Dear Lord Archbishop,
I read with great interest the report of your comments to the BBC on the subject of tax avoidance in the context of morality.
In your interview you said of tax avoidance that, ‘It is sinful, simply because Jesus was very clear; pay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.’ Perhaps, My Lord, you would care to give consideration to the fact that much of our wealth belongs to us and does not belong to today’s Caesar at all? To accuse individuals and companies of being sinful for finding ways to ensure they only pay the tax for which they are legally liable, is frankly nonsense.
But there is an additional concern here, which is the notion you raise that by only paying the tax for which individuals and corporations are legally liable, they are ‘not only robbing the poor of what they could be getting, they are actually robbing God, because God says “bring into my store house all the tithes”‘.
This is a disgraceful and outrageous assertion, My Lord. Government policy throughout the world is far and away a greater cause of poor people being deprived than any other factor. Your assertions seeks to position government as an absolute force for good, while ignoring the fact so much poverty in the world is caused by government spending decisions. To lay the blame for poverty and hunger at the door of those people and businesses that do not wish to see the money they have earned squandered on electoral bribes, gerrymandering, servicing vested interests (including at local government level), and feathering the nests of powerful supporters, rather than directed at essential public services and infrastructure, is an appalling inversion of what should be considered as moral.
Where do you see government being ‘just’ or ‘walking humbly’ as it uses taxation as a tool of coercion and takes more than it needs? Surely, by coveting their neighbour’s goods and taking what they are not owed, it is the government robbing God, the world and my neighbour. Government has a duty to take only that which is needed, but it refuses to be bound by that covenant and abuses its power. Why should taxpayers tolerate such abuses at the expense of them and the well-being of their families for who they have responsibility?
The Anglican Church, more than most other institutions, has good reason to doubt the moral credentials of the government, which increasingly interferes in matters of conscience and spirituality and undermines the practice of one’s faith in the pursuit of secular orthodoxy. It would serve you well to remember that before presenting government as a moral authority only held back from good works because taxpayers strive to retain what is lawfully theirs.
For an educated and intelligent man, your comments point to a naivety and childish simplicity that while it may be touching for some, is profoundly disturbing and results in an articulated ignorance that does more harm than good.