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Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Can't get enough of Strayhorn and the Unitarians?

Here's Davidson Loehr, minister of the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Austin, Texas, writing in yesterday's Austin American-Statesman:

It has been interesting watching the Texas comptroller's office try to define what counts as real religion in Texas. In addition to picking on Austin's Ethical Society for four years, the comptroller's office decided last fall that Unitarians are also among the Great Unwashed, denying tax exemption to the Red River Unitarian Church in Denison. And this spring, when the state's case against the Ethical Society was finally rejected by the Texas Supreme Court as "constitutionally infirm," Carole Keeton Strayhorn, our current comptroller, promised to take her infirmity and Texas' reputation to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In the original trial, state attorneys told the Ethical Society that it wasn't a religion unless all of its members believed in a God that was a being — not a symbol or concept, but an actual critter. (I was present at the original 2000 trial, as a proffer witness). Later, perhaps after talking with someone who had taken an actual religion course, the comptroller's office demanded only that some unspecified percentage of society members believe in "God or gods or a higher power." This is sweller, and should allow wiccans, AA chapters and algebra clubs to qualify.

Good one! Loehr goes on to describe a memorial service Strayhorn recently attended in his church, along with other less traditional services she could have attended at other times if she had wondered about UU diversity. He concludes:

You know, maybe this whole business of granting tax exemptions to religious institutions should be revisited. Maybe the exemption should be proportional to the number and range of sincere and nuanced beliefs a church is able to embrace. That would do a more adequate job of serving the immense variety of spiritual paths taken by our citizens.

But I don't mean to tell Strayhorn how to do her job. Heck, I'm no more of an authority on comptrolling than comptrollers are on, say, religion.

("Lessons you can learn from the Unitarians," Davidson Loehr, Austin American-Statesman 6.15.04, reg req'd)

Copyright © 2004 by Philocrites | Posted 16 June 2004 at 7:08 PM

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