Thursday, May 20, 2004
I'll push pause on the multiple projects that have crowded out all thoughts of blogging this week to put in my two cents on a story a bunch of you have called to my attention: According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the elected state comptroller of Texas, Carole Keeton Strayhorn, has determined that a Unitarian church is not a legitimate religious organization, at least for state tax purposes.
Back to my original post: Several things are off about this story. For one thing, the rule Strayhorn had been applying, which was first adopted by her predecessor and which she had used to turn down applications for tax exemption by 17 groups, was struck down in 2001. Her appeals about that ruling have all failed. Just last month, the state supreme court chose not to review the ruling against Strayhorn. So why try again with the Unitarians?
It's possible that the small Unitarian church went about its application in an unorthodox way, as it were, failing to invoke the Unitarian Universalist Association's recognized status as a religious body of which the congregation is a part. It's possible, in other words, that the congregation unknowingly (or provocatively) applied as a religion in its own right.
It's possible that the paper just got the story wrong. After all, it nowhere says when the Unitarian church's application was turned down. It's also possible that the Unitarians were turned down more recently because the comptroller lives in an alternate universe where the courts don't get to invalidate unconstitutional laws. But the story doesn't say. And my fellow Unitarian Universalists will no doubt be struck by the fact that this story first appeared in the same newspaper that so completely misinterpreted Bill Sinkford's "vocabulary of reverence" sermon deep in the heart of Texas back in January 2003.
More juicily, of course, there are the conspiracy theories: Strayhorn, the much-divorced mother of White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan, may want to run for governor and may simply be throwing a bone to right-wing Christians by doing battle with the Wiccans, atheists, and Unitarians in the state — even though she can't actually do them much harm. The tax-exempt status of the state's religious liberals doesn't really seem in doubt, but to conservatives, Strayhorn can still look like a culture warrior.
You're no doubt disappointed that we UU bloggers are coming late to this story. Boy in the Bands plots revenge, but I merely noted the story two days ago in my Scrapbook. Heavy-traffic liberal sites like Electrolite, Atrios, and Political Animal have all hyped the news. But Charles Kuffner at Off the Cuff owns this story, blog-wise. He breaks the story to the blogosphere and then follows up with more.
The story is also bringing previously unknown UU bloggers out of the closet: Meet Thankful for Doorknobs, for example.
Copyright © 2004 by Philocrites | Posted 20 May 2004 at 6:11 PM