Susan Pace Hamill, a member of Tuscaloosa’s Trinity United Methodist church and a professor at the University of Alabama Law School (also a graduate of Samford’s Beeson Divinity School) has become the conscience of our state on matters of taxation. I’m proud of the work that Susan is doing in this area.
And she has done so with an approach deeply rooted in the notion that Jesus judges us on the basis of how we treat “the least of these among us.”
Professor Hamill says that many of our state’s laws do more to burden the poor and relieve the rich than vice versa. She cites the worst states (her “sinful six”) as Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Nevada, South Dakota, and Texas.
She believes, as do I, that part of kingdom work is pushing for economic justice, particularly for poor working families. Tax revenues are essential to fund the reasonable opportunity for a decent life for all made in the image of God.
She quotes a well-known verse (Luke 12:48) “To whom much is given, much is required.”
I agree. Our resources as a church and as a state are a means to “spread scriptural holiness across the land” as Mr. Wesley taught us. Reform of our tax policy is one important part of our work for the Kingdom.
Our state legislature’s recent failure to remove the state portion of the grocery tax disappointed me as I hope it did you. I pray that the upcoming special session of the legislature will pass the Tax Fairness Amendment. This amendment would end the $550 million state income tax deduction for federal taxes, remove the 4% state portion of the grocery tax, and expand personal exemptions and the standard deduction raising the income tax threshold to $20,000 from the current shockingly low $12,600 for a family of four.
I commend Susan Pace Hamill’s work to you, particularly her book AS CERTAIN AS DEATH (Carolina Academic Press, 2007) and hope you will join me in praying for and working toward a more just and equitable tax system for our state. A good way to involve yourselves and your church in these matters is to work with and support Alabama Arise, a coalition of 155 faith-based and community groups (www.alarise.org) a number of whose leaders (such as Mark Berte) are active United Methodists. Alabama Arise has all the facts and figures of the Alabama tax problem and is working hard to change things.
We can do better. With God’s help, we shall.