Christians and taxes

Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor (Romans 13:5-7)

Ben did a nice job explaining Romans 13:1-7 last night.

I mentioned in our discussion two famous tax cases of note. More information on each if you follow the links.

Indianapolis Baptist Temple


For 16 years the leaders of the Indianapolis Baptist Temple refused to withhold federal taxes from their employees’ paychecks or to pay federal taxes as an employer. The protest came to an end Feb. 13, 2001, when federal marshals seized the church building to pay taxes and fines totalling $6 million.

The church was ordered to be sold at auction by U.S. District Judge Sarah Evans Barker in a Sept. 28, 2000, ruling, in which she gave the conservative evangelical congregation until Nov. 14 to vacate.

When that date arrived hundreds of church members and their supporters waited in the church for the marshals to come. But the U.S. Marshals Office took a cautious approach, seeking to ensure a peaceful end to the standoff that had been building for 16 years. And the church did have one last hope – an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. But on Jan. 16, 2001, the Court refused to hear the case. Even after that ruling it would be nearly a month before the marshals came.

The eviction came after the church lost a series of court rulings over its refusal to withhold taxes or to pay any tax itself.

Although churches generally are tax exempt, if they have employees they are required by federal law to withhold federal income taxes from payroll checks, and to pay Social Security and Medicare taxes for each employee.

But the Baptist Temple stopped doing that in 1983 when the church’s pastor, the Rev. Gregory J. Dixon, decided the church would break all ties with the government and no longer act as its agent in withholding taxes from its employees.

Dixon, along with his son and co-pastor, the Rev. Gregory A. Dixon, maintained that church workers are ministers, not employees, and that they paid their taxes as individuals. The Dixons based their legal defense on the First Amendment guarantee of free exercise of religion, arguing that Jesus Christ is the only authority over the church and that withholding taxes would impose a secular authority over the church, thereby violating its core belief.

Kent Hovind – “Dr. Dino”


He was one of America’s favorite biblical creation teachers and lecturers – known for debating pro-evolution science professors in the nation’s most prestigious secular colleges and universities.

So successful was his ministry, he built a dinosaur theme park in Florida, his videos of his presentations were a delight to thousands, he hosted a radio program and was in demand as a speaker 52 weeks a year.

But now Kent Hovind, known affectionately as “Dr. Dino,” resides in a small federal prison cell in South Carolina – serving a 10-year sentence for failing to collect and pay withholding taxes, obstructing tax laws and other related charges. His diminutive wife, Jo, the bookkeeper for the Hovinds’ Creation Science Evangelism ministry in Pensacola, was convicted of evading bank-reporting requirements and began serving a one-year sentence in January at a minimum security prison camp in Florida.

Eric Hovind acknowledges his father has espoused principles and beliefs shared by leading tax resisters.

In 1996, Kent Hovind tried to file for bankruptcy to avoid paying federal income taxes. He told a judge at a hearing he did not believe the United States, the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Attorney’s Office “have jurisdiction in this matter.”

“I sincerely believe that I am not a person required to file a Federal Income Tax Return,” he said. “This belief is a result of extensive research that I have done.”

Asked by the judge where he lived, Hovind replied, “I live in the church of Jesus Christ, which is located all over the world. I have no residence.”

Kent Hovind has stated he believes the Bible “teaches us to obey the authority over us.”

But he contends the “IRS is not the authority over me any more than the government of Japan is.”

Editorial Comment: In my view both ministries failed to comply with relevant tax laws and experienced the consequences of disobedience.

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