Give to Caesar What Is Caesar’s

Render Unto Caesar: A Most Misunderstood New Testament Passage

by Jeffrey F. Barr


Christians have traditionally interpreted the famous passage "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God, the things that are God’s," to mean that Jesus endorsed paying taxes. This view was first expounded by St. Justin Martyr in Chapter XVII of his First Apology, who wrote,

And everywhere we, more readily than all men, endeavor to pay to those appointed by you the taxes both ordinary and extraordinary, as we have been taught by Him; for at that time some came to Him and asked Him, if one ought to pay tribute to Caesar; and He answered, ‘Tell Me, whose image does the coin bear?’ And they said, ‘Caesar’s.’

The passage appears to be important and well-known to the early Christian community. The Gospels of St. Matthew, St. Mark, and St. Luke recount this "Tribute Episode" nearly verbatim. Even Saying 100 of non-canonical Gospel of Thomas and Fragment 2 Recto of the Egerton Gospel record the scene, albeit with some variations from the Canon.

But by His enigmatic response, did Jesus really mean for His followers to provide financial support (willingly or unwillingly) to Tiberius Caesar – a man, who, in his personal life, was a pedophile, a sexual deviant, and a murderer and who, as emperor, claimed to be a god and oppressed and enslaved millions of people, including Jesus’ own? The answer, of course, is: the traditional, pro-tax interpretation of the Tribute Episode is simply wrong. Jesus never meant for His answer to be interpreted as an endorsement of Caesar’s tribute or any taxes.

This essay examines four dimensions of the Tribute Episode: the historical setting of the Episode; the rhetorical structure of the Episode itself; the context of the scene within the Gospels; and finally, how the Catholic Church, Herself, has understood the Tribute Episode. These dimensions point to one conclusion: the Tribute Episode does not stand for the proposition that it is morally obligatory to pay taxes.

The objective of this piece is not to provide a complete exegesis on the Tribute Episode. Rather, it is simply to show that the traditional, pro-tax interpretation of the Tribute Episode is utterly untenable. The passage unequivocally does not stand for the proposition that Jesus thought it was morally obligatory to pay taxes.


In 6 A.D., Roman occupiers of Palestine imposed a census tax on the Jewish people. The tribute was not well-received, and by 17 A.D., Tacitus reports in Book II.42 of the Annals, "The provinces, too, of Syria and Judaea, exhausted by their burdens, implored a reduction of tribute." A tax-revolt, led by Judas the Galilean, soon ensued. Judas the Galilean taught that "taxation was no better than an introduction to slavery," and he and his followers had "an inviolable attachment to liberty," recognizing God, alone, as king and ruler of Israel. The Romans brutally combated the uprising for decades. Two of Judas’ sons were crucified in 46 A.D., and a third was an early leader of the 66 A.D. Jewish revolt. Thus, payment of the tribute conveniently encapsulated the deeper philosophical, political, and theological issue: Either God and His divine laws were supreme, or the Roman emperor and his pagan laws were supreme.

This undercurrent of tax-revolt flowed throughout Judaea during Jesus’ ministry. All three synoptic Gospels place the episode immediately after Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem in which throngs of people proclaimed Him king, as St. Matthew states, "And when he entered Jerusalem the whole city was shaken and asked, ‘Who is this?’ And the crowds replied, ‘This is Jesus the prophet, from Nazareth in Galilee." All three agree that this scene takes place near the celebration of the Passover, one of the holiest of Jewish feast days. Passover commemorates God’s deliverance of the Israelites from Egyptian slavery and also celebrates the divine restoration of the Israelites to the land of Israel, land then-occupied by the Romans. Jewish pilgrims from throughout Judaea would have been streaming into Jerusalem to fulfill their periodic religious duties at the temple.

Because of the mass of pilgrims, the Roman procurator of Judaea, Pontius Pilate, had also temporarily taken up residence in Jerusalem along with a multitude of troops so as to suppress any religious violence. In her work, Pontius Pilate: The Biography of an Invented Man, Ann Wroe described Pilate as the emperor’s chief soldier, chief magistrate, head of the judicial system, and above all, the chief tax collector. In Book XXXVIII of On the Embassy to Gaius, Philo has depicted Pilate as "cruel," "exceedingly angry," and "a man of most ferocious passions," who had a "habit of insulting people" and murdering them "untried and uncondemned" with the "most grievous inhumanity." Just a few years prior to Jesus’ ministry, the image of Caesar nearly precipitated an insurrection in Jerusalem when Pilate, by cover of night, surreptitiously erected effigies of the emperor on the fortress Antonia, adjoining the Jewish Temple; Jewish law forbade both the creation of graven images and their introduction into holy city of Jerusalem. Pilate averted a bloodbath only by removing the images.

In short, Jerusalem would have been a hot-bed of political and religious fervor, and it is against this background that the Tribute Episode unfolded.


[15] Then the Pharisees going, consulted among themselves how to insnare him in his speech. [16] And they sent to him their disciples with the Herodians, saying: Master, we know that thou art a true speaker and teachest the way of God in truth. Neither carest thou for any man: for thou dost not regard the person of men. [17] Tell us therefore what dost thou think? Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not? [18] But Jesus knowing their wickedness, said: Why do you tempt me, ye hypocrites? [19] Show me the coin of the tribute. And they offered him a penny [literally, in Latin, "denarium," a denarius]. [20] And Jesus saith to them: Whose image and inscription is this? [21] They say to him: Caesar’s. Then he saith to them: Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God, the things that are God’s. [22] And hearing this, they wondered and, leaving him, went their ways. Matt 22:15–22 (Douay-Rheims translation).


All three synoptic Gospels open the scene with a plot to trap Jesus. The questioners begin with, what is in their minds, false flattery – "Master [or Teacher or Rabbi] we know that you are a true speaker and teach the way of God in truth." As David Owen-Ball forcefully argues in his 1993 article, "Rabbinic Rhetoric and the Tribute Passage," this opening statement is also a challenge to Jesus’ rabbinic authority; it is a halakhic question – a question on a point of religious law. The Pharisees believed that they, alone, were the authoritative interpreters of Jewish law. By appealing to Jesus’ authority to interpret God’s law, the questioners accomplish two goals: (1) they force Jesus to answer the question; if Jesus refuses, He will lose credibility as a Rabbi with the very people who just proclaimed Him a King; and (2) they force Jesus to base this answer in Scripture. Thus, they are testing His scriptural knowledge and hoping to discredit Him if He cannot escape a prima facie intractable interrogatory. As Owen-Ball states, "The gospel writers thus describe a scene in which Jesus’ questioners have boxed him in. He is tempted to assume, illegitimately, the authority of a Rabbi, while at the same time he is constrained to answer according to the dictates of the Torah."

The questioners then pose their malevolently brilliant question: "Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not?" That is, is it licit under the Torah to pay taxes to the Romans? At some point, Jesus must have led His questioners to believe that He opposed the tribute; otherwise His questioners would not have posed the question in the first instance. As John Howard Yoder argues in his book, The Politics of Jesus: vicit Agnus noster, "It is hard to see how the denarius question could have been thought by those who put it to be a serious trap, unless Jesus’ repudiation of the Roman occupation were taken for granted, so that he could be expected to give an answer which would enable them to denounce him."

If Jesus says that it is lawful to pay the tribute, He would have been seen as a collaborator with the Roman occupiers and would alienate the people who had just proclaimed Him a king. If Jesus says that the tribute is illegitimate, He risked being branded a political criminal and incurring the wrath of Rome. With either answer, someone would have been likely to kill Him.

Jesus immediately recognizes the trap. He exposes the hostility and the hypocrisy of His interrogators and recognizes that His questioners are daring Him to enter the temporal fray of Judeo-Roman politics.


Instead of jumping into the political discussion, though, Jesus curiously requests to see the coin of the tribute. It is not necessary that Jesus possess the coin to answer their question. He could certainly respond without seeing the coin. That He requests to see the coin suggests that there is something meaningful about the coin itself.

In the Tribute Episode, the questioners produce a denarius. The denarius was approximately 1/10 of a troy ounce (at that time about 3.9 grams) of silver and roughly worth a day’s wages for a common laborer. The denarius was a remarkably stable currency; Roman emperors did not begin debasing it with any vigor until Nero. The denarius in question would have been issued by the Emperor Tiberius, whose reign coincided with Jesus’ ministry. Where Augustus issued hundreds of denarii, Ethelbert Stauffer, in his masterful, Christ and the Caesars, reports that Tiberius issued only three, and of those three, two are relatively rare, and the third is quite common. Tiberius preferred this third and issued it from his personal mint for twenty years. The denarius was truly the emperor’s property: he used it to pay his soldiers, officials, and suppliers; it bore the imperial seal; it differed from the copper coins issued by the Roman Senate, and it was also the coin with which subjected peoples, in theory, were required to pay the tribute. Tiberius even made it a capital crime to carry any coin stamped with his image into a bathroom or a brothel. In short, the denarius was a tangible representation of the emperor’s power, wealth, deification, and subjugation.

Tiberius’ denarii were minted at Lugdunum, modern-day Lyons, in Gaul. Thus, J. Spencer Kennard, in a well-crafted, but out-of-print book entitled Render to God, argues that the denarius’ circulation in Judaea was likely scarce. The only people to transact routinely with the denarius in Judaea would have been soldiers, Roman officials, and Jewish leaders in collaboration with Rome. Thus, it is noteworthy that Jesus, Himself, does not possess the coin. The questioners’ quickness to produce the coin at Jesus’ request implies that they routinely used it, taking advantage of Roman financial largess, whereas Jesus did not. Moreover, the Tribute Episode takes place in the Temple, and by producing the coin, the questioners reveal their religious hypocrisy – they bring a potentially profane item, the coin of a pagan, into the sacred space of the Temple.

Finally, both Stauffer and Kennard make the magnificent point that coins of the ancient world were the major instrument of imperial propaganda, promoting agendas and promulgating the deeds of their issuers, in particular the apotheosis of the emperor. As Kennard puts it, "For indoctrinating the peoples of the empire with the deity of the emperor, coins excelled all other media. They went everywhere and were handled by everyone. Their subtle symbolism pervaded every home." While Tiberius’ propaganda engine was not as prolific as Augustus’ machine, all of Tiberius’ denarii pronounced his divinity or his debt to the deified Augustus.


After seeing the coin, Jesus then poses a counter-question, "Whose image and inscription is this?" It is again noteworthy that this counter-question and its answer are not necessary to answer the original question of whether it is licit to pay tribute to Caesar. That Jesus asks the counter-question suggests that it and its answer are significant.

(1) Why Is The Counter-Question Important?

The counter-question is significant for two reasons.

First, Owen-Ball argues that the counter-question follows a pattern of formal rhetoric common in first century rabbinic literature in which (1) an outsider poses a hostile question to a rabbi; (2) the rabbi responds with a counter-question; (3) by answering the counter-question, the outsider’s position becomes vulnerable to attack; and (4) the rabbi then uses the answer to the counter-question to refute the hostile question. Jesus’ use of this rhetorical form is one way to establish His authority as a rabbi, not unlike a modern lawyer who uses a formal, legal rhetoric in the courtroom. Moreover, the point of the rhetorical exchange is ultimately to refute the hostile question.

Second, because the hostile question was a direct challenge to Jesus’ authority as a rabbi on a point of law, His interrogators would have expected a counter-question grounded in scripture, in particular, based upon the Torah. Two words, "image" and "inscription," in the counter-question harkens to two central provisions in the Torah, the First (Second) Commandment and the Shema. These provide the scriptural basis for this question of law.

God Prohibits False Images. The First (Second) Commandment prohibits worship of anyone or anything but God, and it also forbids crafting any image of a false god for adoration, "I am the Lord thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt not have strange gods before me. Thou shalt not make to thyself a graven thing, nor the likeness [image] of any thing…." God demands the exclusive allegiance of His people. Jesus’ use of the word, "image," in the counter-question reminds His questioners of the First (Second) Commandment’s requirement to venerate God first and its concomitant prohibition against creating images of false gods.

The Shema Demands The Worship Of God Alone. Jesus’ use of the word "inscription" alludes to the Shema. The Shema is a Jewish prayer based upon Deuteronomy 6:4–9, 11:13–21 and Numbers 15:37–41 and is the most important prayer a pious Jew can say. It commences with the words, "Shema Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Echad," which can be translated, "Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God – the Lord alone." This opening line stresses Israel’s worship of God to the exclusion of all other gods. The Shema then commands a person to love God with his whole heart, whole soul, and whole strength. The Shema further requires worshipers to keep the words of the Shema in their hearts, to instruct their children in them, to bind them on their hands and foreheads, and to inscribe them conspicuously on their doorposts and on the gates to their cities. Observant Jews take literally the command to bind the words upon their arms and foreheads and wear tefillin, little leather cases which contain parchment on which are inscribed certain passages from the Torah. Words of the Shema were to be metaphorically inscribed in the hearts, minds, and souls of pious Jews and physically inscribed on parchment in tefillin, on doorposts, and on city gates. St. Matthew and St. Mark both recount Jesus quoting the Shema in the same chapter just a few verses after the Tribute Episode. This proximity further reinforces the reference to the Shema in the Tribute Episode. Finally, it is noteworthy that when Satan tempts Jesus by offering Him all the kingdoms of the [Roman] world in exchange for His worship, Jesus rebukes Satan by quoting the Shema. In short, Jesus means to call attention to the Shema by using the word "inscription" in the counter-question as His appeal to scriptural authority for His response.

(2) Why Is The Answer To The Counter-Question Important?

The answer to the counter-question is significant for two reasons.

First, while the verbal answer to the counter-question of whose image and inscription the coin bears is a feeble, "Caesar’s," the actual image and inscription is much more revealing. The front of the denarius shows a profiled bust of Tiberius crowned with the laurels of victory and divinity. Even a modern viewer would immediately recognize that the person depicted on the coin is a Roman emperor. Circumscribed around Tiberius is an abbreviation, "TI CAESAR DIVI AUG F AUGUSTUS," which stands for "Tiberius Caesar Divi August Fili Augustus," which, in turn, translates, "Tiberius Caesar, Worshipful Son of the God, Augustus."

On the obverse sits the Roman goddess of peace, Pax, and circumscribed around her is the abbreviation, "Pontif Maxim," which stands for "Pontifex Maximus," which, in turn, means, "High Priest."

The coin of the Tribute Episode is a fine specimen of Roman propaganda. It imposes the cult of emperor worship and asserts Caesar’s sovereignty upon all who transact with it.

In the most richly ironic passage in the entire Bible, all three synoptic Gospels depict the Son of God and the High Priest of Peace, newly-proclaimed by His people to be a King, holding the tiny silver coin of a king who claims to be the son of a god and the high priest of Roman peace.

The second reason the answer is significant is that in following the pattern of rabbinic rhetoric, the answer exposes the hostile questioners’ position to attack. It is again noteworthy that the interrogators’ answer to Jesus’ counter-question about the coin’s image and inscription bears little relevance to their original question as to whether it is licit to pay the tribute. Jesus could certainly answer their original question without their answer to His counter-question. But the rhetorical function of the answer to the counter-question is to demonstrate the vulnerability of the opponent’s position and use that answer to refute the opponent’s original, hostile question.


In the Tribute Episode, it is only after Jesus’ counter-question is asked and answered does He respond to the original question. Jesus tells His interrogators, "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God, the things that are God’s." This response begs the question of what is licitly God’s and what is licitly Caesar’s.

In the Hebrew tradition, everything rightfully belonged to God. By using the words, "image and inscription," Jesus has already reminded His interrogators that God was owed exclusive allegiance and total love and worship. Similarly, everything economically belonged to God as well. For example, the physical land of Israel was God’s, as He instructed in Leviticus 25:23, "The land [of Israel] shall not be sold in perpetuity; for the land is mine, and you [the Israelites] are but aliens who have become my tenants." In addition, the Jewish people were to dedicate the firstfruits, that first portion of any harvest and the first-born of any animal, to God. By giving God the firstfruits, the Jewish people acknowledged that all good things came from God and that all things, in turn, belonged to God. God even declares, "Mine is the silver and mine the gold."

The emperor, on the other hand, also claimed that all people and things in the empire rightfully belonged to Rome. The denarius notified everyone who transacted with it that the emperor demanded exclusive allegiance and, at least, the pretense of worship – Tiberius claimed to be the worshipful son of a god. Roman occupiers served as a constant reminder that the land of Israel belonged to Rome. Roman tribute, paid with Roman currency, impressed upon the populace that the economic life depended on the emperor. The emperor’s bread and circuses maintained political order. The propaganda on the coin even attributed peace and tranquility to the emperor.

With one straightforward counter-question, Jesus skillfully points out that the claims of God and Caesar are mutually exclusive. If one’s faith is in God, then God is owed everything; Caesar’s claims are necessarily illegitimate, and he is therefore owed nothing. If, on the other hand, one’s faith is in Caesar, God’s claims are illegitimate, and Caesar is owed, at the very least, the coin which bears his image.

Jesus’ counter-question simply invites His listeners to choose allegiances. Remarkably, He has escaped the trap through a clever rhetorical gambit; He has authoritatively refuted His opponents’ hostile question by basing His answer in scripture, and yet, He never overtly answers the question originally posed to Him. No wonder that St. Matthew ends the Tribute Episode this way: "When they heard this they were amazed, and leaving him they went away."


Subtle sedition refers to scenes throughout the Gospels which were not overtly treasonous and would not have directly threatened Roman authorities, but which delivered political messages that first century Jewish audiences would have immediately recognized. The Gospels are replete with instances of subtle sedition. Pointing these out is not to argue that Jesus saw Himself as a political king. Jesus makes it explicit in John 18:36 that He is not a political Messiah. Rather, in the context of subtle sedition, no one can interpret the Tribute Episode as Jesus’ support of taxation. To the contrary, one can only understand the Tribute Episode as Jesus’ opposition to the illicit Roman taxes.

In addition to the Tribute Episode, three other scenes from the Gospels serve as examples of subtle sedition: (1) Jesus’ temptation in the desert; (2) Jesus walking on water; and (3) Jesus curing the Gerasene demoniac.


Around 200 A.D., the Roman satirist Juvenal lamented that the Roman emperors, masters of the known world, tenuously maintained political power by way of "panem et circenses," or "bread and circuses," a reference to the ancient practice of pandering to Roman citizens by providing free wheat and costly circus spectacles. Caesar Augustus, for example, boasted of feeding more than 100,000 men from his personal granary. He also bragged of putting on tremendous exhibitions:

Three times I gave shows of gladiators under my name and five times under the name of my sons and grandsons; in these shows about 10,000 men fought. * * * Twenty-six times, under my name or that of my sons and grandsons, I gave the people hunts of African beasts in the circus, in the open, or in the amphitheater; in them about 3,500 beasts were killed. I gave the people a spectacle of a naval battle, in the place across the Tiber where the grove of the Caesars is now, with the ground excavated in length 1,800 feet, in width 1,200, in which thirty beaked ships, biremes or triremes, but many smaller, fought among themselves; in these ships about 3,000 men fought in addition to the rowers.

By the time of Jesus and the reign of Tiberius Caesar, the Roman grain dole routinely fed 200,000 people.

At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, the Spirit led Him into the desert "to be tempted by the devil." The devil challenged Him with three tests. First, he dared Jesus to turn stones into bread. Second, the devil took Jesus to the highest point on the temple in Jerusalem and tempted Him to cast Himself down to force the angels into a spectacular, miraculous rescue. Finally, for the last temptation, "the devil took him up to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence, and he said to him, ‘All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.’"

The devil dared Jesus to be a king of bread and circuses and offered Him dominion over the whole earthly world. These temptations are an instantly recognizable reference to the power of the Roman emperors. Jesus forcefully rejects this power. Jesus’ rejection illustrates that the things of God and the things of Rome/the world/the devil are mutually exclusive. Jesus’ allegiance was to the things of God, and His rebuff of the metaphorical power of Rome is an example of subtle sedition.


At the beginning of Chapter 6 in St. John’s Gospel, Jesus performs a miracle and feeds 5,000 people from five loaves of bread; He then refuses to be crowned a king of bread and circuses. Immediately thereafter, St. John recounts the episode of Jesus walking on a body of water in the middle of a storm. That body of water was the Sea of Galilee, which, St. John reminds his readers, was also known as the Sea of Tiberias. Around 25 A.D., Herod Antipas built a pagan city on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee and named it in honor of the Roman emperor, Tiberius. By Jesus’ time, the city had become so important that the Sea of Galilee came to be called the "Sea of Tiberias." Thus, not only does Jesus refuse to be coronated a Roman king of bread and circuses, but He literally treads upon the emperor’s seas, showing that even the emperor’s waters have no dominion over Him. Treading on the emperor’s seas is an additional instance of subtle sedition.


St. Mark details Jesus’ encounter with the Gerasene demoniac in another example of subtle sedition. The territory of the Gerasenes was pagan territory, and this particular demoniac was exceptionally strong and frightening. In attempting to exorcise the demon, Jesus asked its name. The demon replied, "Legion is my name. There are many of us." Jesus then expels the demons and casts them into a herd of swine. The herd immediately drive themselves into the sea. First century readers would have been well-acquainted with the name, "Legion." At that time, an imperial legion was roughly 6,000 soldiers. Thus, the demon "Legion," an agent of the devil, was a thinly-veiled reference to the Roman occupiers of Judaea. Swine were considered unclean animals under Jewish law. The symbol of the Roman Legion which occupied Jerusalem was a boar. The first century audience would have easily grasped the symbolism of Jesus’ casting the demon Legion into the herd of unclean swine, and the herd driving itself into the sea. Thus, the healing of the Gerasene demoniac is another example of subtle sedition.


In the Tribute Episode, Jesus’ response is subtly seditious. The first-century audience would have immediately apprehended what it meant to render unto God the things that are God’s. They would have known that the things of God and Caesar were mutually exclusive. No Jewish listener would have mistaken Jesus’ response as an endorsement of paying Caesar’s taxes. To the contrary, His audience would have understood that Jesus thought the tribute was illicit. Indeed, opposition to the tribute was one of the charges the authorities levied at His trial, "They brought charges against him, saying, ‘We found this man misleading our people; he opposes the payment of taxes to Caesar and maintains that he is the Messiah, a king.’" To the Roman audience, however, the pronouncement of rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar’s sounds benign, almost supportive. It is, however, one of many vignettes of covert political protest contained in the Gospels. In short, the Tribute Episode is a subtle form of sedition. When viewed in this context, no one can say that the Episode supports the payment of taxes.


The Catholic Church considers Herself the authoritative interpreter of Sacred Scripture. The 1994 Catechism of the Catholic Church "is a statement of the Church’s faith and of catholic doctrine, attested to or illumined by Sacred Scripture, the Apostolic Tradition, and the Church’s Magisterium."

The 1994 Catechism instructs the faithful that it is morally obligatory to pay one’s taxes for the common good. (What the definition of the "common good" is may be left for a different debate.) The 1994 Catechism also quotes and cites the Tribute Episode. But the 1994 Catechism does NOT use the Tribute Episode to support the proposition that it is morally obligatory to pay taxes. Instead, the 1994 Catechism refers the Tribute Episode only to justify acts of civil disobedience. It quotes St. Matthew’s version to teach that a Christian must refuse to obey political authority when that political authority makes a demand contrary to the demands of the moral order, the fundamental rights of persons, or the teachings of the Gospel. Similarly, the 1994 Catechism also cites to St. Mark’s version to instruct that a person "should not submit his personal freedom in an absolute manner to any earthly power, but only to God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Caesar is not ‘the Lord.’" Thus, according to the 1994 Catechism, the Tribute Episode stands for the proposition that a Christian owes his allegiance to God and to the things of God alone. If the Tribute Episode unequivocally supported the proposition that it is morally obligatory to pay taxes, the 1994 Catechism would not hesitate to cite to it for that position. That the 1994 Catechism does not interpret the Tribute Episode as a justification for the payment of taxes suggests that such an interpretation is not an authoritative reading of the passage. In short, even the Catholic Church does not understand the Tribute Episode to mean that Jesus endorsed paying Caesar’s taxes.


St. John’s Gospel recounts the scene of a woman caught in adultery, brought before Jesus by the Pharisees so that they might "test" Him "so that they could have some charge to bring against Him." When asked, "‘Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say,’" Jesus appears trapped by only two answers: the strict, legally-correct answer of the Pharisees, or the mercifully-right, morally-correct, but technically-illegal answer undermining Jesus’ authority as a Rabbi. Notably, Jesus never does overtly respond to the question posed to Him; instead of answering, "Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger." When pressed by His inquisitors, He finally answers, "‘Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her,’" and, of course, the shamed Pharisees all leave one by one. Jesus then refuses to condemn the woman.

The scene of the woman caught in adultery and the Tribute Episode are similar. In both, Jesus is faced with a hostile question challenging His credibility as a Rabbi. In each, the hostile question has two answers: one answer which the audience knows is morally correct, but politically incorrect, and the other answer which the audience knows is wrong, but politically correct. In the scene of the woman caught in adultery, no one roots for Jesus to say, "Stone her!" Everyone wants to see Jesus extend the woman mercy. Likewise, in the Tribute Episode, no one hopes Jesus answers, "Pay tribute to the pagan, Roman oppressors!" The Tribute Episode, like the scene of the woman caught in adultery, has a "right" answer – it is not licit to pay the tribute. But Jesus cannot give this "right" answer without running afoul of the Roman government. Instead, in both Gospel accounts, Jesus gives a quick-witted, but ultimately ambiguous, response which exposes the hypocrisy of His interrogators rather than overtly answers the underlying question posed by them. Nevertheless, in each instance, the audience can infer the right answer embedded in Jesus’ response.

Over the centuries, theologians, scholars, laymen, and potentates have interpreted the Tribute Episode incorrectly as Jesus’ support for the payment of taxes. First, this interpretation does not square with the political climate of the times. The Tribute Episode is set in the middle of a decades-old tax-revolt against Caesar’s tribute. Second, the rhetorical structure of the Tribute Episode, itself, contradicts any interpretation that Jesus supported paying taxes. Third, the Gospels contain episode after episode of subtle sedition. The Tribute Episode is just another of these subtly seditious scenes. When seen in the context of subtle sedition, the phrase "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s," means that the emperor is owed nothing. Finally, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the authoritative interpreter of Sacred Scripture, does not construe the Tribute Episode to support the proposition that it is morally obligatory to pay one’s taxes. Indeed, it interprets the Tribute Episode to mean the exact opposite – that Christians are obliged to disobey Caesar when Caesar’s dictates violate God’s law. In sum, the pro-tax position of the Tribute Episode is not supportable historically, rhetorically, contextually, or within the confines of the Catholic Church’s own understanding. As Dorothy Day is reputed to have said, "If we rendered unto God all the things that belong to God, there would be nothing left for Caesar."

March 17, 2010

Jeff Barr [send him mail] practices law in Las Vegas, Nevada. He received a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from UNLV where he took classes from Hans-Hermann Hoppe and Murray Rothbard.

Copyright © 2010 by Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.

A Conservative Christian’s Descent into Anarchy

Other things have helped change my mind. R.J. Rummel of the University of Hawaii calculates that in the twentieth century alone, states murdered about 162,000,000 million of their own subjects. This figure doesn’t include the tens of millions of foreigners they killed in war. How, then, can we speak of states “protecting” their people? No amount of private crime could have claimed such a toll. As for warfare, Paul Fussell’s book Wartime portrays battle with such horrifying vividness that, although this wasn’t its intention, I came to doubt whether any war could be justified.

My fellow Christians have argued that the state’s authority is divinely given. They cite Christ’s injunction “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” and St. Paul’s words “The powers that be are ordained of God.” But Christ didn’t say which things — if any — belong to Caesar; his ambiguous words are far from a command to give Caesar whatever he claims. And it’s notable that Christ never told his disciples either to establish a state or to engage in politics. They were to preach the Gospel and, if rejected, to move on. He seems never to have imagined the state as something they could or should enlist on their side.

At first sight, St. Paul seems to be more positive in affirming the authority of the state. But he himself, like the other martyrs, died for defying the state, and we honor him for it; to which we may add that he was on one occasion a jailbreaker as well. Evidently the passage in Romans has been misread. It was probably written during the reign of Nero, not the most edifying of rulers; but then Paul also counseled slaves to obey their masters, and nobody construes this as an endorsement of slavery. He may have meant that the state and slavery were here for the foreseeable future, and that Christians must abide them for the sake of peace. Never does he say that either is here forever.

St. Augustine took a dim view of the state, as a punishment for sin. He said that a state without justice is nothing but a gang of robbers writ large, while leaving doubt that any state could ever be otherwise. St. Thomas Aquinas took a more benign view, arguing that the state would be necessary even if man had never fallen from grace; but he agreed with Augustine that an unjust law is no law at all, a doctrine that would severely diminish any known state.

The essence of the state is its legal monopoly of force. But force is subhuman; in words I quote incessantly, Simone Weil defined it as “that which turns a person into a thing — either corpse or slave.” It may sometimes be a necessary evil, in self-defense or defense of the innocent, but nobody can have by right what the state claims: an exclusive privilege of using it.

It’s entirely possible that states — organized force — will always rule this world, and that we will have at best a choice among evils. And some states are worse than others in important ways: anyone in his right mind would prefer living in the United States to life under a Stalin. But to say a thing is inevitable, or less onerous than something else, is not to say it is good.

For most people, anarchy is a disturbing word, suggesting chaos, violence, antinomianism — things they hope the state can control or prevent. The term state, despite its bloody history, doesn’t disturb them. Yet it’s the state that is truly chaotic, because it means the rule of the strong and cunning. They imagine that anarchy would naturally terminate in the rule of thugs. But mere thugs can’t assert a plausible right to rule. Only the state, with its propaganda apparatus, can do that. This is what legitimacy means. Anarchists obviously need a more seductive label.

“But what would you replace the state with?” The question reveals an inability to imagine human society without the state. Yet it would seem that an institution that can take 200,000,000 lives within a century hardly needs to be “replaced.”

Christians, and especially Americans, have long been misled about all this by their good fortune. Since the conversion of Rome, most Western rulers have been more or less inhibited by Christian morality (though, often enough, not so’s you’d notice), and even warfare became somewhat civilized for centuries; and this has bred the assumption that the state isn’t necessarily an evil at all. But as that morality loses its cultural grip, as it is rapidly doing, this confusion will dissipate. More and more we can expect the state to show its nature nakedly.

For me this is anything but a happy conclusion. I miss the serenity of believing I lived under a good government, wisely designed and benevolent in its operation. But, as St. Paul says, there comes a time to put away childish things.

Christians Should Stop Supporting the U.S. Government

The Tax Trap: How a Florida Couple Declined Participation in a Government Ponzi Scheme and Ended Up in Prison

by Bill Sardi

Recently by Bill Sardi: Stocks, Bonds, Real Estate, Paper Money, Gold

"Anyone may arrange his affairs so that his taxes shall be as low as possible; he is not bound to choose that pattern which best pays the treasury. There is not even a patriotic duty to increase one’s taxes. Over and over again the Courts have said that there is nothing sinister in so arranging affairs as to keep taxes as low as possible. Everyone does it, rich and poor alike and all do right, for nobody owes any public duty to pay more than the law demands.”

~ Learned Hand, Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals 2nd Circuit (1872-1961) Gregory v. Helvering 69 F.2d 809, 810 (2d Cir. 1934), aff’d, 293 U.S. 465, 55 S.Ct. 266, 79 L.Ed. 596 (1935)

To write an article that casts the Internal Revenue Service in a bad light may have its obvious consequences – retaliation by the IRS. So this report is written anonymously.

Sadly, America is fast becoming a fascist country without recognition by its citizens. Public anger is misdirected and divides the nation, which insulates the government from public pressure. Division is how government keeps the pressure off of itself – rich vs. poor, black vs. white, immigrant vs. non-immigrant, union vs. non-union worker. In the following report, it’s tax-payer vs. tax evader.

Furthermore, government can even violate the Constitution with impunity because it picks off dissenters one by one, breaching the rights of one, not all. It was Martin Niemoller (1892-1984), born in Lippstadt, Germany, who wrote the following:

“In Germany, they came first for the Communists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist;

And then they came for the trade unionists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist;

And then they came for the Jews, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew;

And then . . . they came for me . . . And by that time there was no one left to speak up.”

The story of a tax evader versus the IRS is generally not sufficient to attract the attention of most Americans. Most Americans don’t side with tax evaders, feeling they are cheating others. Furthermore, most Americans cannot distinguish tax evasion from tax avoidance. Pay your fair share of taxes, just like all the rest of us! That is the common sentiment.

Even when Americans are asked if they know of any specific law which requires citizens to pay income taxes, most Americans look perplexed as to why a law would be needed in the first place. What is often heard is that every good American citizen should pay their taxes regardless of whether there is a law or not.

America has drastically changed from its earliest beginnings. America actually started out as a tax protest, the Boston Tea Party being the best specific example. Today, protest taxes and you are considered unpatriotic!

Onerous tax code

The IRS’ Taxpayer Ombudsman says the U.S. tax code has become so onerous, so complex, it costs Americans about $193 billion a year to fill out tax forms, and if improperly filed, the consequences could be forfeiture of property or garnishment of wages. As recently as the year 2000 almost half of U.S. wage earners filled out their own tax forms. Today 80% of tax filers must rely upon assistance in the form of software or a tax consultant. This means the tax code is beyond the comprehension of most citizens.

An estimated 7.6 billion hours a year are spent filling out tax forms for the IRS; and that figure does not even include millions of additional hours that taxpayers must spend when they are required to respond to an IRS notice or an audit (7.6 billion hours consume the equivalent of 3.8 million full-time workers).

The U.S. tax code is so complex that almost any tax filer could be found in violation of some rule and be subject to fines and penalties. Furthermore, the IRS can extend its reach beyond the Tax Code and employ laws intended to track down illicit drug dealers. In the case presented below, laws which require banks to report transactions of $10,000 or more.

Case in point

In the case presented below, laws require banks to report transactions of $10,000 or more to the IRS. The IRS claims the alleged offenders attempted to skirt around this law by writing checks just under $10,000 so as to avoid detection by authorities and to evade taxation on income. In legal terms, this violation is called "structuring." It was initially defined in the context of drug dealers who would use many small bank transactions to evade detection. The IRS has elected to use this structuring law to prosecute anyone whom they can make it appear has attempted to evade government detection and therefore, taxation.

Now it is used against a Christian ministry that had no intent to defraud, and individual checks for $9500 and $9600 were cherry-picked over a 2-year period from among weekly checks written to make payroll. The employees were paid in cash and the checks were sometimes written for amounts as low as $2000 or as high as $12,000. Checks written for $6200 and $7800 were not considered "egregious enough."

Any citizen who writes checks for amounts just under $10,000 could be sent to jail. In some instances, even when all taxes are paid, the IRS has deemed transactions under $10,000 to be structured.

How would those accused of structuring have prevented the problem? They would have had to demand that their bank report these less-than-$10,000 transactions to the government so as to avoid potential prosecution. There is no law that would force banks to report transactions below $10,000.

What about privacy? Must the government know everything its citizens do? But citizens serving on a jury panel are likely to ask, what have you got to hide?

Assume for a moment there is no argument that the "tax evader" was actually "evading" taxes. Does that give the Federal government the right to over-prosecute a citizen, tax him for every dime he ever made, use laws intended to deal with drug dealers, and invoke penalties and fines that even convicted drug dealers don’t face?

Who cares, he’s a tax evader, right? That’s just what must have been going through a jury’s mind two years ago in Pensacola, Florida.

The ordeal

Without warning, in the early morning on a day in 1996, Internal Revenue Service agents, sporting seizure papers and accompanied by police officers, towed away cars parked on Cummings Road in Pensacola, Florida. So began a long ordeal between a Christian ministry and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) that continues today.

IRS agents seized the property in a claim for $10,000 of unpaid taxes. The alleged tax violators had mailed written responses to the IRS, but IRS agents chose to seize property without notice rather than write a reply to the accused. What would become years of intimidation had begun.

The vehicles were later returned. But the accused had to take advantage of Florida law and file for personal bankruptcy to regain their vehicles.

Today the accused, a man and his wife, convicted of tax fraud, are spending their time in separate federal prisons. He won’t get out of jail till 2015. His wife has just now entered federal prison and will spend a year in jail.

Just how this couple was found guilty of tax fraud extends beyond a family dispute with a local branch of the IRS to public privacy and punitive issues as well as the right to a fair trial that deserve attention in a country that is fast losing its Constitutional freedoms.

Setting the stage

This story is not just that of a crank tax protestor, but that of a retired public school teacher who started a ministry for children to learn about dinosaurs.

In 1989 Kent Hovind and his wife Jo had begun a ministry to educate Christians that they did not evolve from monkeys but rather were made in the image of God, in a six-day creation as spelled out in the Bible.

The Hovind’s called their ministry Creation Science Evangelism (CSE), and they produced videotapes that have been played worldwide. The tapes were not copyrighted and anyone was invited to duplicate them free of charge. Hundreds of thousands of these tapes were copied and distributed throughout the world.

Kent Hovind fondly became known as "Dr. Dinosaur" for his popular presentations to young children that the dinosaurs did not live millions and millions years ago but rather were created thousands of years ago as the Bible describes.

Kent became known for his public presentations where he demonstrated for children how to launch a paper airplane that would fly over a building, and how to shoot rubber bands to hit an object the size of a light bulb from 30 feet away. This wowed children.

Kent was frequently late for appointments because he stopped to help someone stranded on a roadside with a flat tire or a dead battery.

Hovind went so far as to challenge biology professors and teachers of evolution to open debates. Videotapes of these debates made for interesting viewing as time after time Hovind tore into the holes in evolutionary thinking. Hovind even offered a $250,000 reward for anyone who could provide empirical evidence for evolution.

Vow of poverty

Back in 1989, Kent Hovind officially took a vow of poverty, as Roman Catholic priests who belong to an "order" do today. Catholic priests who take a vow of poverty, which is recognized by the IRS, are exempt from paying Federal income tax. For those who have taken such a vow, earnings are considered the income of the religious order, or in Hovind’s case, part of his ministry. In essence, Hovind owned nothing, had no salary, and all of his needs, housing, food, transportation, were met by the ministry. He had no personal wealth, and he was not an owner of any real estate or other property, the ministry was. All of CSE’s real estate was put into a trust. Years later, newspaper reports nebulously reported Hovind failed to pay his taxes. It was a moot point. Hovind, like ordered Catholic priests, officially had no income.

The raid

The Hovind’s faced a squadron of IRS agents and police officers, who with guns drawn, raided Creation Science Evangelism in the morning hours on April 14, 2004. Some $40,000 was stolen from the ministry safe that day.

CSE was hardly a dangerous crowd of workers, but 20 armed government agents stormed onto the ministry property without warning in the early morning hours. One of Hovind’s son, who is physically handicapped, was thrown to the floor and handcuffed. Four armed agents entered Jo Hovind’s bedroom and handcuffed her. She was not even allowed to get dressed or go to the bathroom. She was taken to jail despite pleas for simple courtesies. She was indicted at the Federal Courthouse in her nightgown. Such is the experience today of those who, while innocent until proven guilty, are subjected to humiliation and public ridicule. The local Pensacola newspaper found the Hovind’s ordeal with the IRS increased their readership. Not a whimper of protest has ever been issued from the newspaper. It was as if Hovind was guilty from the start.

The Withholding Tax trap

Kent Hovind was arrested and charged with twelve counts of willfully failing to withhold, deposit, report, and pay federal income and FICA (social security) taxes for employees from March 31, 2001 until December 31, 2003. The only law he was informed that he violated was 26 U.S.C. § 7202. (26 U.S.C. § 7202 has a 5-year penalty and he is in jail for 10.)

When their day in court arrived, 5 of 6 former and current employees testified they had paid their own taxes, so the IRS’ argument that the Hovind’s (or the ministry) owed the government hundreds of thousands of dollars was specious.

It appears that the IRS could not easily invoke fines and penalties upon Kent Hovind because of his vow of poverty. In fact, a 2005 Grand Jury declined to investigate Hovind any further after submission of his affidavit which explained his dedication to ministry work and how he began his ministry with a vow of poverty, which he adhered to religiously.

To the IRS, this was not a ministry but rather Kent Hovind doing business as Creation Science Evangelism. So let’s pretend, for a moment, Hovind really was a business like the IRS tries to make it appear. But the IRS didn’t follow their own rules here. Churches and ministries do not have to apply to the government to be tax exempt.

According to IRS Publication 526:

Organizations That Qualify To Receive Deductible Contributions

You can deduct your contributions only if you make them to a qualified organization. To become a qualified organization, most organizations other than churches and governments, as described below, must apply to the IRS.

In the IRS’ own words a church "is automatically tax-deductible."

Unable to pursue Hovind on the ministry income or personal income taxes because of his vow of poverty, the IRS targeted the Withholding Tax for his employees.

The IRS tells employers and employees that according to Internal Revenue Code (IRC) section 3402(a)(1) of their code: “…every employer making payment of wages shall deduct and withhold upon such wages a tax determined in accordance with tables or computational procedures prescribed by the Secretary.” This language is widely cited in copies of the IRC.

However, this is what the law really says: "no (federal, state, city or county) municipal corporation shall levy or collect or cause to be levied or collected any tax upon the income, or any part thereof, of any person, resident or nonresident (also known as the “Full Paycheck Law”)."

How did the IRC regarding withholding tax get changed? According to a September 15, 2003 letter from GAO (General Accounting Office) to Congressman Elton Gallegly regarding W-4 forms and reporting, this was revealed:

“Under current law, IRS does not have statutory authority to impose a penalty to enforce employer compliance with the reporting requirement. The reporting requirement was promulgated in Treasury regulations.”

So the U.S. Treasury Department altered the Internal Revenue Code regarding Employee Withholding taxes. But even then, there is nothing that an employer can do to force employees to sign the W-4 form

The Code of Federal Regulations clearly advises the employers at 26 CFR §31.3402(p)-1(a) “An employee who desires to enter into an agreement for withholding…shall furnish his employer with Form W-4 (or its equivalent) for withholding. The furnishing of such Form W-4 shall constitute a request for withholding.”

Then, 31 CFR §215.2(n)(1) clearly tells the employers they cannot take amounts from the workers’ pay for any form of State tax UNLESS the employee VOLUNTARILY elects to have such sums withheld.

The IRS threatens employers with huge fines if they don’t withhold payroll taxes. Yet there is nothing an employer can do till employees consent to withholding by signing the W-4 form.

Devvy Kidd, Executive Director of We the People Congress, Inc., says: "The withholding issue was sold under the guise of patriotism because the American people did not want this new taxing scheme back in 1942."

Structuring and penalties

The IRS claimed the Hovinds "structured" 45 checks for $9500 or $9600, totaling $430,000, to skirt around government reporting laws.

First, it is difficult to imagine how one check can be deemed to be structured. The combination of two or more checks that represent $10,000 or more to the same payee, intended to avoid the IRS reporting requirement, has been interpreted as structuring in the past.

But transactions under $10,000 have been cited as a violation of reporting laws. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling states "by its plain language, the statute [Section 5324(a)(3)] prohibits transactions of less than $10,000 that are intended to evade reporting requirements.""Knowledge of, and the intent to avoid, reporting of those transactions by bank" represents evidence of structuring. (31 CFR § 103.11(gg)

But the fact that one check for $9500, written by anyone who has knowledge of the $10,000 reporting law (which shows intent in the government’s mind), can be deemed to be evidence of structuring means anyone could be found guilty of this practice by happenstance.

Avoiding and evading are mixed here. Citizens apparently have no right to make efforts to maintain privacy in financial dealings. Were the Hovind’s negligent in informing their bank to report those checks under the $10,000 requirement? The IRS needs to make it clear, since the public has become generally knowledgeable of the $10,000 reporting requirement for banks (not businesses, citizens, or ministries), that transactions intentionally engineered so as to remain under this reporting requirement for the sole purpose of maintaining privacy may be deemed to be a violation of the law. Therefore, in self-protection, parties should instruct their bank to report all transactions to the IRS regardless of amount to the IRS. The current practice is a reporting trap.

Here is the IRS’ logic:

You should not drive through a red light or you will be sent to jail.

You can drive through a green light, and you will not go to jail.

However, if you drive through a green light in an effort to knowingly avoid driving through a red light, you go to jail.


It is illegal to drive 45 in a 45 zone because you’re avoiding breaking the law at 46.

Second, the IRS arbitrarily claims the Hovind’s owe the government $430,000, the total amount of the structured checks. But the 45 checks totaling $430,000 were written to pay the salaries of employees and were essentially a deductible expense of the business. How can the government demand payment for what amounts to the entire weekly payroll of CSR’s employees?

The total withholding tax for workers designated as independent contractors, who would pay both the workers and employer’s share of the tax, would be 15.3%. The Hovind’s would be obligated to pay, at most, 15.3% of $430,000, or $65,790 in Withholding tax. The employees, who were paid cash, were obligated to pay their own taxes on their income. The remaining total of the payroll checks, minus Withholding taxes, would represent a tax deduction to the dba (Kent Hovind) for cost of labor.

How did a jury buy into this false argument that the penalty should be based upon the total payroll, not the total of Withholding taxes? The IRS picked the highest amount, the total amount of the payroll checks, not the lower amount, Withholding taxes. Why did the local news reporters in Pensacola never question this figure? Why did the judge allow this higher figure to be the penalty the Hovind’s owed?

Withholding tax supports a Ponzi scheme

In their defense, the Hovind’s declared the Social Security payroll deduction a Ponzi scheme and branded it as illegal. After his conviction and sentencing, the judge in the case stated she found the Hovind’s defense as based upon "bizarre arguments." Few Americans paid attention.

The General Accounting Office says that Social Security is under-funded by $12 trillion, and there is no money in the Social Security trust fund under each citizen’s name, and it relies upon a larger population of younger tax payers to pay for retirees, and it cannot in any way deliver on its promise to deliver retirement checks to future retirees.

Despite this, most Americans would view the Hovind’s defense, while true, to be a cover to evade taxes and such failure to pay taxes would only make matters worse. It is very difficult to get through to the citizenry on these matters.

Christians appear to be paralyzed to oppose a wrong, their complicity with what appears to be a Biblical exhortation not to "cheat your neighbor, nor rob him. The wages of him who is hired shall not remain with you all night until morning." (Book of Leviticus 19:13) The current Social Security system is going to cheat future generations out of trillions of dollars.

The Securities and Exchange Commission describes a Ponzi scheme as a system where one continues to put money into a system on the “rob-Peter-to-pay-Paul” principle, as money from new investors is used to pay off earlier investors until the whole scheme collapses.

The Withholding Tax may be the law by prevailing practice, but that doesn’t make it moral or right. In fact, it may be unconstitutional because it interferes with the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness guaranteed in the Declaration of Independence.

If somebody doesn’t begin to stand up to a government system that by all definitions is a Ponzi scheme, American society will crumble in economic insolvency, as we read in the daily newspapers now.

Until the laws and regulations regarding taxation are changed, the citizenry is obligated to pay taxes and employers are obligated to withdraw funds from employees’ payroll checks. But this makes citizens complicit in the crime.

News headlines

Within a week of the April 14, 2004 raid on CSE the Associated Press had taken the story national. Why the Associated Press elected to cover a local news story should be noted. It could prejudice a future jury.

Newspaper headlines made it sound like the Hovind’s were millionaires. CSE had taken in $5 million, but that was over a period of 5 years and pertained to the gross receipts of the ministry, not the net profits. The seeming largesse of the money was beyond what any jurist would ever make in their lifetime. They couldn’t imagine the Hovind’s did not personally profit from many donations and tape and book sales.

Playing to the jury

The jury of twelve was sworn in on October 18, 2006 in United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida.

Jurors could only be those who embrace Darwinism or even atheism, or Christians who espouse to the Biblical teaching to pay taxes, or maybe a mixture of both.

It is in just this sort of courtroom vise that the Hovind’s found themselves in a Southern courtroom where it would have been expected that Southern jurors in the heart of the Bible Belt should have exonerated them. But oddly, the godly and the apostate would align together to convict the Hovind’s of contrived charges

The Southern jury was anticipated to largely reflect a Bible Belt population. The prosecution knew this and they had to overcome it. The strategy was to confront the jury with Bible verses that would condemn the Hovind’s right from the beginning of the trial.

On the second day of the trial the prosecution brought Rebekah Horton, vice president of Pensacola Christian College, to the witness stand. Horton’s testimony was irrelevant to the case, but she was allowed to testify anyway.

Horton herself had a history of run-ins with the IRS. The non-profit Pensacola Christian College derived a great deal of its income from A Beka books (named after Rebekah Horton), which publishes Christian books and curriculums for grade school children. In the mid-1990s, A Beka paid nearly $50-million in back taxes after the Internal Revenue Service ruled that it should have been classified as a for-profit entity.

The reformed Horton took the stand. She had subsequently taken an "anti-tax rebel" stand and informed students that the school would report anyone who they feel is breaking the laws of the country. Pensacola Christian College has strict rules of conduct, and they informed students the school would prohibit any student from associating with others who took an anti-taxation stance.

Whether Horton’s penance was to take the witness stand on that day is unknown, but why the judge would allow the prosecution to question Rebekah Horton goes unexplained. Horton had no direct connection with the case. Horton was an avowed enemy of Hovind and had forbidden her school’s students to work for Creation Science Evangelism.

Horton testified: "We know the Scriptures do not promote (tax evasion). It’s against Scripture teaching." The scripture she was referring to is Matthew 22:21: "Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s."

Those words were uttered by Jesus when questioners tried to trap Jesus into taking a stand that they could report to the Roman authorities on whether Jews should or should not pay taxes to their Roman occupiers. The more accurate translation is: "Creatures of the State should pay taxes to the State, and Creatures of God should pay to God." This scripture is one of the most often misinterpreted.

Jesus Himself rebuked the Apostle Peter for paying taxes not due. (Matthew 17: 24-27) "Jesus asked: of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? Of their own children, or of strangers?" (Interpretation: governments raise money from foreigners {aliens} rather than from sons {residents}.)

The Bible offers no mandates for employers to pay their employees taxes, only for workers to pay their taxes. At issue in the Hovind case was Federal withholding for Social Security. Federal withholding taxes actually stake first claim on an employee’s paycheck, essentially replacing the "first fruits" that were to be given to God. (Deuteronomy 26:2) The Federal government now receives the "first fruits." The Hovind’s were objecting, as Christians, to participation in a fraudulent scheme called Social Security. Imagine, in this case, had the jury elected to exonerate the Hovind’s of all charges based upon a requirement to withhold money for a fraudulent public retirement scheme, history would have been made. The jury seized no such opportunity.

The Social Security scheme is not much different than the Bernard Madoff $50 billion Ponzi scheme that has outraged so many Americans. Yet no fury is expressed when the government robs the people.

The Hovind’s claimed no benefits for Social Security. Social Security is still a voluntary system for its participants. Recognize, according to the General Accounting Office, Social Security invests money in securities on Wall Street. Withholding Taxes produce handsome rewards for traders on Wall Street who pay lobbyists and make circuitous political contributions to Congressional representatives. Others line their pockets with the Withholding tax money the IRS collects, under force of law.

The judge

The judge assigned to the case, US District judge Casey Rodgers, a G.W. Bush appointee, was the youngest woman appointed to serve in the federal court system. She was appointed at age 39, a couple of years prior to the Hovind case. She had a career to make and now an important case to cut her teeth on.

Of considerable side interest, Judge Rodgers was later to rule, in a case involving the Santa Rosa County School District in Pensacola, against school prayer. Her ruling prohibits employees from promoting prayer at school-sponsored events. This is despite the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Essentially, Judge Rodgers ruling violates the 1st Amendment.

During closing arguments Kent Hovind’s attorney read the jury instructions to the jury about the amount structured must be more than $10,000. The U.S. Attorney objected to her own jury instruction! The judge held a side bar and called for a recess. Forty-five minutes later she came back in with new jury instructions that said if they found that the Hovind’s withdrew less than $10,000 they must find them guilty! The stunned Hovind attorneys each moved for a mistrial since jury instructions cannot be changed after closing arguments are presented. The judge denied their motions. The Hovind’s were never allowed to present a defense for structuring transactions under $10,000. The Hovind’s were found guilty of forty-five counts of structuring.

After the trial, Judge Rodgers was quoted by the Pensacola News Journal to say that "Kent Hovind had failed his fellow citizens and the men and women of the military – who fight to defend his freedoms – by refusing to pay taxes." This is a very strange statement for a judge who is supposed to be impartial. Juries find the accused guilty or innocent, not judges. The definition of a patriot has changed, from one who resisted an onerous tea tax by the British, to Americans today who view any tax protest as a lack of patriotism.

After Kent and Jo Hovind had been convicted and sentenced, an appeal was filed with the 11th Circuit Court. Judge Rodgers refused to produce transcripts of the Hovind case that were required for an appeal to be submitted. In fact, Judge Rodgers even incurred fines and delayed the appeal by many months. Why was Judge Rodgers dragging her feet in delivering transcripts of the case in preparation for an appeal?

After-court comments

In the Pensacola News Journal IRS spokesman Norman Meadows said Hovind’s case was not run of the mill and “tax protesters like this are a threat to the nation.”

The government alleged that Mr. Hovind threatened harm to those investigating him and those cooperating with the investigation, yet when pressed about these claims, the government said this claim was based upon Mr. Hovind’s prayer on the radio program he hosted when he discussed David praying that God would smite his enemies.

On January 20, 2007 the Pensacola News Journal said: "Jo Hovind will be sentenced March 1 on charges of evading bank-reporting requirements." But just exactly how would a citizen force a bank to report transactions to Federal authorities that were below the $10,000 notification point? That point went unexplained. The local newspaper bought the government’s story all the way.

Fearing more charges would be filed against her, after the trial was completed Mrs. Hovind, who had never taken a salary at Creation Science Evangelism and had never filed a tax return, filed a late tax return for the past 10 years showing she owed $25,000 in back taxes (including fines and penalties), which she couldn’t pay. Surprisingly, after belatedly filing her tax returns, Jo Hovind actually received tax refund checks from the IRS for a few hundred dollars!

The ordeal continues. The IRS has delivered tax bills to the Hovind’s for $528,000 and $700,000 and now $10 million dollars (Spring 2008). The IRS is over-prosecuting, declaring every dollar of income made by CRE to be ill-gotten. The IRS must be tabulating the huge cost of filing charges against the Hovind’s and figuring out how to justify what must be millions of dollars spent in their prosecution for more than a decade. This must be the reason for the attempt to confiscate property belonging to Creation Science Evangelism. A judge is now considering which if any properties on Cummings Road in Pensacola, properties worth close to $2 million. Just how the IRS is going to justify the taking of all the property in this ministry is going to be worth watching since churches and church groups, regardless of their filing for 501c3 status, are exempt from paying taxes. The IRS maintains, and the courts supports, the false notion that the IRS is a "victim of tax evasion." (11th Circuit Court of Appeals decision, Dec. 30, 2008, No. 07-10502) Even if true, to what extent? The penalty for not paying Withholding tax appears to be beyond reason since most of the employees paid their own taxes.

Many followers of Darwinian evolution followed the court case involving Kent Hovind every step of the way. Many ridicule Kent Hovind, arrogantly claiming scientific high ground for Darwinian evolution, and gloat that a proponent of Biblical creation has finally been "caged," that his science and his business practices were a fraud all along.

Another note to this saga: Assistant U.S. Attorney John D.R. Atchison, a prosecutor in the Hovind case, was arrested in September of 2008 for flying to Detroit in an attempt to molest a 5-year old boy. Atchison committed suicide in federal prison a month later.

Is there any privacy left in America?

Donald McAlvany, editor of the McAlvany Intelligence Advisor, lashes at the war on cash and privacy. Mr. McIlvany’s words speak loud:

Most Americans suppose “money laundering” refers primarily to the hidden, laundered, movement of cash profits from drug deals. Wrong! It refers today to almost any “financial crime,” broken financial regulation, use of cash, avoidance of government cash-reporting laws, unreported foreign bank accounts, unreported transfer of funds, or virtually anything the government bureaucrats want it to mean. The definition is vague and ever expanding.

IRS agents are greatly accelerating money-laundering cases in situations where there is obviously no criminal intent, and certainly no involvement whatsoever with drugs or drug money. Remember, the IRS considers money laundering to be any effort you make to disguise your assets or avoid completing a federal currency transaction or border-crossing form.

If a tax case can be called “money laundering,” it is no longer civil, but criminal, with large potential criminal sentences and fines….

The first thing the Nazis did in the 1930s to establish control over their population was to establish “money crimes” that were punishable by forfeiture and imprisonment. Half a century later, the same thing is happening here. The war on drugs is a classic government power grab.

McIlvany goes on to address "structuring:"

“Structuring” is defined by the IRS as any effort to avoid reporting cash or other monetary transactions over $10,000 by breaking them down into smaller “related” transactions over any 12-month period (defined by USC 31, Sec. 5322-5324-Money Laundering Control Act of 1986, as amended).

“Structuring” is now defined as money laundering, and is a criminal offense. You can now go to jail for dealing in cash to protect your financial privacy, if the IRS thinks you’re trying to hide or structure your transactions or monetary instruments. Furthermore, it’s against the law for a bank or merchant to tell you that you might be violating the law. This can get him prosecuted as part of your structuring “conspiracy.” If they think your behavior is suspicious, they may fill out a form on you without telling you and file it with the IRS, which will promptly audit you, or begin a criminal investigation. . . .

The average person might say, “Well, the government would never come after anyone who was totally innocent.” But that’s not true – he misses the point. The IRS admits that 85% of the people accused of “structuring” committed no other crime than seeking to protect their privacy.


Americans look to their TV sets for interpretation of current events. It is easy to see that the public sorts out a case like the Hovind’s as just another crank tax protestor who is depriving the public of its money. Yet some people ask why child molesters roam the streets on parole while a teacher like Kent Hovind gets 10-years in the slammer?

The American people largely appear to be oblivious to a government that has slid past socialism to fascism. Americans might admit to the socialist claim, but they wouldn’t recognize fascism if they saw it. It is not in their vocabulary.

In Nazi Germany, Christians were confronted with the Bible scripture to "render unto Caesar" to compel their cooperation. As the nation slides further into debt (another $12 trillion of public debt is planned by 2013) government will legislate more and more ways to raise taxes, pay fines, etc.

The Hovind case was not about law, it was about a country that cannot distinguish the over-reaching arm of government, beyond what the 10th Amendment to the Constitution allows, from an all-authoritarian, totalitarian government, that often, but not always, operates under a dictator. The State has replaced God.

The Hovind case was about a citizenry that cannot fathom that their country does any wrong.

The U.S. Constitution serves as a perfect cover for American fascism. Constitutional limited government is gone. The fear of imagined terrorists produces a need for the public to rely upon an all-authoritative protector.

America is a Constitutional republic in name only. Efforts to remove guns from potential criminals are a cover for negating the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution. The principle of "no taxation without representation" is negated by gerrymandering of Congressional districts. Government must strike down tax dissenters lest the populace rise up against unfair taxation.

The public is encouraged to save rather than go into debt, but the savings only capitalize the bankrupt bankers. The public, via inflation created by the Federal Reserve, is fleecing the citizenry of its money. The public remains in a coma.

The greatness of America, its pioneer spirit and its standard of living, is about to come to an end. The Federal government hides the fact it spends over a trillion dollars a year on war making, or more than half of the U.S. annual budget, essentially robbing money from its future. Medicare and Social Security are aggregately under-funded by $75 trillion. There is no way Americans today are going to be provided the healthcare and pension checks they were promised.

When the citizenry finally does wake up, the only way the State can maintain control is to quell all opposition, threaten imprisonment, keep the people financially impoverished and in bread lines, so they cannot mount up meaningful resistance. Searching for food on the table, they become more dependent upon a monster that the nation’s forefathers warned about.

Threatened with exposure, the government is not beyond a "false flag" operation where a "dirty bomb" or two will cause the people to give up their freedoms for greater security. Plans for such covert operations have been discovered in archives of the federal government.

Oppressive countries imprison dissenters. America has more people locked up in jail than any other country. Prisons have become a growth industry. Kent and Jo Hovind look out from behind bars, wondering when or if America will ever wake up. They now serve God in a prison ministry.

Americans will hear of the Hovind case. They will say, "Ya, that’s that creation guy, got himself into trouble with the IRS. He should have paid his taxes like everyone else."

Yes, we should all be good citizens and pay into the government Ponzi scheme, and relinquish our privacy rights and not hide anything from the government, and make no effort to avoid (not evade) taxes. Americans aren’t likely to pay attention till the IRS is prosecuting them.

At the current writing of this report, the Federal government is covertly auditing small business bank accounts for any appearance of tax evasion. The Federal government assumes it has the right to audit every bank account in America because it is now an insolvent government that must look for new sources of income. It is possible the IRS will estimate taxes owed and withdraw funds directly from small business bank accounts rather than audit every small business.

January 8, 2010

Bill Sardi [send him mail] is a frequent writer on health and political topics. His health writings can be found at He is the author of You Don’t Have To Be Afraid Of Cancer Anymore.

Copyright © 2010 Bill Sardi Word of Knowledge Agency, San Dimas, California. This article has been written exclusively for and other parties who wish to refer to it should link rather than post at other URLs.

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Santa ain’t got nothin on ole St. Nick

Nothing captures the commercialisation of Christmas quite as effectively as the history of Santa Claus. To illustrate the point, look at a wonderful 16th-century painting that hangs in Room 7 of the National Gallery in London. Most people who pass by it are unaware of its significance. But this panel, circa 1555-60, preserves a particularly pure element of the Christmas spirit.

The painting, attributed to the Tuscan mannerist Girolamo Macchietti, depicts the most important legend of St Nicholas of Myra.

To the right, a nobleman slumbers, surrounded by his three daughters, who are also asleep. According to tradition, the family was so poor that the father was on the brink of selling his girls into prostitution. To the left, their saviour appears at the window, dressed in a sumptuous orange tunic adorned with a red robe. Under the cover of darkness, he prepares to lob through the aperture the second of three balls of gold (each represents a purse stuffed with money) that will provide dowries for all of the daughters, so that they won’t have to sell their bodies to survive.

For Macchietti’s contemporaries, this youth would have been instantly recognisable as St Nicholas. But, today, he goes by a much more familiar name: Father Christmas.

This may come as a surprise. How can Macchietti’s Mr Goldenballs, with his gilt sandals and curly, glowing hair, be related to roly-poly, red-faced Santa Claus? For starters, he’s too thin. And beardless. He is dressed like an inhabitant of the Mediterranean, not Lapland. He is standing by the window, not peering down the chimney. And, anyway, where’s his retinue of reindeer?

But, then, this is one of the sad truths at the heart of Christmas present. These days, it isn’t only the birth of Christ that is threatened with oblivion. The charitable St Nicholas, associated with Christmas since time immemorial, is rapidly sliding towards anonymity, too. Meanwhile, the stock of his more recent incarnation as Santa Claus, the darling of department-store managers, filmmakers and advertising copy-writers the world over, continues to rise.

Canon James Rosenthal, who has earned a reputation as one of the Church’s leading authorities on St Nicholas, believes it’s time that the “real” Father Christmas is remembered.

“I always think it’s sad that people are ignorant of the origins of our customs,” he says. “Santa Claus is fine, but St Nicholas is so much better. Like us, he is real.

“I believe there is a bit of St Nicholas in all of us. For Christians, he is a model to push chubby Santa back into fairyland.”

St Nicholas’s standing is currently so low that Canon Rosenthal was recently banned from visiting children held at an immigration centre in Bedfordshire. When he arrived at Yarl’s Wood, dressed as St Nicholas, wearing a magnificent fake white beard and a bishop’s mitre, he had hoped to deliver presents donated by the congregations of several London churches. But he was turned away by security guards, who eventually called the police. “I felt like a criminal for trying to spread cheer and a few gifts,” Canon Rosenthal told me this week.

St Nick must have been a pretty impressive figure to inspire such devotion, but, in truth, few facts about him are known. He was probably born around AD 260 in the port of Patara on the southern coast of what was then Asia Minor, now Turkey. He grew up in the eastern reaches of the Roman Empire, which was still hostile to Christianity, but found himself drawn to the new religion, and rose to become the bishop of Myra, now the Lycian town of Demre. He died in Myra in 343, possibly on December 6 (the date on which he is usually venerated today).

“The first Life of St Nicholas is from the 9th century,” says Robin Cormack, professor emeritus of the Courtauld Institute of Art, and an expert on Byzantium. “Maybe St Nicholas was a bishop in the 4th century AD; all else seems fiction.”

But what fiction! Scintillating legends quickly gathered around the memory of Myra’s bishop, who acquired a reputation for generosity. Aside from rescuing the daughters of the impoverished nobleman in Macchietti’s picture, he is said to have resurrected three boys who had been killed by a psychotic butcher, who’d chopped them up, salted their remains in a barrel, and planned to sell their cured body parts as ham during a period of famine.

Over the centuries, St Nicholas evolved into the patron saint of sailors and fishermen, pawnbrokers, children, scholars, druggists – and even people being mugged.

By the 10th century, a basilica containing his relics had been built at Myra. In those days, the remains of holy figures were big business, since thousands of pilgrims flocked to shrines all over Europe. In 1087, a bunch of brigands from the Italian port of Bari on the Adriatic Sea set sail for Myra, where they looted the basilica, before returning home with the exhumed remains of St Nick. A shrine was quickly established back in Italy, and people flocked to Bari to peddle the holy “manna” which was said to drip from the saint’s bones.

The arrival of St Nicholas in Italy accounts for his popularity among Italian artists of the Renaissance. Fra Angelico and Masaccio both depicted the saint in altarpieces. Veronese painted the saint, with a white beard, in a grand canvas from 1562 that can be seen in the National Gallery.

St Nicholas was soon venerated across Europe. He was especially beloved in Holland, where, to this day, children receive gifts on the Feast of St Nicholas rather than Christmas Day. The tangerines traditionally left as gifts in the stockings of children who have been good allude to St Nicholas’s emblem – three balls of gold.

His transformation into Father Christmas only occurred after the Dutch had emigrated to North America in the 17th century. In the New World, they continued to observe the feast day of Sinterklaas, as they called St Nicholas. This dialectical quirk became “Santa Claus”.

Most of Santa Claus’s current iconography – the flowing beard, red-and-white livery, reindeer – dates from 19th-century America, where the traditions of the early Dutch settlers were fondly recalled. Clement C Moore’s poem The Night Before Christmas, published anonymously in 1823, cemented the image of Father Christmas in the popular imagination as a jolly old soul with a white beard who arrives through chimneys to deliver gifts into stockings, before riding off into the night on a sleigh laden with toys and powered by prancing reindeer.

The New York caricaturist Thomas Nast later refined our image of Father Christmas, fattening him up in a series of cartoons that appeared in Harper’s Weekly from 1863 onwards. Nast was also responsible for changing the colour of Santa’s cloak from tan or green to red, decades before the Coca-Cola advertising campaigns of the mid-20th century, featuring Swedish artist Haddon Sundblom’s vision of Father Christmas swigging from a bottle of Coke. The first of these ads appeared in 1931, marking a watershed in St Nicholas’s transformation from icon of Christian self-sacrifice to the plump, friendly face of yuletide capitalism.

The question remains why it was specifically St Nicholas, rather than any other saint, who became indelibly linked with Christmas. For Canon Rosenthal, the answer is simple. “St Nicholas hit all the right chords in the hearts, minds and imaginations of the people,” he says. “He went to prison for his faith, he smashed pagan altars, he gave away his wealth, and he even restored three boys to life. Not bad for one person.”

But Prof Cormack is not so sure. “No one understands the reason for the popularity of St Nicholas,” he says. “All the stories [associated with him] are conventional saints’ stuff. He just got lucky.”