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May 18, 2004

And we’re proud of that pride, too. Via Julia, further evidence (free reg. req.) that Texas should be thrown out of the United States, if not sawed off the mainland and pushed out to sea:
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. […]

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.” […]

Those who oppose the comptroller’s “God, gods or supreme being” test say that it can discriminate against legitimate faiths. For example, applying that standard could disqualify Buddhism because it does not mandate belief in a supreme being, critics say.

Opponents note that the federal government applies less stringent rules for federal tax exemptions, yet manages to discourage fraud and abuse. They also question whether the comptroller’s office has formulated excuses to discriminate against nontraditional groups, such as those that include witches and pagans. […]

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.

At which point milk would sour, dogs and cats would move in together, and Western civilization would fall. Oh, wait, that’s when gay people are allowed to marry. I get so confused.

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. [08:15 PM]

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Hard-Hitting Moderator: Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

Comments on And we're proud of that pride, too.:

Will "scifantasy" Frank ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2004, 09:22 PM:

A wannabee cult that believes in a God who dresses up and parades down Sixth Street on Halloween can get an exception, but if they do it themselves they can't.

Go figure.

Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2004, 09:32 PM:

I guess that means they can attack Quakers too, becuase all one needs to do is aknowledge a belief in a sense of the Divine in other human beings.

And they don't have preachers, and believe they have no doctrine.

Not being a Quaker, per se, I am mangling this a bit, but from the near outside/fringy inside, that is how they present to the outside world.

Yoon Ha Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2004, 10:35 PM:

I am increasingly ashamed of having been born in Houston, TX. Even if I wasn't old enough to vote against G.W. Bush when he was running for guvnor, and was by that time out of the U.S. anyway.

Charles Kuffner ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2004, 11:30 PM:

- bangs head against wall -

I swear, we're working on restoring sanity, as soon as we can find the backup tapes.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2004, 11:43 PM:

You know, I'll bet Charles Kuffner knows how liberal Catholics feel.

Alec Austin ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 12:10 AM:

This just makes me sick.

I've been a member of several different UU congregations over the years, and of them all, the one that was the *least* effective at conveying a sense of social and personal responsibility, understanding, and acceptance-- the UU belief system, if you will-- was the most overtly religious.

No doubt the "you don't believe exactly what we do, therefore you are heathen dogs" test is next on the agenda.

tost ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 01:06 AM:

Alec, I think you're off by a bit.

Instead of "You don't believe exactly what we do, therefore you are heathen dogs," it should be, "We're concerned that there's a possibility that you or someone you know doesn't believe in our state sanctioned brand of fire & brimstone, so let's send you to a secret location in a far off land and put you to the question. By the way, do you prefer women's underwear or attack dogs?"


Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 02:17 AM:

Well, I think I'm going to church this Sunday to see if the subject comes up.

Although I've never formally joined a UU church, it is my spiritual home. If you look at the uua.org website, it even offers a same-sex wedding planning guide. God (regardless of their individual interpretations of God) bless them!

Just when I thought I had outrage burnout, the Texas GOP turns on my church.

One point made in the Star-Telegram article is that some organizations were denied tax-exempt status because their services are not open to the public. I wonder if they'll apply this standard to the Mormons. Somehow, I doubt it.

Patrick is right. We should just throw Texas out of the union. I say we turn them over to Mexico as a non-voting protectorate. That'll larn 'em.

Anna in Cairo ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 03:01 AM:

This is so horrifying. I had no idea there was anyone in the US who can possibly deny the Unitarians as a religion. Isn't this the beginning of a slippery slope? What about religions that have multiple dieties? The US is fast heading into Taleban territory if you ask me. As a Muslim who is about as scared by Muslim fundamentalism as thinking Christians are concerned by Christian fundamentalism, it is truly disappointing to me that more people in the US are not up in arms about the fact that its greatest strength which is the Constitution and a basis in law unconnected to a specific religion or dogma, is being slowly dismantled.

Can someone please tell me how to set my browser so that I can read comments? On Making Light and Electrolite it loads the comments and then they suddenly disappear and I am left with just the blog post. It is really irritating since I am always as interested in the discussion as in T's or P's initial post. This only seems to happen on your blogs. Thanks.

Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 03:33 AM:

I'm speechless. Utterly speechless. Well, if I have to believe in something, I believe I'll have another drink. Better make that a double.

MKK

Scott Martens ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 04:34 AM:

I'm not sure that what prevents just anything from being declared a church under Federal law has anything to do with the nature of anyone's beliefs either. There are entities of an explicitly religious nature, which have a single, coherent theology and a definite belief in a higher power, that nonetheless have to pay taxes. INAL, but it seems to me that the IRS has to look at the actual operations of the entity and how it uses the income it receives when it evaluates something for a tax exemption. The only difference between being a religious organisation and being some other sort of tax-exempt organisation is that when your organisation is called "Christian Outreach to the Homeless" or the "First Baptist Church of Greenville" people tend to give you the benefit of the doubt about your claim to tax exempt religious status.

Certainly by the standards usually applied to tax-exempt organisations, Unitarian societies would generally qualify. Which leads me to wonder if this Texan judge is just getting parochial about the meaning of the word "religion", since there are surely other varieties of tax-exempt status that the Unitarians can easily qualify for.

Rivka ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 09:15 AM:

It's an unconstitutional standard. In Tarcaso v. Watkins, the Supreme Court ruled that the state cannot privilege "religions based on a belief in the existence of God as against those religions founded on different beliefs."

Lucky for me, because there's no way in hell my church could afford to pay taxes on our center-city property.

Bill Altreuter ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 09:32 AM:

It's a tricky problem, actually. You don't want governments to be able to tax religious institutions, since "the power to tax is the power to destroy," but you don't want governments to be in the business of defining what constitutes a religious institution either, except in the broadest of terms. The default should probably be along the lines of, "something is a religion if it calls itself a religion"-- and if it does not engage in activities that are otherwise inimical to the public good. A light touch is called for in this area: religious bigotry is as dangerous as religious tyranny.

I'm not sure which one this is, but I'll be surprised if the decision stands.

Chuck Divine ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 09:42 AM:

Hmm. I wonder when Texas is going to declare the Episcopal Church not to be a religion but a club that meets on Sunday mornings (usually) to discuss religion. We tend to be pretty open minded about lots of things. Some churches have even elected acknowledged atheists to the vestry (the church's governing board). OK, we call such people "skeptics." Even some Episcopalian conservatives went along with Robinson's election as bishop in New Hampshire. They considered it a states' rights issue (yes, truly).

LauraJMixon ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 10:28 AM:

Hey, I've got an even better idea. Let's outlaw tolerance of different beliefs altogether.

-l.

jim in austin ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 10:28 AM:

Carole is just beginning to bang the gong a bit for The Base to prepare for her "goobernatorial" run. Mau Mauing the Snake Handlers, as it were. I guess we UUs were a safe target since there are only a few thousand of us in the state and we vote 99.9% non-Republican. We also have the gall to advertise ourselves as a Liberal Religion. BZZZT!!!

Of course this is going nowhere. It should die a quick death in the courts, should it get that far. If you are wondering why such antics play in Tejas, I urge you to peruse the Texas Republican Platform from 2000. Texas really is a "Whole Nuther Country"...

Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 10:46 AM:

Sasha's grandparents are Unitarians, and we had his naming ceremony in their church. I typed their church magazine for years, and occasionally put pieces of my poetry in as fillers. I approved strongly of their position on gay marriage. Yet never before have I actually felt tempted to walk in and sign up.

Maybe Texas's idiocy will result in a huge boom in Unitarian membership.

Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 10:59 AM:

Nonsense, all Unitarians share a deep belief that Michael Servatus had it together and that John Calvin is a bad man - walk through any children's room and look at the walls.

Many adult Unitarians - perhaps more in the South of the United States, share a belief that the church they were raised in - not UU, the God of their fathers - is mentioned in Revelations - although they come from different denominations.

What more could Texas ask?

Derek James ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 11:29 AM:

For some reason I have a hard time mustering up sympathy for a church that has to pay taxes. It's the selective enforcement that's the problem here, not the policy itself. You were right when you said:

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 isnít religion.

That's exactly right.

Incidentally, The North Texas Church of Freethought, an atheist congregation, enjoys tax-exempt status.

Kathi ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 11:34 AM:

I don't think it has occurred to CKS that, by her litmus test, the Satanists are a church and must be recognized as such. They have open ceremonies as well as closed ones (just as the Mormons do...and wasn't the 12th temple built in Dallas/Ft. Worth, where no unbeliever (non-Mormon) can go?)

As one of the "we not only don't count, you took our representative away" Austinites, I must confess that Texas politics is never boring--because they all keep shuffling places like a shell game. CKS actually is a good administrator, apparently--she keeps track of the money, screams about not balancing the budget (and refused to sign off on a budget that took us into debt, putting her at loggerheads with the gov'nor) and her direct employees do their jobs well and with humor and courtesy--unheard of in state offices.

But I must admit I really hope some mischievous Satanist decides to get his paperwork in order and apply....

Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 11:56 AM:

Just another reason to keep my UU butt out of Texas...

It isn 't the first time the Unitarians (or the Universalists) have been persecuted as a cult, of course. Goes back several centuries in Europe. Several years ago, when I was looking up something about my brother's religious organization (The Way, which the Good Folk(tm) of Texas would probably not list as a cult despite...well, never mind) I found UU listed on a CultWatch list. I found it vaguely comic then, but no longer.

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 12:19 PM:

Isn't Texas where some other judge ruled that it was OK for a cop to disregard cries for help from a victim of a violent crime in progress, based solely on the cop's assertion that he thought the victim was "a homosexual"? (Note: it's not legal for a cop to disregard cries for help based on race or gender, even in Texas.)

Isn't Texas the state where it's legal to shoot someone in the back if they've stolen from you and you believe it's the only way you're ever getting your property back?

Give it back to Mexico? Do we want to sour relations with our southern neighbor even more? Saw it off and push it into the ocean.

Barbarians.

Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 01:42 PM:

Yes, by all means, let's toss Texas out of the Union. Because avoiding problems is much easier than solving them, and nothing says disapproval like disowning someone. I know it works when a family disowns someone for being gay, or agnostic, or whatever. Sure turns them right around, it does.

Oh yes, let's also call them barbarians. Because name-calling, especially towards a group with a long history of embracing what sets them apart, is really going to draw them closer to your point of view. I know it works when people do it to me. Every single time.

abby ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 01:58 PM:

Terry-
Heh, yeah, Quakers are a little disorganized.

There do exist Quakers who have preachers (programmed meetings, we call them), and there are many Quakers (and even more outside the US) who are Christian, and who will tell you that "real" Quakers believe in Jesus/the Bible/etc. I'm always a little thrown by this, as I grew up in a part of the country (New England) where Quakers are a lot like UUs except with a different style of worship. Some of the beliefs are different, but they get expressed in the same ways, and we often seem just a wishy-washy. However, the "Inner Light" belief is consistent across Quakers, and is the one thing you'd be safe in saying that all Quakers believe in. And as its often expressed as "There is that of God in every person," it implies a belief in a supreme being. Dunno what the state of Texas would make of that, though.

Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 02:38 PM:

I love my state, I really do. I'm proud of so many aspects of Texas...but I sure do hate a whole lot of Texans.

FWIW, I was raised in a UU church, and right now I'm so pissed off I could spit.

At the same time, I have to agree in part with Heresiarch...please don't cut me off to spite my jackass neighbours...

Dan Winckler ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 02:39 PM:

Like Jim in Austin said, she's going to run for Governor in 2006 (as a Republican), but this move isn't likely to gain support for her from the religious right. Though dyed-in-the-wool Baptists and such might not agree with the UUs on doctrine, they'll probably be pretty ticked at Strayhorn for denying them tax-exemption.

p.s. The Texas-bashing: oh-so-hilarious. Where do you get such brilliant material? We transplanted Texans are just dying here, truly.

mythago ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 02:39 PM:

In my conspiracy-nut moments, I imagine that state officials like this one have a handshake deal with the local chapter of the ACLU.

"Bob, fundraising's been kinda thin lately. Think your office could do something blatantly unconstitutional?"

"You know, Barbara, that asshat from the local Eagle Forum's been breathin' down my neck about letting the liberal Catholic group use City Hall for a meeting, so I believe I can come up with a solution that'll make her happy AND take care of your fundraising problem. I'm a little worried some of your people are gonna harass my family, though."

"I'll be sure to get the word out that you were pressured by higher-ups. I really appreciate it, Bob."

(Xopher, technically it's illegal in every state to shoot somebody in the back to recover your DVD player from them. Getting the cops to arrest you, a grand jury to indict you, and a court to convict you is a different matter, of course.)

Quaker in a Basement ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 02:50 PM:

Terry,

Looks mostly right to me. As abby points out, there are variations even within the small number of Quakers in the US. As a member of a western independent meeting, a non-Christian (in the strict exclusionary sense of the word), an occasional Buddhist practitioner, and all-round heretic, I'd say your description fits.

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 02:54 PM:

mythago, really? Because a transplanted-to-Texas person told me that. Perhaps it's nonsense. Thanks for answering my question.

Hey, Texans: I'd certainly favor giving plenty of lead time for people to leave the state before we saw it off. I'm not heartless.

No, seriously, I apologize to any current or former Texan who was offended by my remarks. Just as not all Catholics approve of the behavior of the Church's hierarchy or subscribe to its views, not all Texans are barbarians, and I ought not to have used the word without explaining exactly who I meant.

The judges I mentioned are barbarians. The Governor of Texas is a barbarian. The majority of the Texas legislature are barbarians. Therefore the majority of Texas voters are a) deluded, b) apathetic (that's for the ones who don't bother to vote, or who vote a narrow agenda), or c) barbarians.

As a citizen of the United States, I know exactly how it feels to be a member of a large group whose behavior in the aggregate (because the folks at the top are making the decisions) is abominable. The United States is a barbarian entity at the moment. Texas is too (even within the context of being part of the larger barbarian entity). That doesn't mean all US Citizens, or all Texans, are individually barbarians. I apologize for implying that it was.

I've said before, as far as I know there is only one really civilized country in the Western Hemisphere. And it ain't mine, more's the pity.

Charles M ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 03:12 PM:

Isn't Texas the state where it's legal to shoot someone in the back if they've stolen from you and you believe it's the only way you're ever getting your property back?

<sarcasm>What do you take us for - bloodthirsty vigilantes?</sarcasm>

Use of deadly force is authorized in crimes against property at night, during the commission of the crime. I'm not sure if it has to be a felony; given where I live, misdemeanors probably qualify too

We (Houston) had a repo guy killed a few years ago and no conviction due to this law.

No Texan I ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 03:21 PM:

Once upon a time, my spouse had the idea that we'd move back to Texas one day. Luckily for me, I just print up these articles that crop up every couple of weeks and they put an end to the discussion. This one really takes the cake! Thanks folks in Texas, for keeping the moving men at bay! Keep up the good work!

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 03:30 PM:

Charles M, thanks for the clarification. I would list "bloodthirsty vigilantism" as a subcategory of "barbarism," and from your tone I suspect you would too.

That's astonishing about the repo man. He was doing a perfectly legal job (looks like a car thief, sure, but isn't). The shooter got off because he THOUGHT his car was being stolen?

Wow, if I'm ever in Texas and somebody "needs to die" I'll just shoot him and claim I THOUGHT he'd stolen my wallet. Oops, here it is in my pocket, silly me.

On second thought, maybe I'll just never set foot in that state at all. After all, if the cops think I'm queer anybody can do anything they want to me with perfect impunity.

Michael ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 03:50 PM:

Re Quakers: Indiana Yearly Meeting (based in Richmond, Indiana) includes belief in Jesus as your personal savior as part of their nobody-dares-call-it-a-catechism. ("Faith and Practice of the Indiana Yearly Meeting" -- not hierarchical, they just took a poll and everybody agreed on a bunch of stuff, but Jesus was part of it.) And yeah, despite our small numbers, if you have ten Quakers in a room, you have about twelve theologies. (I'm not a member of organized religion; I'm a Quaker.)

A Quaker dies and goes to heaven, and sees two doors. The first door says, "This way to heaven." The second door says, "Study group about heaven." The Quaker goes for the second door. HAHAHA. I'll be here all week, folks.

But for *real* holy-roller Quakers, you want Central Yearly Meeting, with its YM in Plainfield, Indiana. They have preachers and everything, excepting of course Bloomington, which is a normal East-Coast non-programmed service. Central YM is basically Pentacostals with a different history. And non-Pentacostal notions about peace, of course.

... This wasn't on topic, was it? Shut up, Michael, and get back to work.

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 03:56 PM:

Question: How many Quakers does it take to change a light bulb?

Answer:

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 04:04 PM:

(I also have Wiccan lightbulb jokes, and a slew of tradition-specific ones, but they're kind of arcane to non-Wiccans.)

Quaker in a Basement ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 04:05 PM:

"Question: How many Quakers does it take to change a light bulb?"

Answer: None. They see by "the light within."

Bev ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 04:08 PM:

I invite all open-minded persons who share outrage over this to visit a Unitarian Church this Sunday. I think you'll like it. I love mine.

Bev ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 04:09 PM:

I invite all open-minded persons who share outrage over this to visit a Unitarian Church this Sunday. I think you'll like it. I love mine.

robin ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 04:40 PM:

I'm a Texan and proud of it,had family here since the 1800's but I sure as heck didn't vote for Ms Rylander or whatever she calls herself now.
Not all of us are like that - some of us are progressive D's.
But since so many Yankees have moved down here, it's kinda hard to find us anymore.

pericat ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 04:41 PM:

Xopher, you left off (d) easily amused, and prone to stirring legislative shit when bored.

Hell, it keeps Molly Ivins in copy for weeks. Months and years, even, if you count the reprints and book deals.

Anyway, if you disown Texas, where would all the looneytunes Yankees go then? Florida's full; they've been Ryder-trucking down to Texas for years. Place used to be solid Democrat. Now just look at it.

'Sides, it's good for churches to have to prove they're churchy every hundred years or so. Keeps them from getting all slack-bellied and complacent. Next up: Baptists!

mythago ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 05:10 PM:

where would all the looneytunes Yankees go then?

Oregon. You can't possibly be too looneytunes for Oregon.

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 05:14 PM:

QIAB, I'm sure you can see that my answer is also valid. And that yours should be given only after a long pause.

pericat ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 05:27 PM:

I'll grant you that one cannot be too looneytunes for Oregon, but I thought it was full, too. That's what they told me the last time I was there. That and, "Empty your wallet," and, "Border's that road. Don't slow down."

Clay Colwell ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 05:55 PM:

where would all the looneytunes Yankees go then?

Virginia? After all, the VA legislature wants to invalidate contractual safeguards that gay couples make with each other (as long as they consider themselves Married, or Really Significant Others, or whatever term you want to use for "committed relationship").

But, while we're on about Texas (I live in the liberal oasis of Austin, BTW), take a gander at the Texas Constitution -- there'll you'll find a religious test for holding office. Yep, enshrined in that noble document is an illegal requirement that any Texas officeholder must profess to a belief in a Higher Power.

rhc ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 06:01 PM:

Carole Strayhorn's father was Dean Keeton, well known to law students who read his Contracts book. Bet he's spinning in his grave.

rhc

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 06:05 PM:

Yes, Virginia is also on the Don't Go There list. For people who live there it's on the Vacation Out Of State list.

Also they grow tons of tobacco. Burn their fields and salt the earth!

Wait, who's this bespectacled dog, and why is he dragging me into this machine? :-)

rhc ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 06:07 PM:

whoops, make that torts. W. Page Keeton was Dean of the University of Texas law school, a place I turned down in 1973. Been a while.

rhc

Christina Schulman ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 07:49 PM:

Tough choice. If we booted Texas, we'd get rid of Tom DeLay, but we'd lose Lyle Lovett, Tish Hinojosa, Hot Club of Cowtown, and the Austin Lounge Lizards. On the whole, I'd prefer to keep it, and renovate at the first opportunity.

Besides, as a Florida native, I don't get to throw stones.

Doctor Memory ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 08:53 PM:

Nota bene: the state of Texas has, by implication, just declared that Buddhism is not a religion.

*clap* *clap* *clap*

Artificer ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 09:28 PM:

Geez. I realize that Bush being, more or less, from Texas has really opened up the floodgates on abusing Texas, what with Bush's alignment with most stereotypes of the state. Some of the stereotypes are true, some of them aren't. Of course, I'm in Austin, with its historical roots as a University town, with lots of lefty academics and hippy tree-hugger types. So I'm biased -- from here it doesn't look so bad. I really think people need to ratchet down the anger, and 1) not lump all people in Red states together -- this alienates the poor bastards who are fighting the good fight there, and 2) recognize the humanity of even those we disagree with. The ends don't justify the means. Our frustration and anger don't justify using the same kinds of oversimplification and blase' hatred that we've come to hate in the right wing. Sure I'd like to move to Canada sometimes, but don't you think it's better if I stay here in Texas, talk sense to my friends and neighbors, and get a few more people electing politicans who aren't dumber than car parts?
More to the point, just because some dumbass politician says something doesn't make it true or meaningful, and it doesn't mean it represents a majority viewpoint. I was married in a unitarian church, and I go to a buddhist sangha from time to time. I don't feel like some kind of second-class citizen. Carole Keeton/Rylander/Mcclelan/Strayhorn or whatever she calls herself now is the worst kind of politican (if you have followed her record, her husband switching, her party switching), whose every move is choreographed to advance her political aims (next, probably a run for governor). I'll protest this by writing her, not by dumping the state she putatively represents.

KarenY ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 09:34 PM:

"Saw it off and push it into the ocean." This looneytune (if by looneytune you mean freethinking individualist) Oregonian begs you not to loose Texas into the ocean - it would likely bump up along a coastline somewhere...

Sean-Paul ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 10:33 PM:

It is really, really hard being a Liberal in Texas. Heck, it's hard being from Texas period. The state ego is so grotesque.

Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 10:59 PM:

Abby,

I must confess to having been a tad disingenuous when I pleaded ignorance. I am an occaisional attender at the Orange Grove Meeting, in Pasadena, Calif., my fiancee is a Quaker, as are her family. I have (through no direct connection) an ex-girlfriend who was brought up in the same meeting (her mother's family having been Quaker for generations).

I am actually fairly savvy (and perhaps with some of the insights an outsider on the inside can have, after all, fish don't see water).

And disorganised isn't right, anti-structure (though they have one) and anarchic, in some ways, as a matter of faith, but by and large pretty organised.

Heck, the present plan is to have the Meeting marry us, I think I shant wear my Dress Blues.

CSchwally ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 11:07 PM:

All these comments and not one about GA? I'm amazed. The annual national meeting of the Unitarian Universalist Association is scheduled for Fort Worth .....NEXT YEAR!!! Unitatian Universalists from all over the country are planning on attending this event--this religious event--in a state that denies we are a religion? Is it too late to change plans? I was planning on going, but I don't like to support such blatant persecution and discrimination...

Hey, wait a minute... You don't think they denied UUs tax exempt status just before we started making major purchases for GA next year do you?

Mel ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 11:38 PM:

Worth remembering it was also in north TX where the CVS pharmacist made headlines recently for refusing to fill a prescription for birth control.

sigh.

no wonder I have to keep explaining to my friends "yes, I live in Houston, and no, it's not as terrible as you imagine"

bubba in georgetown ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2004, 01:41 AM:

First of all, the whole Unitarian Church angle is off base. Strayhorn was gunning for the Ethical Society of Austin because they "only" espouse a moral philosophy to live by -- particularly, they don't recognize a deity. Evidently the Unitarian Church (and others) were collateral damage (in the sense that they had to pay taxes for a couple of years unnecessarily). The Austin American Statesman ran short pieces marking the progress of the case. Strayhorn lost in the Texas Supreme Court last month so it's kind of old news. I'm surprised the Star Telegram ran such a long piece. Although it had some nice details that I hadn't seen such as the number of rejected tax exemptions (17) and that John Sharp (one of the big Democratic names in Texas) initiated the suit, the story nevertheless was a day late and a dollar short.

Strayhorn has not appealed the case to US court yet but I wouldn't put it past her. She is a shrewd career politician who has steadily risen in power since being a Democratic mayor of Austin when I was a child (she's now (R)). "Jim in Austin" is spot on when he points out that she is toeing the waters for a governor bid. It's possible that she sees the publicity from a Supreme Court case as an opportunity. To give you an idea of her clout, Scott McClellan, the new White House Press Secretary, is her son.

I vote. I vote against crap like this, but hey, I live in Texas. Given a choice between Carol Keeton Rylander Strayhorn and Governor Rick "Zero Leadership" Perry (who presented a budget with all zeros when we were facing a budget crunch on the order of $10 bn) I would have to vote for Strayhorn. God help us all.

P.S. Please don't cut Texas off into the Gulf because I'm politically impotent (maybe because I used WAY too many parenthesis and was too lazy to rewrite).

Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2004, 02:29 AM:

Tangent Warning!
Red State/Blue State: it looks like Red = Republican, Blue = Democrat (from party colours or TV/paper graphics?).

Gee. I remember when calling someone or something a "Red" was a real insult in the US.

Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2004, 02:48 AM:

Hey Terry. If you shant wear your Dress Blues, how about your Blue Dress (stains optional). ;-)

Sorry, couldn't help myself - nothing negative intended and all the best.

Dvd Avins ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2004, 02:52 AM:

PERICAT:

Hell, it keeps Molly Ivins in copy for weeks. Months and years, even, if you count the reprints and book deals.
Anyway, if you disown Texas, where would all the looneytunes Yankees go then? Florida's full; they've been Ryder-trucking down to Texas for years. Place used to be solid Democrat. Now just look at it.
'Sides, it's good for churches to have to prove they're churchy every hundred years or so. Keeps them from getting all slack-bellied and complacent. Next up: Baptists!
You aren't a large-animal veteranarian, are you?

Thanks for reviving gthe Baxter Black voice in my head, you've got the cadences down pat. Is it a local dialect?

Rock ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2004, 07:54 AM:

The funny thing is, most UUs would freely and willingly give up their tax-exempt status - as long as all churches and religious organizations gave up theirs. This came to light recently when Dubbya started handing out funds to religious organizations for "rehabilitation" efforts, etc. Many religious organizations, including UUA and my church, UUCA (UU Congregation of Atlanta) were against that funding because it crosses that line, inch by inch, into state sanctioned religion.

The direction we're heading scares me, and it appears Texas is leading the charge.

MorganJLocke ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2004, 09:25 AM:

I love many things about Texas.

They've got a cool culture, some great cities (I love Austin and San Antonio, in particular), beautiful hill country. There is a strain of generosity of spirit in their culture that manifests itself in surprising ways.

But there's also a deeply rooted strain of race-based classism, and an intolerance perpetrated by large subgroups, who have built themselves a way-too-insulated echo chamber around certain social issues -- religion and homosexuality, to name two big ones.

There are many, many people in TX who don't agree with these points of view. But -- Molly Ivins aside -- they are not particularly organized and don't have a voice. The opinion leaders, the business and religious and political influence mongers, the media, all have a certain way of looking at things. There are few channels for people who don't fit that mold to get their own point of view into the mix, and hear it reflected back. In general, they feel rather isolated.

I agree with those who have been saying that this lack-of-coherence issue is a problem for Democrats across the board. I was reading a blog the other day -- I disremember which -- that was talking about the fact that the Republicans have done an outstanding job of branding certain concepts. We Dems have not.

I know a woman who works for a company that helps organizations define and present their brand. The Democratic party leadership would be wise to hire this company or one like it, to help them craft their message better and get it across.


-mjl

Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2004, 10:32 AM:

I don't have time at the moment to look up some examples, but I've read plenty of horror stories about Kansas. (References to Dorothy not relevant here.) Each time I see another example of Kansas governmental/police/religious abuse and intolerance, I cringe. But then I grew up in the state that elected the Terminator as governor (after I left), my new state AZ is not all democrat-governor-plus-free-wheeling-Republican-senator (there's another guy, rather aptly named Flake), and legitimate pride in country, on this continent, seems to belong exclusively to Canada these days.

mythago ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2004, 11:47 AM:

I'll grant you that one cannot be too looneytunes for Oregon, but I thought it was full, too.

Sure, the wet parts. Lots of room in Harney County. But at the rate Californian transplants die off from SAD, there should be a decent turnover.

C.J.Colucci ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2004, 12:06 PM:

If only the Alamo had had a back door.

Jameson Burt ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2004, 12:15 PM:

Three years ago, Texas took to court the Ethical Society,
started by a former Jewish Rabbi Felix Adler in 1876.
The closest to a creed Ethical Society has is
"Bring out the best in others."

Evidently, Texas had earlier pinned down Buddhism
as a non-religious group,
but Texas finagled a tax exemption
since it was blatant to declare it "non-religion"
when every book on religion includes Buddhism.

Fundamentalist religious foundations have been debunked
by a couple centuries of science and archaeology.
Religions have not adapted to our new knowledge,
and Texas law certainly hasn't adapted.

My fifth grade child's social studies text book
has some Texas authors, so the one chapter
most obviously wrong is its chapter covering Christianity.

For example, even National Geographic,
"Abraham Journey of Faith", December 2001, page 107,
mentioned that biblical textual analysis along with current
archaeological work show no history of over 10,000 Jews making
an exodus from Egypt.
There is no archaeological evidence of this large number of people
roaming around for decades, there is no archaeological evidence of
Moses and thousands of Jews living in Egypt before this,
and there is no written Egyptian evidence of them living in Egypt
or leaving.

Almost all the Bible was written
between 586 and 538 BC,
soon after the Zoroastrians freed Jews from Babylon.
Books of Isaiah and Ester praise the Zoroastrian King Cyrus.
Israel Finkelstein, chairman of archaeology at Tel Aviv University says,
"... much of the reality behind Abraham in Genesis should probably be
dated to the seventh century B.C."
Moses and the exodus reflect a Jewish exodus from Babylon, not Egypt.

Before this, any Judaism was polytheistic.
Zoroastrianism, originating before 1200BC,
had one god Ahura Mazda, one devil,
a messiah, a virgin birth, 3 prayers a day,
a day of judgement for which bad people will go through
molten rock to be cleansed.

There are now about 70,000 Zoroastrians left.
Forced out of Persia by Muslims,
they started Bombay 1100 years ago.
Being doctors and founders of institutions like India's
Tata Institute, they find their religious leaders simpletons.
In an age of ubiquitous knowledge,
most of us are now knowledgeable enough
to conclude that our Christian and Islamic leaders are also
largely simpletons.

Laws facilitating different religion, whatever that might be,
will help make religion so people can live less encumbered and live more fruitfully.

amblongus ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2004, 12:45 PM:

Just remember what Molly Ivins said: Texas is the laboratory for bad government. What happens here today you'll be getting shortly, only bigger and nastier, so wipe that smug smile off your face....

Besides, we've got to increase our tax revenue somehow now that the strip clubs and slot machines plan has been ruled out.

abby ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2004, 01:15 PM:

Terry,

I wasn't presuming ignorance on your part in particular, but "Quakerism 101" is kind of a reflex reaction to any mention. *grin*

As for disorganized, I mostly meant the exceedingly broad range of styles and beliefs that different Friends have. It feels at times like people expect small quasi-fringe religions to be more homogeneous than their larger counterparts.

Also, I think wearing the Dress Blues might be highly entertaining.

Peg Duthie ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2004, 01:54 PM:

CSchwally: Pretty sure it's too late to move GA - all the hotels and meeting places get booked *years* in advance, and there are huge penalties for cancellations. The UUA will end up paying for x spaces whether they're used or not (I can't remember if Boston eventually broke even, but IIRC things were really looking bad for a while budget-wise because the hotel contracts were signed long before 9/11 - by the time GA came around, registration was WAY lower than they had anticipated).

Another angle to consider: showing up will be an opportunity to provide support for the UUs and other religious liberals down there.

(Disclosures: Not affiliated with the UUA, but born in Lubbock and now resident in Tennessee, where I get to be embarassed about Bill Frist instead.)

Peg Duthie ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2004, 01:59 PM:

(Clarification: By "not affiliated" I mean "not employed by, not a spokesperson for, not on the GA Planning Committee" etc. (Realized as soon as I hit "post" that my congregation belongs to the UUA, which probably counts for affiliation via membership in most books.))

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2004, 02:06 PM:

As for disorganized, I mostly meant the exceedingly broad range of styles and beliefs that different Friends have. It feels at times like people expect small quasi-fringe religions to be more homogeneous than their larger counterparts.

As a Wiccan, I know this turf very well. In fact, Quakers and Wiccans have lots in common...one theory about why Quakerism has been on the (numeric) decline in the US has been that we Wiccans have been "taking your marketshare," as it were.

mythago ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2004, 02:45 PM:

Religions have not adapted to our new knowledge

Religion is not science any more than the works of Shakespeare are. That doesn't make it valueless or wrong, any more than the works of Shakespeare are.

Violet ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2004, 02:50 PM:

Well, let's see. I think the proper solution is to strip Texas of its statehood due to its inability to respect the first amendment, but require it to pay federal taxes anyway and allow them to send only non-voting representatives to Congress.

This would have doubly beneficial results by disabusing Texans of the notion that they should be able to demote certain faiths to second-class status, but also calling attention to the fact that people in the District of Columbia have the exact same second-class citizenship described above... while deserving it far less than Texans do.

Keith ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2004, 05:19 PM:

I think it was in Utah a couple years back where one of the legislators pitched a fit because someone asked a couple of visiting buddhist Monks to stop by and have a chant. The legislator in question referred to them as heathens, even. Sure, they burn incense and chop up their dead but seriously, picking on Buddhist Monks or the UU is just low. (And this, from an atheist, who usually gets a kick out of browbeating the religious. What's this world coming to when I'm on the same side of an argument as a bunch of good hearted theists? Soon, these folks will drive me to religion. It's a conspiracy, I tell you! They'll drive me to join the UU out of spite!)

pericat ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2004, 07:37 PM:

Dvd Avins: Thanks for reviving the Baxter Black voice in my head, you've got the cadences down pat. Is it a local dialect?

Central Texas (and points west).

Violet: Well, let's see. I think the proper solution is to strip Texas of its statehood due to its inability to respect the first amendment, but require it to pay federal taxes anyway and allow them to send only non-voting representatives to Congress.

Wahoo! Go for it, I double-dog dare you! Not only would they not pay no federal taxes, but they'd declare the Republic, whose first act would be to send the militia to seize New Orleans.

"President Rick Perry" flows trippingly from no tongues, not even his leading lobbyist's, so there'd be no end of fun finding a replacement Head o' State and Chief Goat Chef. Maybe Ann would come back. That'd chap Dubya's butt, all right.

oh, the Yellow Rose of Texas...

Murray ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2004, 09:26 PM:

Pericat, your concept was predicted in the same song that provides the title of this thread:

"We're proud to be Americans, until we can secede."

--"Stupid Texas Song," Austin Lounge Lizards

Stefanie Murray ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2004, 12:54 AM:

Keith,

Being Minnesotan, I'm sorry to say that that was not Utah but Minnesota, where State Rep. Arlon Lindner boycotted the Dalai Lama's address to the MN State Legislature because Buddhism is "a cult."

May 9, 2001. I'd link but the only one I can dig up is an AP story archived on Lexis-Nexis.

pericat ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2004, 01:35 AM:

Pericat, your concept was predicted in the same song that provides the title of this thread:

Which just goes to substantiate my point: it's not possible to punish or reform Texas via threat of banishment or even Coventry. Been there, done that, told tall tales to each other all live-long night, and come morning, Alamo t-shirts are selling like hotcakes.

Flooding the countryside with Northern refugees from Progressive Thought didn't do a lick of good, either, just raised property taxes and put crud in the rivers.

amblongus had it right, Texas is your civic future. Your near future. Texas put Dubya on display for how many years? practically spotlighting his Slow Man slow dance, watch the monkey pick his ears and shuffle from one public appearance to another. He wasn't but governor, it's not an important job, he could hardly mess up and he still found ways to do it, and on camera. Why Gore never picked up on the film clip of Dubya mocking Karla Faye on death row, I do not know. A clearer portrait of the man's inner soul could not have been found for love or money, and Gore... did something else and state after state clicked GOP red and now my little brother's dodging mortars in Iraq.

Carole Keeton Flavour-of-the-Month is fussing over Unitarians, in Texas that's no more than the outer ring of the constant three-ring circus that Texas is pleased to call government, and she's doing it, right out there where God and everybody know why she's doing it and what she hopes to gain by it, and none of it any clarification of what religion really is, or its relationship to the body politic, and if anyone thinks this is confined to west of the Sabine and south of the Red, that person hasn't been paying attention to the last four years.

You can't tell Texas to pipe down, be quiet and behave, not and get anything useful done. No one liked Cassandra, either, and you see how much good they had of it.

Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2004, 03:22 AM:

Y'all wanna stay in the Union? Hell, you can keep it. I'm all for CA busting out of the union. Except for Orange County. You can keep Orange County.

Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2004, 12:35 PM:

Josh: If Calif. goes, I'll probably (with as deep a regret) pull a Lee and go with it.

Abby: re wearing my Blues... Maia says she has discovered, in the past; almost five years, more than a few things about both the Army and Quakers. The first isn't so bad (at least in terms of people/bloodthirstiness as she had thought) and the second has some huge blind spots, prejudices, and less than acceptable tolerance for the first.

From a personal point of view, yes, it would be interesting, esp. if lots of my comrades in arms were to show up in dress uniforms too (and I can probably get some foreign ones as well) but I don't think I want that sort of entertainment at my wedding.

But I might go to someone elses.

Xopher: as to why Quakerism is declining... they are too quiet in the first place. Most people are amazed when they hear they exist at all, and then they tell the most amazing misunderstandings (can't wear make up, use zippers, etc. lots of confusion with Mennonites) and it is, if taken fully, a difficult religion, requiring active testimony.

Historically that testimony requires some personal risk (look into the Quakers who were killed in Massachussetts).

Combined with very self-effacing church, and ceremony, it doesn't appeal as strongly as it might, not when one has Rapturions and such like being very active in their proslytisations.


Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2004, 01:34 PM:

Yes, and members of the Society of Friends also were major leaders in the abolition movement, as well as frequently stops on the Underground Railroad.

One of my housemates in college was a Quaker. She recalled with some amusement her mother, with fire in her eye and her voice raised just short of yelling, saying "I encourage thee to CLEAN THY ROOM!!!!!!"

Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2004, 03:33 PM:

Among the more practical or at least strictly speaking legal remedies for Texas is to encourage the split into 5. The right to split was reserved on entrance into the Union. Be a great way to Gerrymander - 4 Republican states and a Democratic one?

Feel compelled to say I lived next door to Page and Madge Keeton a long time ago when we were all much younger and the whole family were good neighbors.

David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2004, 04:29 PM:

Oh, great, half a dozen more Republican senators.

Peg Duthie ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2004, 05:02 PM:

FWIW, the Southwest UU District Executive isn't too concerned about Strayhorn's shenanigans. (Link via Philocrites, who was alerted to it by Steve Caldwell.)

abby ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2004, 05:35 PM:

Terry, yes, I've become more and more aware of that particular blind spot/prejudice myself. These days I go out of my way to have conversations with people who are connected with the military, because I've realized how much I grew up thinking of the army as this faceless Bad Thing. Nothing like realizing you think a certain way just cause you've always been told to, expecially when you pride yourself on not doing that sort of thing.

CHip ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2004, 12:29 AM:

Terry (re military dress at a Quaker wedding): many years ago I knew someone who had dropped Catholicism and become a Quaker; she later married a naval officer, who showed up in full uniform. I don't think he had his brother officers do the archway-with-swords thing outside the meetinghouse, but I did hear that Friends were taken aback when he pulled out his sword to cut the wedding cake....

Yupp ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2004, 03:49 PM:

you know, according to the dictionary, Texas IS semantically correct that Unitarian Universalism is not a religion...

Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2004, 07:40 PM:

One of my friends said what I should do is have a bunch of guys with swords on one side, and a bunch with olive branches on the other. It's tempting.

One of the things Maia seems to be doing, perhaps all unawares, is to bear witness to that, previously unseen, bias, and its attendant problems.

Not that my serving hasn't been hard for her (and my deployment even more so). She has been a peach. There are times I am certain she is far better than I will ever deserve.

jnp in Austin ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2004, 08:59 PM:

This whole mess started when some jackhole yankee named dubbya decided that he was not in fact a yankee and that an abysmal track record in life was no impediment to seeking public office. Governor Richards we miss you sorely down here. As a native Texan I have seen a surreal shift in my states political alignment, Dem to Rep. Brought on, I am assured, by the huge influx of conservative northerners and westerners. While I think this might be a slight oversimplification, I remember grumbling about the flood of out of state immigrants in the early 90's. Whatever happened to the semi-conservative Texas democrats omnipresent here for the past 100 years? As a Texas democrat, I feel we have only ourselves to blame. We must become a cohesive party once again by finding common ground among our separate interests. We have all made mistakes, heck I voted Green party last election because I thought no one in their right mind would elect dubbya to office. Then again I felt that way when he ran against Ann Richards in the gubernatorial race...
Did I mention we miss Anne?

James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2004, 10:00 PM:

No one seems to mention that Carole Keeton Strayhorn is really Carole Keeton McClellan Strayhorn.

Her youngest son, Scott, is President Bush's press secretary.

Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2004, 11:59 PM:

Yupp, that which calls itself a religion and behaves like a religion and believes itself to be a religion is a religion. Applying other standards opens worm-containers so large that they can only be transported via C-130s.

So, George Bush's own press secretary's momma is the one ruling that Unitarian Universalists aren't a religion. This is getting strange. Meanwhile, Ms. Carole Keeton McClellan Strayhorn's other son is Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. This may help explain why one of the provisions of the Patriot Act is to make drug companies immune to prosecution for adverse reactions/side effects of the drugs they market.

Buy the t-shirt. Make your own matching tinfoil hat.

Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2004, 04:10 AM:

CHip: I wasn't paying attention to the details of that wedding.

I have an ex-girlfriend, whose sister became a Catholic, and married a British officer. After my relationship with her sister ended, I joined the army, and she went out with a couple more army types, marrying one of them.

I seem to have corrupted her (she's the woman who commented to Gary Louie, when he was being incredulous, "Terry is he's just not non-violent."

I get to go to her, belated, wedding reception at the end of next month. With luck I'll even get to meet the groom.

TomB ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2004, 04:21 AM:

Whatever happened to the semi-conservative Texas democrats omnipresent here for the past 100 years?

You mean after LBJ pushed through the Civil Rights Act and his Great Society programs? Hey, at least it took a Texan to do it.

James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2004, 10:07 AM:

Okay, guys. I've just received word from Our Man in Denison (a native of that town and a life-long Democrat).

It is basically your local crackpot declaring that his home is a "church" and that he is the "pastor." In that way he hopes to avoid taxation of his property and can use his church status as a dodge to paying sales taxes.
Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2004, 11:34 AM:

As I said to Jim in IM, this doesn't add up.

If it's just a straightforward case of someone pretending to be a church when they're not, why didn't Strayhorn's office simply say so? This kind of thing has happened before and it's the legitimate job of state officials to watch out for it. Nobody would find that exceptional.

Instead, they told the press that the group wasn't a church because they didn't mandate a belief in a supreme being or beings. And now they've reversed themselves. Where in all this, exactly, do we find room for the idea that actually this is just a case of a "crackpot...declaring that his home is a church"?

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2004, 11:52 AM:

Here's the web page of the Red River Unitarian Universalist church.

Judging from the "people" section, evidently this "local crackpot declaring that his home is a 'church'" has managed to get a fair number of people to go along with the gag. In addition to Reverend Douglas Strong, we have three officers, four "trustees-at-large," and a six-person "board of coordinators." Several of these people have email addresses. (The "church historian," interestingly enough, has a US Department of Justice address.)

I dunno, maybe all these other people are nothing more than sock puppets, but it really looks like 5,271,009 other little church web sites to me. And one has to wonder as well, if the Red River Unitarian Universalist church was never anything other than your basic "local crackpot declaring that his home is a 'church'", why wouldn't the several Texas newspapers that covered the story have cottoned to this fact? Particularly now that Strayhorn's office has reversed the verdict?

Finally, this statement from the District Executive of the Southwestern Unitarian Universalist Conference, cited abovethread as evidence that UUs in the Southwest are taking a pretty calm attitude and not feeling especially besieged, clearly refers to the group in Denison as a UU congregation in good standing. The statement quotes from a letter from the Red River congregation's President (an individual separate from the Reverend Strong) and also from a resolution passed by the congregation's board of directors. Unless the entire Southwestern Unitarian Universalist Conference is in on the scam, this would seem to directly contradict the claim that the Red River UU congregation is "basically your local crackpot declaring that his home is a 'church'."

Peg Duthie ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2004, 10:39 PM:

Perhaps Jim's friend simply got his churches muddled? There probably are some living-room fellowships near him run by eccentrics. Or maybe there's some other Red River Church he can't abide. Or maybe he had the misfortune to meet a particularly flaky or inarticulate or socially inept UU and does assume we're all crackpots (just as some folks end up demonizing all Christians as aggressively ignorant creationists because their encounters have been limited to pushy evangelists).

Anyhow, FWIW, Rev. Strong is actually one of the higher-profile ministers active in the UUA - he was one of the speakers at last year's opening ceremony for GA (at which I was present), a candidate for Interim Moderator when Diane Olson resigned (the Moderator presides over the assemblies, meetings of the national board, etc.), and a contributor to the Welcoming Congregation Manual.

Raven ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2004, 10:44 PM:

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.

robin ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2004, 12:00 PM:

re: James McD
she's carole keeton rylander mcclellan strayhorn, i think in that order, and there may be one more that i missed, i thought she had been married 4 times (so much for being a 'good' conservative Christian)

DC ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2004, 11:29 AM:

I'd like to correct one thing.

The North Texas Church of Freethought does NOT enjoy tax-exempt status as claimed by someone earlier. It was denied status long ago. (1995 if I am not mistaken.)

As legitimate as they are, the UU church in Denison is a late-comer to this game. Many other groups including the NTCOF were long denied access even before Strayhorn was in office.

I find it amusing that UU people, as tolerant as they claim to be, weren't up in arms when these other groups were denied. The NTCOF noted in 1995 that UU churches were at risk but UU paid no attention until one of their own was denied.

Julia Jones finds spam ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2004, 11:56 AM:

Spam, spam, glorious spam...

James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2004, 08:47 PM:

Julia, I think the purpose of all these random stupid little spams was to push "underage" and "preteen" off the front page list of the last ten messages, so they could fester there, waiting for the Googlebot to come by.

James Angove finds comment spam ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2004, 09:21 AM:

Sort of? It seems almost like a logical contribution to the discussion, but with a side of spam. Is someone spaming by hand?

adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2004, 02:13 PM:

Geez, Xopher, what do you have against white stockings? At least you can tell whether the white ones have been peed on, which (given some of the other links up there) is important information.

Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2004, 02:31 PM:

White stockings? You have the GALL to ask what I have against white stockings? Why, why...don't you KNOW? White stockings were worn by at least half of all serial killers at one time or another. Also they are the murder weapon of choice among certain types of extreme fetishists...

Also, my mom beat me with her white stockings once. ONCE.

White stockings...squick!

(Note for the humor impaired: in fact I have nothing in particular against white stockings, or any other color, and my mother never beat me with white (or any other color) stockings. That I remember. I'm sure the right hypnotic regression therapist could find it, along with Satanic Cult Abuse and alien abduction.)

fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2004, 04:02 PM:

I'm sure the right hypnotic regression therapist could find it, along with Satanic Cult Abuse and alien abduction.

Perhaps the aliens were wearing white stockings?

Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2004, 05:34 PM:

Yes! That's it! And the Satanists, too! And long white veils on the worst one, she must have been the High Priestess (they called her something that ended with -zilla, I remember), and her minions were all wearing (shudder) seafoam! They all had flowers, too. It's all so clear now.