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What are the biblical principles underlying the refusal of RBCS as a religious ministry to pay taxes in any form to civil government? We don't have space for an exhaustive teaching on this subject. Therefore, I will simply sketch the logic that underlies our position. After describing the biblical basis for our stand, I will then turn to our constitutional basis.
What's the big issue? The big issue is the Lordship of Jesus Christ. In Matthew 28:18-20 we read these words in the New American Standard Version (NASV):
And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."
This passage tells us that Jesus has all authority both in heaven and on earth. Christians who believe the Word of God must, therefore, submit to the authority of Jesus Christ in every area of life. In considering the authorities that Christ has set up through His Word, we can determine that God has established various jurisdictions in His system of government. God commands each Christian to be responsible for self government. God requires each family to operate in accordance with the principles He lays down for family government. God gives commands to the local church and also gives commands laying down the basis for civil government. When Christ commands us to make disciples of all the nations, He is giving the followers of Christ the mission of cultivating more followers. When He says that we must teach them, "All that I commanded you," He is giving each Christian a responsibility to disciple others in accordance with the truth that Christ has laid down in His Word. When Jesus concludes, "I am with you always, even to the end of the age," He is emphasizing the fact that Jesus Christ is alive, is in authority and rules continually over His people.
Another passage relevant to this subject is Romans 13:1-8. That passage reads as follows:
LET every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. For
This passage joins others to lay down the basis for human government. The concept of government is not restricted to civil government, for we are cautioned to be in subjection to the governing authorities. And we are told all authorities are established by God. In the home this means parental authority. In a local church it would mean the authority of church officers, such as elders and deacons. In civil government it would refer to civil rulers whether kings, governors, or sheriffs. In all cases, authority rests upon God's authority. The basis for obedience is that authority is exercised under God's authority. God has established authority as a minister unto us for good.
Thus we have the principle that Christians are to obey human authority because such authority is a servant of God. Quite
clearly, if a civil government operates in accordance with God's authority, there will never be a reason for us to disobey. We would obey not only because of wrath (that is, because of fear of punishment for getting caught), but also for conscience' sake. That means, we obey because it is right to do so.
Now what do we do if human authorities give conflicting commands? Suppose for example, a district court judge orders a person to carry out a certain act, but a court of appeals reverses the lower court's order. What is the citizen to do? The answer, of course, is to obey the higher authority.
What do we do if human authority gives a command contrary to the commands of God? This question was put to the Sanhedrin by the apostles Peter and John: "Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge." (Acts 4:19) The apostles were clearly stating that those in authority had the responsibility for discerning whether or not they were acting in accordance with the authority of God and if not, whether it was more important to obey God rather than man. The apostles supply a clear answer to their question in Acts 5:29 where they say, "We must obey God rather than men." The principle then is one of Lordship. When Jesus Christ commands His children, no authority can justly overrule.
Let's consider another passage. Jesus had God's sovereignty in mind when the Pharisees tried to trap Him on the issue of individual Jews paying tax to Caesar. Not only must we pay lawful taxes laid on by civil government, but also we must render to God the things that are God's. We see that in the passage in Matthew 22:15-22.
It is appropriate to point out the difference between a tax on individuals (those of Romans 13, the poll tax of Matthew 22, or the Temple tax of Matthew 17:24) and a tax on a ministry of Jesus Christ. Only a greater can tax a lesser. In America, the federal government cannot tax a state government and vice-versa because neither has jurisdiction over the other. Biblically, civil government has no jurisdiction over the ministries of Jesus Christ. This is recognized in the 1st Amendment discussed later. Then the Pharisees went and counseled together how they might trap Him in what He said. And they sent their disciples to Him, along with the Herodians, saying, "Teacher, we know that you are truthful and teach the way of God in truth, and defer to no one; for You are not partial to any. Tell us therefore, what do you think? Is it lawful to give a poll-tax to Caesar, or not? But Jesus perceived their malice, and said, mWhy are you testing Me, you hypocrites? Show Me the coin used for the poll-tax." And they brought Him a denarius. And He said to them, whose likeness and inscription is this? They said to Him, nCaesar's." Then He said to them, "Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's; and to God the things that are God's." (NASV)
This raises the question, "What is our responsibility to God, and what is our responsibility to Caesar?" certainly if Caesar were to claim that which is God's, we must obey God rather than men. While the coin might be made in Caesar's image, God's image. Statist Humanist doctrine claims that the state is sovereign over all, and grants liberty as it chooses to its subjects. God tells us that He has created man in His image. Man is to exercise dominion over the earth as God's vice-regent. Human government is organized by man to protect God-given liberty and maintain justice.
When the issue is the education of children we must then ask the question, "To whom does God give jurisdiction over the education of children? A basis for the answer to this question is, "Who owns our children?". Some might answer, "The state owns the children." No biblical authority however, is found for such an idea. Others might respond that the parents own the children. Again, such an answer is not to be found in Scripture. Scripture makes it quite clear that the children are owned by God and given to parents in stewardship. Psalm 127:3 says, "Behold, children are a gift of the LORD; The fruit of the womb is a reward. If then parents are stewards over God's children, what responsibilities in particular do parents have? It is not my purpose to comprehensibly answer this question, but to focus on the one pertinent to this study. Parents are clearly made responsible for the education of their children. In Deuteronomy, C
4. God calls attention to the fact that He has laid down statutes and judgments to be taught to His people. Verse 1 says, "AND now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the judgments which I am teaching you to perform...." In verse 8 He says:
Or what great nation is there that has statutes and judgments as
Before moving to the next passage I would like to point out that the principle of these verses is that what God has taught us, we are obligated to teach our children, and a result of our teaching must be that our children learn to fear, or reverence, God all their days. Then in Deuteronomy, Chapter 6, Moses points out that God has commanded him to teach the people to obey God's law. ] says, "so that you and your son and your grandson might fear the LORD your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days might be prolonged." This responsibility to teach our children extends 24 hours a day. That is seen in verse 7 where it is said, "and you shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. And you shall bind then as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead." The symbology in the latter words indicates that the principles of God must be in the operation of our hand and in our mind. In Deuteronomy, Chapter 11, God again instructs His children in verse 18: "You shall therefore impress these words of mine on your heart and on your soul; and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. And you shall teach them to your sons, talking of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up." In Jeremiah 10:1-3 we read:
HEAR the word which the LORD speaks to you, O house of Israel. Thus
The warning to God's people is that they should not learn the way of heathen nations who are governed by their mythology, astrology, and so. The delusions that lead the world are not to lead God's children.
In the New Testament in Ephesians 6:1-4 we read,"CHILDREN, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right." Verse 4 reads, "And, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger; but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." God's children are warned of their obligation in Colossians 2:8. "See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary
rinciples of the world, rather than according to Christ. Paul also instructs us in 2 Corinthians 10:5 that Christians should be "destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, ... taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ." These passages teach us that parents have the responsibility, if they are under the authority of God, to teach their children from the time they get up in the morning until the time they go to bed at night, to love God with all heart, mind and soul, and to develop a world view, a philosophy of life, a commitment of life under God's authority rather than in accordance
with the philosophy of empty deception of the world, which is secularism, or according to the tradition of men, which is humanism. Christians are obligated to follow God's instructions concerning the education of their children.
This leads us to the next question, "What do we do if Caesar or civil government demands that we educate our children contrary to our faith, contrary to biblical principles, in accordance with the philosophy and empty deception of the world? Clearly if man gives us an instruction contrary to that of God, we must obey God rather than man. But also, we must draw the line at principle, not at the point of excessive violation of principle. The principie is that Christ is Lord or sovereign over His believers who cannot yield the responsibilities God has given them to the humanistic state. We must draw the line when the state steps out of its legitimate
blical bounds and asks that we accept its sovereignty rather than Christ's sovereignty over that which God has commanded us to do. The point at which the person is asked to go over his faith is a matter of individual conscience. Those Christians that do not see a challenge to their faith by the exercise of governmental control over the education of their children must make decisions in accordance with their conscience. Those of us who have seen God's clear commandment to us to raise our children in a way not generally done in the world, but in a way peculiar to those who adhere to His Word, must be willing to carry out God's instructions regardless of the cost. In fact, we must be willing to die for such convictions.
In the next section of this paper I will address in more precise terms why the levying of a tax is equivalent to an extension of government control over a religious ministry. If we grant, however, that both reason and history proves that taxation is in fact a means of control, then quite clearly, Christians cannot accept the imposition of a tax on a religious ministry. For Caesar to claim sovereignty over Christ is unacceptable to the Christian. We can see this issue in Christ's conduct before Caesar's representatives in John, Chapters 18 & 19. Assuming that the reader is familiar with those passages, let me simply point out a couple of key verses. In Chapter 19, verse 11, we find Christ's words to Pilate, "You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above; for this reason he who delivered Me up to you has the greater sin. Christ here is confirming God's sovereignty over all authorities and places a responsibility on Pilate for his exercise of authority. Those who delivered Him up, of course, are also political authorities. He points out to him that their sin was even greater. In verse 12 we read, "As a result of this Pilate made efforts to release Him, but the Jews cried out, saying, 'If you release this Man, you are no friend of Caesar; every one who makes himself out to be a king opposes Caesar.'" And then we find the accusers' declaration of their sovereign in verse 15. "They therefore cried out, 'Away with Hinn, away with Him, crucify Him!' Pilate said to them, 'Shall I crucify your King?' The chief priests answered, 'We have no king but Caesar.""
What is the issue in Christ's crucifixion? The issue is, "Who is Lord?"
Why were believers sent to the lions in the first century? The issue is the same. They were unwilling to grant to Caesar sovereign authority over their religious exercise. They would not make a confession that Caesar is Lord. They insisted that Jesus is Lord. It would have been so easy for the principle of Roman religious toleration to grant then the liberty to worship Christ under the umbrella of Caesar's sovereignty. But they could not do that. They had to make a stand on the principle. And many were crucified or thrown to the lions for the stand they took. We should also take note of Paul's conflict with Jewish authority in Acts 19-27. Paul made his defense before Caesar's representatives and appealed to Caesar himself. He sought justice from Caesar for God has given to Caesar the responsibility to protect liberty and maintain justice. The definition of liberty and the criteria of justice of course must be God's. As Paul stood before civil authority asking for justice, so do we today.
It is not the purpose of this section to exhaustively deal with all the constitutional considerations involved in this case. We could, for example, discuss equal protection of the laws and due process of law considerations from the 14th Amendment, as well as a number of First Amendment considerations. We could also deal with the Florida Constitution. The purpose here, however, is simply to trace the main thread of the First Amendment argument that works with our biblical stand to provide a sufficient case that taxation of the RBCS ministry is contrary to the supreme law of the land.
The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States states, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." This simple statement, composed of two clauses, is to prevent government from exercising control over religious affairs. If government exercises the tax power over religious ministries or activity, it operates on the principle that government may exercise control over religious ministries or activities. That this is true has been clearly established in history as well as in constitutional law. The court clearly sees the power to tax as the power to control and destroy.
Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall clearly recognized this principle in M'Culloch vs. Maryland, 4 Wheaton 316 (1819). In that case the State of Maryland attempted to tax an instrumentality (a national bank) of the federal government. The first question Marshall dealt with in that case was, "Does Congress have the power to incorporate a bank?" Using the implied powers doctrine, Chief Justice Marshall concluded that the federal government did indeed have the power to establish or incorporate a bank. He then proceeded to inquire: "Whether the State of Maryland may, without violating the constitution, tax that branch?" In his consideration of that question, we get principles relevant to the tax power of any civil government. In M'Culloch, the Court held that the constitution sustains the claim that the bank is exempt from the power of a state to tax its operations. Let me quote a couple of excerpts from Chief Justice Marshall's opinion. He first points to a "great principle" that "the constitutio made in pursuance thereof are supreme," and deduces from that principle three corollaries. These are: First, "that a power to create implies a power to preserve." Applying this to our RBCS case, that corollary would indicate that if citizens of the United States under religious freedom principles were at liberty to create religious institutions, then they have the power to preserve those institutions. The second corollary is "that a power to destroy, ir wielded by a different hand, is hostile to, and incompatible with these powers to create and to preserve." Applying that corollary to the RBCS case, obviously if a power to destroy a legitimate religious ministry were exercised it would be incompatible with the First Amendment. The third corollary is "that where this repugnancy exists, that authority which is supreme must control, not yield to that over which it is supreme." He then observes: "That the power of taxing it (the bank] by the states may be exercised so as to destroy it, is too obvious to be denied." Clearly, this observation applies to religious ministries as well as banks. Chief Justice Marshall is telling us that the power to tax is an obvious power that can be used to destroy. His view has been confirmed by court decisions to this day. For example, in Murdock vs. Pennsylvania, 319 US 105, the court held a state license tax levied on religious colporteurs unconstitutional and said, "The power to tax the exercise of a privilege is the power to control or suppress its enjoyment." Is religious instruction a matter for control by civil government? As expressed by Mr. Justice Jackson, a state "cannot make public business of religious worship or instruction, or of attendance at religious institutions of any character." Everson vs. Board of Education, 330 US 1, at 26.
In M'Culloch, Chief Justice Marshall considered one of the objections that could be used to blunt a challenge to denying the tax power on such grounds. He states, "Taxation, it is said, does not necessarily and unavoidably destroy. To carry it to the excess