21 May 2004

Update from the SW UU Conference Web Site on Texas Tax Issue

The SW UU Conference (aka "SW District") has an update on this issue online.

And here's some words from our district executive on what the courts have said on this in Texas:

"1. Our folks in Denison are not feeling besieged. Dan Althoff, president, wrote me last week that after Red River UUC was invited to submit an amicus curiae brief in support of the Ethical Society of Austin, two attorneys in Austin have been consulting with them about the fact that they have been denied a franchise tax filing exemption by the Comptroller of Public Accounts in Texas. That denial is still in force, but may soon go away. "The Board of Red River UUC voted a resolution of thanks and appreciation to" Jeremy Wright and Rob Wiley of Austin at their April 21st meeting. "We have definitely had some good legal representation, (and) it was entirely donated," Dan said.

2. Since the Texas Court of Appeals, Third District, ruled for the Ethical Culture Fellowship of Austin and against Carole Keeton Strayhorn, and since their ruling was upheld by the Texas Supreme Court, only an appeal to the US Supreme Court remains open to Strayhorn. Douglas Laycock of the University of Texas Law School has said he would be "very surprised if the Supreme Court takes this case." He also said, "For now, the judgment of the Court of Appeals stands," and should our Denison church be forced to file a lawsuit, as the Ethical Society did, he believes "such a lawsuit should be very easy with this precedent in place."

3. Ron Suiter, an attorney and a leader of our Pathways Church in Keller, has read the opinion of the Third District Court of Appeals in the Ethical Society case (which was upheld by the Texas Supreme Court and is, therefore, likely to stand as Texas law) and he says it is "a very well thought-out opinion." That opinion finds, in part, that "the Comptroller's reliance on a Supreme Being litmus test to determine whether an organization qualifies as a religion for purposes of the tax code is constitutionally infirm."

I believe that is legalese for "dead in the water.

-- Bob Hill, District Executive, SWUUC/UUA"

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