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Wednesday, May 19, 2004

From the "No Dogs, Buddhists or Unitarians need apply" department:

In Texas, if you are a Unitarian Universalist Church, don't bother applying for tax-exempt status. This according to an article in the Dallas/Fort Worth Star Telegram. According to the Comptroller of the State of Texas, a church is defined as an organization which has "simply a belief in God, or gods, or a higher power," The Unitarian Universalist Church, which was the church espoused by Presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams, and which also included members such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, allows its adherents complete freedom of belief. Some Unitarian Universalists are indeed Theists, in the classic sense that most of the Founders of the US were. Some are Neo-Pagan and worship a Goddess instead of a god. Some don't even believe in a supreme being at all.

The Texas Comptroller, Carole Keeton Strayhorn, has also denied tax-exempt status to a couple of Freethinkers organizations, a Neo-pagan Coven, and a few New Age groups. However, Buddhism, the fifth largest religion in the world, would not pass Strayhorn's 'belief test' because it does not speculate about the existence of a Supreme Being but instead stresses the individual quest to obtain enlightenment "for all sentient beings."

This is a distressing development for anyone who cares about both freedom of religion and the separation of Church and State.