Monday, June 10, 2019

The day Texas tried to say that Unitarian Universalism was not a religion



I missed this story when it happened (2004) but apparently a recent Texas Comptroller attempted to remove the tax exempt status of the Unitarian Universalist Church, by denying that it did not fit Texas' definition of a church because it did not advocate one strict doctrine. This put the state of Texas in the business of defining what a religion is, and specifically stating that it must involve belief in a higher power. Without such belief, the religion is "creedless" and not a religion in the eyes of the state.

From the blog, The Weaker Party. To read more about this situation click here.

1 comment:

  1. This has a rather fuller coverage.
    https://www.religionnewsblog.com/7303/texas-official-says-unitarian-church-not-a-tax-exempt-religion

    I was a Texas Comptroller employee, and member of First UU Austin, at the time. There were at least 5 UU employees at the Comptrollers Office, and we were, needless to say, embarrassed. The decision was made by a front-line employee during routine processing. They had never heard of UUism, as many, if not most, people haven't. once it was taken to the media, I think top management felt they had to defend the decision. When it was pointed out internally that there were Unitarian presidents, the number of Unitarians and Universalists on U.S. stamps, there were a number of UU churches in Texas who had long-standing tax-exempt status - and that there were several Comptroller employess who were UU - the decision was reversed.

    That said, as long as governments grant special privileges to religious organizations, they are going to be in the business of defining what is and is not a religion. The Comptroller put it rather badly at the time, but she was correct that we can't consider just any organization to claim religious exemptions. The question has to be where the line is drawn. The 'recognized creed" is a long-standing piece of the IRS criteria. Belief in a supreme being is a Texas criterion, and is on iffy ground.

    https://www.irs.gov/charities-non-profits/churches-religious-organizations/churches-defined

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