"Wicca and Unitarianism Not religions" says Texas

Now here's something to get steamed up about.
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"Wicca and Unitarianism Not religions" says Texas

Post by Ragnar » Mon Aug 08, 2005 11:07 pm

I found this on a link from religioustolerance.org. Thought some of you may find it interesting.

August 8, 2005

Sheila Suess Kennedy
Some religions don't have a prayer


Issues of church and state can be difficult. Even people of tolerance and goodwill often disagree over the application of the First Amendment's religion clauses in this or that context, while people who are totally invested in particular religious doctrines routinely try to rewrite constitutional history in the fond belief that doing so will allow them to "correct" the religious views of others.
These disputes "go with the territory" of constitutional government in a country with a religiously diverse citizenry.
Every once in a while, however, we get a church-state conflict that seems truly bizarre. It is interesting how frequently such cases arise in the Great State of Texas, but I digress.
On May 18, the Texas state comptroller ruled that the Red River Unitarian Universalist Church was not a "religious organization" for tax purposes. The comptroller based her denial of tax-exempt status on the fact that "the church does not have one system of belief" and does not require belief in a deity.
The fact that Unitarianism isn't a "real" religion might have come as something of a shock to several of the nation's Unitarian founders, and to Unitarian presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams.
Since Carole Strayhorn, the current comptroller, assumed office in 1999, the religious exemption has been denied to 17 groups, including Wiccans and the Ethical Culture Fellowship of Austin, while more than 1,000 others, including the Church of Scientology, have been granted tax-exempt status. (While it is unclear whether any have applied, the comptroller's definition of "real religion" would disqualify Buddhist temples as well.)
The public outcry over the Unitarian denial led to a quick reversal of that decision, but Strayhorn remained adamant about Ethical Culture, which then brought suit, alleging religious discrimination. Ethical Culture describes itself as a religious, philosophical and educational movement focused upon how people live rather than on what they believe. Defying the trial court and Texas Supreme Court, which both ruled against her, Strayhorn has appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that if Ethical Culture wins, "any wannabe cult who dresses up and parades down Sixth Street on Halloween" will apply for a tax exemption.
In a free country, who gets to decide what "religion" is? While the Texas case makes a tempting target for late-night humorists, the question is a real one.
The late comedian Flip Wilson had a recurring skit about a "Church of What's Happening Now." We probably wouldn't want that church getting favored tax treatment. Recently, "The Holy Land Experience," a real-life, religiously oriented Florida theme park charging a $35 admission, was ruled tax-exempt.
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Post by Rain ForestMoon » Tue Aug 09, 2005 1:20 am

There are a few interesting issues here:

Firstly, of course, the whole idea that a religious institution gets tax-exempt status needs to be changed. Then the state has less of a problem to define what a religion acually is.

If a religious institution runs a charity, then the charity should be tax-exempt, just like any other charity, be it religion-based or not.


But the second point is this: What actually makes a religion?

I have been pondering that in the last while (and that's the reason behind my post on Pantheism).

Is it the belief in God/Gods/Godess/Godesses? Is it the belief in some form of afterlife or re-incarnation? Or is it any belief at all?

Btw I was involved in a discussion about the question if Atheism is a religion. Some people (especially fundamentalists) hold the view that Atheism is a religion, because they (the fundamentalists) think that an Atheist believes that there is no god.
However, most Atheists would say that they do not believe that there is a God/Gods/Godess/Godesses.


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Post by Ragnar » Tue Aug 09, 2005 5:49 am

Rain Forest Moon, wrote;
"But the second point is this: What actually makes a religion?
I it the belief in God/Gods/Godess/Godesses? Is it the belief in some form of afterlife or re-incarnation? Or is it any belief at all?

Btw I was involved in a discussion about the question if Atheism is a religion. Some people (especially fundamentalists) hold the view that Atheism is a religion, because they (the fundamentalists) think that an Atheist believes that there is no god."

The question of whether something constitutes a religion is the problem I see with the new U.K. anti religious discrimination laws.
The people that make the decision are the very people who go running off to their little buildings every Sunday, to partake in their hobby. That is why I see the laws becoming a wall of defence for the christians, and those they allow into the “club” as associate members, rather than following the spirit of the law, which is to defend all religions.
As far as I see it, a religion is a philosophical belief that accepts control by, or over, a power or force that can not be scientifically described, proved, or explained. Tied in with a moralistic philosophical view of life.
Therefore, belief in afterlife is not a pre-requesit. Nor is a belief in Gods etc.

As to atheists. The very meaning of Atheism, surely, is that there is no religion? How can the question even be asked?
Christians cannot bear to have something that cannot be labelled. To try and pin “religion” onto Atheists… Astounding.

“…because they (the fundamentalists) think that an Atheist believes that there is no god. “
HOW DOES THAT METMORPHOSIES INTO;
. Some people (especially fundamentalists) hold the view that Atheism is a religion.” (??????)

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Post by runewulf » Tue Aug 09, 2005 7:03 am

well, let's really stir the pot up a bit...

Why should ANY religion get ANY benefits from ANY government... when you get down to it, religions aren't truly important, it's spirituality that is... now, I'm not saying that religions can not deepen someone's spirituality to one degree or another, but they aren't the most important thing, in and of themselves.

Some folks consider things like Taoism and Buddhism to be "philosophies" and not "religions", but some of the most spiritual individuals I have ever met were Taosits and Buddhists. This isn't a slight on anyone's preffered path, but religion is just one ingredient (and not an always necessary one) on an individuals spiritual path.

I agree that tax exemption should be removed from religious organizations that, except in the case of charaties that they run, which should be strictly monitored, as we've seen the abuse of those over and over and over through the years. If that doesn't fly, then all religions should be granted the same level of exemptions and benefits. And it should not be left up to some person to decide what is and is not a religion. Let's face it, inside, we all have at least some small kernel of predjudice, however small, and in the case of the vast majority in the "main stream", that kernel is anything but small, more like huge.

So, while this ramble has gone on too long, I would say, make it equal or get rid of it all together, the governmental benefits, that is. Religion isn't truly a cornerstone, it's a set of motions and practices that "SHOULD" bring us a deeper level of spirituality, and that's the goal, not getting out of taxes or getting governmental monies.

Just something to think on...

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Post by Ragnar » Tue Aug 09, 2005 9:52 am

In Germany every one who is born here must pay "Kirchsteuer". That is money taken out of wages,AND welfare, which is given to either the Prtestant or the catholic church. This is "choice" is registered at birth. BUT if the parents say "none", or even "Norse Heathen" as I am, then you will find in ))% of cases some "well meaning" toe rag has filled it in with one or other of the taxing churches. To get your name taken off the list takes more money and paper work, (plus one or two court appearences), than it does to get married. So most people do not bother. This means that the stataticxians then turn around an say "Germany is XX% christian". This is not "just" playing with numbers, it effects the way political parties aim their campaigns and policys, it effects whether schools are forced to teach christainity and all sorts of other "hidden" problems. It is easier for adult immigrants, as I am, we can insist that the section is not filled in when we apply for a job. But there have been cases whereby muslims, or others, with bad understanding of German, and the system, have only found out years later that they have been paying this tax all along, because some one has filled in the "tick box" in there own preference. You can not "back claim" (convienient huh?)
As to "Religion", I always insist on telling any one that gives me the opening that "religion is a hobby, do not pester me with your hobby and I will not tell you all about how to load and position black powder cannon". To me it is the spiritual that matters, as Runewulf said. I will talk with them all day about that.

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Post by dragonflydrummer » Fri Aug 12, 2005 8:21 am

Personally I think all churches, temples, etc, should be taxed.

In fact as soon as these fundamentalist Neo-Con asses are overthrown, I would like that to be the second item on the national agenda. After their imprisonment...
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Post by Ragnar » Fri Aug 12, 2005 9:50 am

The Churches, temples etc, yes. I.e the organisations. But not, as happens here, every one. Those that are members... Well it is up to the organisation how they obtain the cash. If I was the tax colllector, I could not care less where the money came from. Within reason. As opposed to "real" tax collectors, who just don't care where the money comes from, period.
But on what grounds could you tax them? "Annoying the Pagans tax", "Bieng in my face tax". "Reparation to damaged Pagan sites tax"...
Any other ideas?

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Post by dragonflydrummer » Fri Aug 12, 2005 10:34 am

In the US money that is donated to the Churches is tax-deductable for the individual donor. Then the money is never taxed because the churches are tax-free. This gives them a pool of free money which is often spent accumulating property, investing, and supporting tax-free political causes ( ie. the far-right's political war-chest.) The money is never taxed. The grounds to tax them would then be along the lines other business (which in effect they are). Socialism is a dirty word in the US but the churches are to all effects sort of "collectives" which are engaged in business, finance, and quietly (as far as cash goes) in politics. Thus they are perfectly taxable.

If an organization is not provably dedicated to the overall national/world population, tax it as a business. In other words it can not simply be dedicated to its own 'tithing' community in order to be determined tax free. If they do serve some humanitarian function then leave only the monies dedicated to that function tax-free -- not the entire church. This would certainly help pay down some of the unimaginable debts they've run up with their present Crusades into the Middle East.

Screw'm...
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Post by runewulf » Fri Aug 12, 2005 1:42 pm

religious organizations should not hold any kind of tax exempt status... I'm sorry, but I'm a spiritual person and I pay taxes... I don't see why these churches shouldn't, especially since there is controversy over what is and is not a valid religion, etc.

On the flip side, if a kristjan priest or jewish rabbi can get tax benefits, etc., why can't those of us who are pagan priest/esses, shamans, druids, vitki, etc?

This country is * theoretically * about equality and seperation of church and state so that we wouldn't go through what so much of europe did with the churches have too much power ( of course, I won't even begin to go into the governmental messes that existed back then, churches aside, heh heh ). Due to that little fact though, either tax 'em all, or don't tax any, and don't try and judge what is and is not a valid religion, cause what speaks to me, not necessarilly the same thing that speaks to mon ami, et mon soeur, etc...

sorry, long day, what works for one isn't gonna be the same thing that necessarilly speaks to another. No one has the right to judge what is and is not a valid religion or spiritual path for another, except in the extreme cases where someone / some group is being harmed by a cult leader or what not ( think poisioned kool-aid, etc ). Aside from said extremes, all paths are valid, as long as they bring you into a spiritual path and lead you toward growth.
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Post by Rain ForestMoon » Fri Aug 12, 2005 5:28 pm

Ragnar wrote:
“…because they (the fundamentalists) think that an Atheist believes that there is no god. “
HOW DOES THAT METMORPHOSIES INTO;
. Some people (especially fundamentalists) hold the view that Atheism is a religion.” (??????)
All I can think of that is stems from the idea of some christians that it is not possible to have no belief. So, instead of accepting that an Atheist does not believe, they turn it around to say that an Atheist believes that there is no god. And, seeing that to their mind there is belief (in no god), this somehow makes Atheism a religion in their mind.


Just to be more confusing, I have very recently learned that there are actually two different "sects" of Atheists. They are called "weak" Atheists and "strong" Atheists.

Apparently a weak atheist does not believe that there is a god. (So, there is an absence of belief.) However a strong atheist (if I understand correctly) actually believes that there is no god.

If you are confused you are not the only one.


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Post by Ragnar » Sat Aug 13, 2005 12:09 am

"Apparently a weak atheist does not believe that there is a god. (So, there is an absence of belief.) However a strong atheist (if I understand correctly) actually believes that there is no god".

The first one, to me sounds an "agnostic" rather than an Atheist.

Dragon fly drummer. Sounds very much the same way the Mafia make money. Funny that.
"What is the difference between church fund raising an Mafia fund raising? "The church does not use guns (allways)".

"The flip side, if a kristjan priest or jewish rabbi can get tax benefits, etc., why can't those of us who are pagan priest/esses, shamans, druids, vitki, etc?"

WE have done without these benefits for our entire history. The vicars, mullahs, Rabbi's etc havn't. We can survive the rest of history without. THEY would not survive the first year.
So, it is easier to fight thier tax benefits purely from "A concerned tax payer's" point of view, therefore getting your teeth straight into the argument. Rather than spend the first 100 years fighting to be "an accepted religion". We can do that after the others are away in "bankruptcy hearings".

Talking of "vicar's". I do not know if it's a word used in the U.S for Anglican priest? Na so, Vikar is old Norse/viking/Saxon for "Idiot". Now whichever group of Vikings kept a straight face whilst translating that to "wise leader", to get the early christians to describe thier priests as that, deserve medals at least. May be even tax relief.

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Post by Rain ForestMoon » Sat Aug 13, 2005 12:15 am

Ragnar wrote:"Apparently a weak atheist does not believe that there is a god. (So, there is an absence of belief.) However a strong atheist (if I understand correctly) actually believes that there is no god".

The first one, to me sounds an "agnostic" rather than an Atheist.

According to the official definition, an agnostic is something else again:

"a person who believes that, at our present level of knowledge, we cannot know whether or not a God exists. Some Agnostics believe that we can never know whether a deity exists."
www.religioustolerance.org/gl_a.htm


And again, it does involve a belief. So is agnosticism (if that is a word) a religion?


I have the feeling it is getting all too hard....



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Post by Ragnar » Sat Aug 13, 2005 12:53 am

"Agnosticism" is indeed a word.
Have you ever seen the "!Forum" at Religious Tolerence? impossible. The answers come in a batch at 06:00 am.
None are "subject related". Just a collection, in time order, of EVERY post they have had that day: And do not worry at all if you sort of loose track of the subject here. There it appears compulsory to do so.
THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! LIBRARIAN AND MODERATORS! =D> =D> =D> =D> =D> =D> =D> =D> =D> =D> =D> =D> =D> =D> =D> =D> =D>

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God is dead and no-one cares...

Post by dragonflydrummer » Sun Aug 14, 2005 9:49 am

The only difference I can imagine, between a weak or a Strong atheist might be that the weak atheist is content to know that there is no God and leave it at that, while Strong atheist is driven to actively contend against Deists that in fact -- THERE IS NO GOD (!). Considering the level of oppression the monotheists foster in the world, this would show a marked difference in active involvement with one's disbelief.

Just my guess here... :albino:
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Post by Kystar » Sun Aug 14, 2005 10:00 am

Ragnar wrote: Talking of "vicar's". I do not know if it's a word used in the U.S for Anglican priest? Na so, Vikar is old Norse/viking/Saxon for "Idiot". Now whichever group of Vikings kept a straight face whilst translating that to "wise leader", to get the early christians to describe thier priests as that, deserve medals at least. May be even tax relief.
OMG! THAT IS FREAKING GREAT!!

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I bow to their superior craftiness and wish to shake their hand when I hit the afterlife, if they're still around!

WOW, THAT'S FUNNY!

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