Randall Terry Says Anti-Abortion Catholics Should Stop Paying Taxes

Randall Terry, a prominent American anti-abortion activist, has penned an op-ed for Catholic Online in which he makes the case that Catholics should read in the last Pope’s Evangelium Vitae a call for Catholics to refuse to fund abortions with their tax dollars.

As we pour our hearts and souls into the battle to keep the slaughter of the innocent by abortion out of any health care bill, the discussion has emerged as to whether it is an ethically viable option to refuse to pay part or all of our federal taxes.

Some well meaning souls have already — perhaps without much thought — repeated our Lord’s oft quoted statement: “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and unto God that which is God’s.”

The simple question is this: does this statement of our Lord apply in a situation like the present? If we know that Caesar is going to use the money to kill our neighbor — one of God’s children — are we required, by God Himself, to give the money to our political leaders?

I think the answer is self-evidently, “No!”

Following the trend of other recent conservative tax resistance promoters, Terry sticks to the passive voice and the hypothetical: going right up to the line at which he might have to say “and so I’m going to stop paying my taxes” and then turning around and beating a safe retreat.

Meanwhile, the present pontiff released Caritas in Veritate, which put in a plug for individual hypothetication (or “fiscal subsidiarity”):

One possible approach to development aid [for poor countries in the current economic crisis] would be to apply effectively what is known as fiscal subsidiarity, allowing citizens to decide how to allocate a portion of the taxes they pay to the State. Provided it does not degenerate into the promotion of special interests, this can help to stimulate forms of welfare solidarity from below, with obvious benefits in the area of solidarity for development as well.

The cynic in me can’t help but notice that in those countries I know of that have “fiscal subsidiarity” as part of their income tax filing schemes, the Catholic Church is an explicit line-item beneficiary.

Carlos S. Olmo Bau, a philosopher who specializes in the theory of civil disobedience, has written a short piece on tax resistance that was picked up by La Opinión de Murcia (awkward translation mine):

Tax Resistance

was the deadline for submitting personal income tax returns. It was also the commencement of a peculiar dynamic called “tax resistance,” which in the Murcia region was promoted mostly by Antimilitarist Alternative-MOC, the General Confederation of Labor-CGT, and Ecologists in Action.

A commencement because the campaign in question has yet other chapters and because next year, in mid-Spring and until recently into Summer, reemerges again with an intention that goes beyond the generic slogan: Demilitarize our taxes.

Despite its name, tax resistance (la objeción fiscal) is not properly a conscientious objection. This is not an individual intent to escape compliance with a normative duty imposed by a legal order (in this case the payment of taxes) in order to advance some motives of conscience that conflict with said duty.

It is an act of civil disobedience, a public, collective, premeditated transgression, conscious of the law, that does not seek individual gain but a common good, seeking changes in the laws in force or in the existing policies (in this case the tax laws and the security and defense policies).

It consists in redirecting a particular amount of money, withheld from the income tax return, declaring it there in the section on “Withholding and Other Estimated Payments,” and notifying the tax administration. Sending, not evading, because this money is destined to finance some alternative project (in Murcia are put forward as examples the Autonomous Squatted Social Center at The Ice Factory, and the Social Library of Asunción in Paraguay). The amount? Either a fixed amount or a percentage equivalent to that of military spending — direct and/or indirect — in the general state budget. In this way is given the active form of the old slogan “military spending for social purposes” while influenced by the necessity of radicalizing the critique of militarism that plagues our societies.

But it is not only to not finance wars, or more exactly, belligerence. Tax resistance brings to the table many other questions linked to the promotion of a culture of peace, radical democracy, and the drive for citizen participation.

This dynamic of civil disobedience puts the finger on the problem by recalling that the democratization of the defense of Spain remains a work in progress, and that the role of the citizen before the questions of internal and external security continues to be reduced to the role of passive recipient without having effective mechanisms of participation in decision-making.

Equally note the deficiencies in budgetary and fiscal policy. If the debate some years back about tax decentralization and fiscal autonomy was closed dishonestly, the question about the forms of citizen participation in fortuitous policies or in those funded by our taxes (beyond, clearly, the paying of the same), hardly was open.