directions. Many churches are wealthy, and taxing all property would indeed obviate the need for a governmental decision on what constitutes a religion. But among the many devices potentially available to a government to control your religious expression, few could be more effective than the sight of the property tax assessor at your church's door. Ask the members of that Denison Unitarian Church.

Posted by: Steve Bates on May 19, 2004 10:00 AM

I have a sneaking suspicion that if this were brought to court that Carol Keeton Rylander McClellan Strayhorn will be forced to change her mind. The state cannot be in the business of deciding who is and who isn't a religion based on their supreme being status.

To be fair, Keeton Rylander McClellan Strayhorn ought to revoke the tax exemption from the "Church" of $cientology. They own a nice chunk of property on Guadalupe St. in Austin, plus a parking lot back in West Campus (or did, last I checked). It's one thing to go after the Unitarians, it's quite another to go after the litigious cult of greed and power.

Posted by: Deana Holmes on May 19, 2004 10:03 AM

I bet $5 that Strayhorn will decide that Dubya's "Prarie Chapel" ranch *does* qualify as a church, and thus is exempt from property taxes.

Posted by: Jon H on May 19, 2004 10:04 AM

I'm with Michael - tax them all. It'd be a hardship for my Lutheran congregation, but think of all the money we'd gain from the Baptists and mega-church evangelicals. Plus, it means they'd have (theoretically) less to spend on proselysing and campaigning for right-wing candidates.
Baptists are the worst I know of...a Baptist pastor I know told me about how they hide the ownership of their properties, so they can't be taken as assets in sexual misconduct lawsuits.
Tax them all!

Posted by: KidRanger on May 19, 2004 10:08 AM

Most UU's I know (if you can't get them to use the word 'believe') at least are willing to acknowledge the use of the words 'higher power' with respect to the ultimate domain of Natural Law, Laws of Nature, or some other version of the accumulation (by humans!) of the rules, working hypotheses, projects in progress that seem to be a good approximation of how the world we live in works. It seems to me that such a 'higher power' has just as good a claim to human credulity as a Jealous Jehovah or a Sadistic Satan.

Posted by: Lou Puls on May 19, 2004 10:11 AM

Randy P, for clarity, when I joined the UU's decades ago, no one asked me to swear or affirm that I believe in those seven principles. I do, of course... they're so generic that many liberal Christians could also easily agree to them... but they are assertions of Unitarian Universalism as a denomination, not something required of any individual UU. In a way, though, that makes your point even stronger, at least as it applies to Strayhorn's criteria.

First they came for the Unitarians, but I said nothing because I was not a Unitarian...

Good one, Renato. Is everyone familiar with Charlie King and Karen Brandow's song setting of Niemoller's text, with a few additions of their own? Very moving.

Posted by: Steve Bates on May 19, 2004 10:12 AM

I am a Texan...please do not judge us all by the actions of Carol Keeton Ryland Strayhorn Whatever-Her-Name-Is-This-Year. She's tossing her hat into the governor's race and she needs serious press time since she'll likely be fighting Kay Bailey Hutchison for the nomination.

Our state government has some pretty whackjob ideas about taxation, this isn't even the strangest. Gov. Perry wants to fund our public schools with an additional $5 cover charge at strip clubs

Posted by: The Goddess on May 19, 2004 10:19 AM

So, for instance, the Baptists are exempt from property taxes, but the Boy Scouts and the Kiwanis Club are not?

State laws allow for all kinds of tax exemptions, including charitable organizations. I presume (though I Am Not A Lawyer) that this church had applied for an exemption under the Religious Organizations section of the code, and Strayhorn's ruling denied that. Whether it's practical or possible for them to apply under another section of the code, or whether fighting it out right here makes more sense, is not something I'm fully qualified to answer.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on May 19, 2004 10:22 AM

Sorry if I came off as Texas-bashing, Goddess (an apt pseudonym for this thread, no?). I'm an ex-pat Texan, born in Richardson, schooled in Dallas and San Antonio, so I'm intimately familiar with the Great State's charms and foibles. My ire was meant for the Strayhorn and Sharp.

And yo, Chuck, you HAVE arrived! You've been Wooted!

Posted by: CrispyShot on May 19, 2004 10:32 AM

Does this surprise anybody? I mean, Texas is full of imbecilic Christian fascists that would prefer burning at the stake for witches instead of honoring their right to believe what they want to believe. A freind of mine lived in Texas for a few years and he said his neightbors were convinced he was cursing them and sending demons to torment them. His windows were busted out, his car was vandalized, and his mailbox was blown up numerous times. His sin? He had purple hair, wore all black, and he listened to Aphextwin.

He told me about one incident where he was listening to a song called "Come to Daddy". The songe begins with a distorted voices singing "I want your soul, I need your soul". The Christian freaks came over with a shotgun and a bible and told him to turn off the music. he called the cops and they told the cops he was trying to lure their children into his lair to abuse them. The cops arrested him and searched his house/computer. They found some light bondage/S&M porn on his computer and put him in jail for violating their community standards.

Needless to say, he moved away shortly thereafter.

Texas is the armpit of this country. It is no surprise that both Tom Delay and George Bush are from there.

Posted by: SCOTT FANETTI on May 19, 2004 10:42 AM

George Washington: "The government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion."

Posted by: Tiparillo on May 19, 2004 10:47 AM

George Washintun never said nothin like thaaayut. He wuz a good Christian mayon jess like Mortha. Yew been reedin to meny 'o them communist librul book lernin books, I reckin. Yew needs to head on down to the church an git saaayved.

Posted by: SCOTT FANETTI on May 19, 2004 10:55 AM

It works both ways. Besides the decision whether or not to tax a religious organisation, the government, at least on a federal level also has funds to give religious organisations. (the "faith based" programs) This puts the government in a position of passing on the status of any given sect. Most favored: no taxes, and "faith based" funds. Least favored: Taxed, and no turkee. How long till lobbyists set up shop promising a favorable government "dispensation" for the denominations that can pay for the lobbying? If someone can fit this into the constitutional framework of "Congress shall make no law..." I'd like to hear about it. What it comes down to is; all you folks who aren't the "right" denomination better brace yourselves for a shock! Gee, do ya think the federal government will publish "guidelines" which will help churches change their theology and orginasation to get the maximum funds and avoid taxes? I wonder which denominations have an "in" on this process. Byebye religious freedom!
If your church is deemed "taxable" and they don't pay, that makes all the members criminals, don't it? One never knows, do one?

Posted by: Mooser on May 19, 2004 10:56 AM

Of course, there's really only one question that matters: Is this good for the Jews, or bad for the Jews?

Sorry, couldn't help myself. But seriously folks, will belief in Christ be deemed an inexorable foundation for an approved religion? Cause if we let in those non-Christ-believing Jews, we gotta let in all them debbil worshippers and such.
And you've all heard the old quip: "I don't belong to an organised religion, I'm Jewish"
Takes on a new meaning in terms of the article above.

Posted by: Mooser on May 19, 2004 11:04 AM

Wait a minute....are you telling me there are liberals in Texas? No wonder the guvmint is angry!

Posted by: Aaaargh on May 19, 2004 11:38 AM

Scott, I'll thank you to please not refer to my home as an armpit. I'm sorry your friend had a bad experience living here. I know other people with similar experiences. I also know people who've lived in New York, California, Colorado, Florida, Oregon, and just about any other place you like who hated it and would never live there again. I grew up in NYC and wouldn't move back on a bet. Every place has its pros and cons, OK?

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on May 19, 2004 11:45 AM

Hi folks.

Some have asked why the UUs would care if they were considered a "religious" organization rather than a non-profit. Both do enjoy tax-exempt status but religious organizations do not have to deal with NEAR the amount of paperwork and governmental oversite as non-profits do. religious organizations are almost totally outside of the control of governmental intrusion (which is the way it really should be) and therefore do not have to provide detailed financial and program data to anyone but their own memebers and parent organizations.

These kinds of requirements cost non-profits lots of money and volunteer hours to keep up the the government's satisfactions. This is why standing as a religion is appealing to the UUs aside from the obvious fact that they have been a religion for hundreds of years.

Jeff Jones
Atheist Community of Austin

Posted by: Jeff Jones on May 19, 2004 12:11 PM

Look on the bright side. We can use this decision to strip the Scientologists of their religion exemption.

Posted by: Linda on May 19, 2004 12:16 PM

In addition to the Adams, Millard Filmore and William Howard Taft (Republican Pres. & Supreme Court Justice) were also Unitarians (see For Ms. Strayhorn, I'd direct her to the Second Principal wherein UUs covenant to affirm and promote justice, equality and compassion in human relations. A little daily UUism may help us all.

Posted by: Pete on May 19, 2004 12:17 PM

The UU's also trace their origin to that noted deist hellraiser Thomas Jefferson.

Posted by: Mike Finley on May 19, 2004 12:55 PM

In Michigan, churches are exempt from property taxes, but most nonprofit organizations, charitable or not, 501-c-3 or not, have to pay.

It's easy to organize a not-for-profit corporation: just file some papers, and you're done. It's harder to get that not-for-profit organization recognized by the IRS as federal-tax-exempt under 501-c-3. And it's hardest of all to convince a Michigan local government that your organization fits under one of the very limited types of groups which might be considered property-tax-exempt.

I speak as someone who has been through those appeal hearings.

Posted by: Larry Kestenbaum on May 19, 2004 12:58 PM

Oh, and my web site, The Political Graveyard, lists 125 Unitarian or Universalist politicians.

I also have pages listing politicos in most other major denominations.

Posted by: Larry Kestenbaum on May 19, 2004 1:03 PM

Buddhism doesn't have any required articles of faith; that's the point. I'll bet they're next. I'm guessing Strayhorn is starting with groups she thinks are too polite to shoot back.

Posted by: Sisi on May 19, 2004 1:07 PM

Whoopee ! Free for all! Melee! The all sect, all denomination, totally ecumenical battle royal for establishment preference will now begin! Top seeded contenders include the Southern Baptists, and Likudnik Jews. Although certain fundementalist, evangelical, and pentocostal sects may be dark horse contenders in the tournament, the formerly powerful Catholic Church id not in the running, despite prostituting their doctrine to curry favor with Protestant fundementalists. Get your tickets now to watch religion in America tear itself to pieces! Yep folks, they're goin' for the big prize, a chance to be the establishment religion! Just think of the benefits to your particular religion if you win! Why, you could virtually outlaw the others! How could any church resist getting into the game?

Posted by: Mooser on May 19, 2004 1:12 PM

I wouldn't go as far as Michael, to tax all churches. But I would remove at least some of the special favors they enjoy vis-a-vis other nonprofits.
And I would frog-march (thanks, Joe Wilson) Strayhorn out of the Comptroller's office.

Posted by: steverino on May 19, 2004 1:53 PM

Well, let's put aside the obvious church and state separation issues....

Strayhorn is transparent:

Don't forget that Strayhorn's son is Scott McClellan, W's Press Secretary and odious mouthpiece, more indignant and dodgy than Ari. Another son was appointed by this Admin as the head of the FDA. And the third, in an ironic turn...let's just say that if his mom and W get their way, he'll never legally marry his loved one, by a UU minister or anyone. Along with Cheney's daughter and Gingrich's sister.

It's not hard to see where her loyalties and intentions lie. If you aren't an evangelical christian these days, you are a second-class, immoral citizen.

Posted by: Doktor on May 19, 2004 2:07 PM

The Austin Court of Appeals opinion smacking down Strayhorn's position with regard to the Ethical Society of Austin can be found online here:

What is not clea to me is why Strayhorn is not in contempt of Court by continuing to apply the standard she applied to the Unitartians since according tofootnote 4 of the opinion:

"In addition, the trial court ruled that the denial of tax-exempt status violated the Texas Tax Code and the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution and permanently enjoined the Comptroller from using "worshiping God" or "worshiping a Supreme Being" as the litmus test for determining an organization's tax-exempt status. The trial court also awarded attorney's fees to the Ethical Society."

Another interesting quote from footnote 10:

"Likewise, we reject the Comptroller's argument that our assessment of the Ethical Society's religious nature and purpose should be based on the "common understanding" of the term "religion." Although many of the definitions cited to us by the Comptroller do include the concept of a Supreme Being or a supernatural reality, e.g., Black's Law Dictionary 1292 (6th ed. 1990) (religion "in its broadest sense includes all forms of belief in the existence of superior beings exercising power over human beings. . ."), the purpose of the First Amendment is to protect dissenters from being forced to take the position favored by the majority in violation of their own religious consciences. See Everson v. Board of Educ., 330 U.S. 1, 8-10 (1947). Because the scope of religious belief defies easy characterization, we believe that a constitutionally sufficient inquiry cannot be bound by this particular common understanding of religion. Otherwise, the courts would find themselves as a matter of law declaring entire belief systems that certainly qualify as religions-- such as Buddhism, Taoism, and some strains of Unitarianism--to be outside of the First Amendment's protection."

The Court considered Unitarians basically the easier, more obvious case. (I think the the some strains refers to the fact that some strains of Unitarianism do believe in God and therefore do not fall within the example, though the note could have been written more clearly)

Posted by: Antinome on May 19, 2004 4:57 PM

As a born and raided Unitarian, i think someone mised something.

Unitarians have no dogma, but we do have a central common idea...

we believe in the inherent worth and dignity of every human being

even those who have their head up their ass

Posted by: mdhatter on May 19, 2004 5:21 PM

What benefit is there to being an "official" religion approved by the state of Texas? Why can't the Wiccans or Druids or Star-Bellied Sneetches set themselves up as a tax-exempt org?

seperation of church and state.

non-profits are significantly more regulated.

Posted by: mdhatter on May 19, 2004 6:28 PM

"What benefit is there to being an "official" religion approved by the state of Texas? Why can't the Wiccans or Druids or Star-Bellied Sneetches set themselves up as a tax-exempt org?" - dix hill

OK, what religion are you? Catholic, say, to pick an arbitrary example? Why can't Catholics forgo constitutional protections and set themselves up as a tax-exempt org? Right... because they are a religion. UU's insist on the same constitutional protections for the same reason. Don't ask us to be the poor stepchild among religions. And please don't mock Wiccans; I number a couple of them among my friends.

"The Court considered Unitarians basically the easier, more obvious case. (I think the the some strains refers to the fact that some strains of Unitarianism do believe in God and therefore do not fall within the example, though the note could have been written more clearly)." - antinome

"[S]ome strains of Unitarianism do believe in God"? antinome, I thank you for posting part of the decision, and I agree with some of your conclusions, but do you have any actual knowledge whatsoever of UUism apart from court rulings referring to it?

"I'm guessing Strayhorn is starting with groups she thinks are too polite to shoot back." - Sisi

If so, in UU's, she picked the wrong people to cross!

Other UU's of note, who, if living today, would be more than a bit surprised to learn that their religion is not a religion: Dorothea Dix. Joseph Priestly. Clara Barton. Tom Paine. Adlai Stevenson. Daniel Webster. Ray Bradbury. (OK, I believe Ray may still be alive.) Roger Baldwin. Elizabeth Cady Stanton. ... Oh, why do I bother? There's a web site of famous UU's. Have at it!

Posted by: Steve Bates on May 19, 2004 8:01 PM

Just a note to correct Tiparillo. The quote you cited: "The government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion." actually was not George Washington but the Treaty of Tripoli (1797). It was negotiated under Washington, endorsed by John Adams and unanimously approved by Congress.

Posted by: jim6661 on May 19, 2004 9:05 PM

Listing of Famous Unitarian Universalists:

Paul Revere. Henry David Thoreau. Louisa May Alcott. Thomas Jefferson. Beatrix Potter. Buckminster Fuller. Susan B Anthony. Clara Barton. Amy Lowell. Charles Dickens. Daniel Webster. John Quincy Adams. Horace Mann. Samuel Morse. Bela Bartok. Albert Schweitzer. Dorothea Dix. Whitney Young. Herman Melville. PT Barnum. Horace Greeley. Alexander Graham Bell. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes. Henry W Longfellow. Julia Ward Howe. Florence Nightingale. Frank Lloyd Wright. Ralph Waldo Emerson. Adlai Stevenson II. Gilbert Stuart. Hosea Ballou. Linus Pauling. Nathaniel Hawthorne. William E Channing. Eliza Fallen. Millard Fillmore. Horatio Alger, Jr. Malvina Reynolds. Josiah Wedgwood. Roger Baldwin. Margaret Fuller. Joseph Priestly. Maria Mitchell. Benjamin Rush. Sophia Fahs. Abigail Adams. Nathaniel B Currier. Fannie Farmer. Olympia Brown. Mary A Livermore. William H Taft. Paul D White. Charles Darwin. Rod Serling. John Adams. Percival Brundage. Charles E Scripps. Antoinette Brown Blackwell. Celia Burr Burleigh. Leverett Saltonstall. Ted Sorenson.

Non-Famous UU's: Me.

Posted by: Locarai on May 20, 2004 1:29 AM

i have a long standing belief that certain views should not be met with reasoned debate, because it won't work and is not satisfying.

Strayhorn is a poopy-head.

there, i feel better now.

Posted by: rotifer on May 20, 2004 9:15 PM

As a Texan, I am offended by the earlier references to me and my fellows as imbiciles. Like every subset of humans, we are burdened with our defectives, however. I can say that I did not support this one for public office.

Posted by: Jaelyn on May 21, 2004 6:39 PM

I think UU is a valuable organization and deserves at least as much of a tax exemption as some political action committee.

Maybe that's the answer here. The Texas UU should take about 10% of what they would pay in taxes and donate it to the Republican Party of Texas. They'll have their exemption then, no doubt.

Posted by: Ron - NJ on May 22, 2004 6:47 PM

There should be no way Queen of Hearts Comptroller Straydog wins this suit, except that, now that we live in Bushworld, and likely will until the next Civil War, courts are trending more toward calling black, white. We who believe in separation of Church and State should be encouraged by the 7 to 2 decision in the Joshua Davey suit inwhich religious political extremists like the Texas Comptroller were told that states should not be forced to fund religious training. However, that case has little relevance to this one which the Court could easily decide to reject. Let's hope not though, since religious bigots, such as Strayhorn, are a hard headed and determined lot.

Posted by: Joseph M Sanders on May 22, 2004 10:46 PM

I very much believe in God/Allah/Jah, and in Yahshuah or Jesus or Issa or however you want to refer to him as. I really dont need Judge Strayhorn's or the State of Texas' seal of approval however.

I live in Georgia, another hotbed of racism and capitalistic greed hypocritically masquerading itself as Christianity.

Personally I don't think that religion should even be a category considered by the state for tax-exemption purposes.

There are many in the U.S. who would like to force us all to live in a state such as that described in Margaret Atwood's "A Handmaid's Tale".

Posted by: Malik Aponte on May 23, 2004 2:10 AM

Not having been to Texas myself, I can't comment on the UU controversary. But I DO know about small, right-wing ( & I tend to be conservative myself esp. as I age-curse of age?), biggoted, opinionated, cheap, miserly, generally nasty people here in S.C. Pa. I've lived here for over 30 yrs. & they never cease to amaze me. We have a UU church & I've considered going to services to see if it meets "my" beliefs in a Supreme Being. I only hope the State of Pa.(Land of Taxes) doesn't hear of Texas' latest hairbrained idea or they will certainly apply it A.S.A.P. We are already running out of Dr.s with the high rate of insurance. Now I guess we will run the churches out too. But that's O.K. for me: "Love it or Leave it, M***** F******." Well, in 5 yrs. I'm leaving it. "We done left!"

Posted by: Auzzieick on May 24, 2004 7:01 AM

The Victoria Advocate, Tuesday, May 25th, 2004:

Strayhorn reverses herself on church's tax status

Reversing an earlier decision, state Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn said Monday that a Unitarian church in Denison on the Texas-Oklahoma border will get tax-exempt status.

The decision came after the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported May 18 that the comptroller's office had ruled that 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."

Althoff and other members of the church could not be reached to comment Monday.

Strayhorn's spokesman Mark Sanders said Strayhorn directed her staff to review the decision after questions were raised.

"She asked her general counsel to look into the matter, and he overruled earlier staff decisions," Sanders said.

Posted by: Raven on May 25, 2004 10:27 PM

this debate has defined unitarianism more clearly than i have seen recently.

Posted by: dan on May 27, 2004 8:29 PM

Frankly, I think too many people aply for tax exempt status. People are running a business and use tax exemption as a way of squeezing a few extra pennies from it. So many people look at the government as something to beaten. I'm afraid one day a collapse will come and then we'll all be ringing our hands wishing for the "good old days" only then the "good old days" will really be the "good old days" and not some romantic figmant of an old timers mind.

Posted by: dan on June 15, 2004 1:40 AM