19 May 2004
I don't believe this
"Darn those Unitarians!" says the old joke. "They burned a question mark on my lawn!"
Suddenly it's not quite so funny. A Unitarian Universalist church in Denison, Texas has lost its tax-exempt status because, says Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn, it does not have one system of belief.
Jesse Ancira, counsel for the Comptroller's office, says that the criterion for the tax exemption is simple: the group must have "a belief in God, or gods, or a higher power." Most of the groups turned down are distinctly outside the mainstream, but the Unitarians (who merged with the Univeralists in 1961) boast two US Presidents: John Adams and his son John Quincy Adams. Not that they'd ever boast, of course.
Notes Patrick Nielsen Hayden:
This kind of story always provokes the suggestion that maybe nobody should get a tax break for calling themselves a church, which would have the salutary effect of getting the government out of the business of ruling on what is and isn't religion. In the real world, however, that isn't going to happen. Meanwhile, to the State of Texas in 2004, a money-making racket founded by a third-rate science fiction writer qualifies as a "religion" and the faith of Ethan Allen and Daniel Webster doesn't. This is what barbarism looks like.
Name of said racket withheld for obvious reasons.