Comptroller reverses decision on church's tax status

The state comptroller's office reversed an earlier decision and granted tax-exempt status to a Unitarian church in Denison on Monday.

The comptroller's office originally ruled that Red River Unitarian Universalist Church in Denison was not a religious organization for tax purposes because it "does not have one system of belief," the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported on its Web site Monday.

Church officials claimed it was the first time in U.S. history that a state had denied tax exempt status to the Unitarians because of their beliefs.

In a news release Monday, the comptroller's office said the decision had been reversed after Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn asked her general counsel to review it.

"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," general counsel Jesse Ancira wrote in a letter Monday to Dan Althoff, board president of the church.

Strayhorn spokesman Mark Sanders said the comptroller asked for the review after questions were raised about it.

A telephone message left at the church was not immediately returned.

On its Web site, the church said it does not require members to believe in any particular religious creed or doctrine, and instead "emphasizes the right and responsibility of each individual to search for his or her own religious truth and meaning."

The Unitarian Universalist church grew out of two separate religious movements with Christian roots: Unitarians who believed in the unity of God and Universalists who believed in universal salvation for all.