Christian Action League of North Carolina
The following is a debate on “sin taxes,” more specifically the argument for and against taxing alcohol and tobacco in North Carolina that took place in an exchange of emails between Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League and a conservative Christian activist that will remain unnamed.
Conservative political activist writes to Rev. Creech……
Dear Rev. Creech,
Thank you for the work that you do. I am a great supporter and usually agree with you on all issues, however, I strongly disagree with your stance on the “sin taxes”. If we are to be true conservatives and advocate for less government and lower taxation, then we can not be hypocrites. We should be advocating for allowing all citizens to keep more of our money and for government to be doing with less money. As Christians, we have continued to advocate for more responsibility to the government and less to God and our fellow man. We can’t have it both ways. We can’t support an ever increasing “big government”. While I agree some taxes are better than others and inherently more fair. We should agree that too much of our money is wasted on things that, as Christians, we would never support (try Planned Parenthood funding abortions with taxpayer money). We should never advocate for government to have more of our hard earned dollars until they learn how to spend it wisely. Let’s be consistent.
Rev. Creech’s response to conservative political activist………
Thank you for writing me on this issue.
Like you, I also strongly believe in smaller government. As you know, Progressives tend to think that the government should provide housing, food, child care, health care, etc. And our taxes provide these services. Nevertheless, there is no authorization by Scripture for the government to be involved in these areas of life. I agree that today we look to the government as the panacea for all our woes. In short, we might say that government has become the opiate of the people and taxation is completely out of hand.
But all taxes are not necessarily bad taxes. Some, I believe, are good and actually serve the purposes of God. Romans 13:4-6 tell us that the primary responsibility of government is to suppress and judge evil. In other words, more than anything else, if not indeed to the exclusion of everything else, this is the state’s calling from almighty God. “For because of this you also pay taxes,” exhorts the Scripture.
There are few things in our nation which facilitates a greater threat to the public’s health, spiritual or emotional well-being, than tobacco and alcohol. These two industries extract far more from society than they ever give. Nearly a half-million people die every year due to some tobacco related disease. Alcohol’s broad brush negatively effects numerous areas of life such as safety on our roads, crime, etc., costing our nation approximately $186 billion a year, which amounts to about 638.00 for every man, woman and child in the country. Numerous studies have conclusively proven that taxing these products not only provides needed revenues for addressing the cost to society that they produce, but also significantly helps curb consumption levels, thereby reducing our nation’s slavery to such vice.
Moreover, it should also be mentioned cigarettes and alcohol are not simply issues of personal responsibility. Both unfortunately, often negatively affect those who never use them. We know today that passive smoke kills thousands. And I need not belabor the negative ways that alcohol has affected the innocent in the wake of their use.
That is why I believe cigarette and alcohol taxes fall perfectly in line with the government’s calling from God to suppress and judge evil. Such taxes, I think, might better be deemed as a user’s fee.
Any other time, I would likely agree with you on the issue of taxes. But its important to emphasize again that not all taxes are wrong. In fact, the Scriptures authorize the use of taxes for the suppression of evil. And this is why I don’t believe my position with regard to taxes on cigarettes and alcohol is in any way an inconsistency.
Conservative political activist replies to Rev. Creech…….
Dear Rev. Creech,
Thank you for your prompt reply.
I completely agree that not all taxes are bad and that taxation is necessary for the good of our citizens. I strongly disagree with many of your other points.
The scripture in Romans, I believe, is referring to the responsibility of government to enforce the law. This scripture tells us to obey the authority and we will have nothing to fear. It also tells us that this is why we pay taxes…for government to be able to enforce laws. I don’t believe that this scripture is saying in any way that we should allow government to tax citizens in order to influence their behavior. Now, if you want to argue the point that these actions and products, tobacco and alcohol, should be make illegal, then you may have a valid point. That makes more sense from your argument stand point. However, I do think we tried that once and it was a miserable failure.
My father was an alcoholic and both parents were heavy smokers. All three of my brothers were alcohoIics as well. I detest both of these addictions and pray for families everywhere who deal with them, but taxation is not the answer, nor is it governments responsibility.
You reasoned that there were many health risks in regards to alcohol and tobacco. I agree with you on that, but where does this logic stop. If it is government’s responsibility, to tax citizens based on risky behavior, this would never end. There is a much greater risk in being obese and eating improperly than in either smoking or drinking. The number of deaths attributed to this are far greater. Would you advocate for the “twinkie tax” as one well know left group has been trying to do for years? If we want to influence behavior in order to make people healthier then this seems logical.
I am a political activist and….[portion of sentence removed that the writer’s identity might not be revealed]… I believe there are many important issues that Christians can have a tremendous impact on. I applaud you for taking a stand and being involved in our governing process. Too many Christians and many pastors are too afraid to speak out on issues. They believe that the church should not be involved in politics. Therein, I believe, is where the problems of our society lies. We have abdicated our responsibility as Christians and citizens to government and our representatives have not been deserving of the trust we have placed in them, in many cases.
While we will have to agree to disagree on this subject. I will never agree that more taxation is the answer, but I do thank you for the work that you do.
God Bless You
Rev. Creech replies to conservative political activist……
Your understanding of Romans 13:4-6 is, most unfortunately, only a cursory one. The passage is the quintessential text for knowing the God-given role of government. Without out it, we essentially have no premise for advocating that government should protect life, liberty and property. It is not simply about our responsibility to obey the law or the government’s responsibility to enforce it. It’s about government’s calling to be “the minister of God,” “to bear the sword against evil,” to be an avenger of righteousness.
You argue that we shouldn’t “allow government to tax citizens in order to influence their behavior.” Yet the legitimate collection of taxes, according to Scripture, is allowed for this very reason. Taxes are legitimately collected in order to provide military, police, and judicial services. What are these but for the purpose of influencing or even controlling people’s behaviors?
You imply that advocating prohibition would be a more valid argument, but then imply this wouldn’t likely work because prohibition has been tried and failed. Perhaps this is much of the dilemma. Prohibition is not a tenable argument today. Americans obviously insist on imbibing alcohol and using tobacco – even to their own demise. So in a democratic republic as ours, we should at least do the next best thing – use the one weapon in our arsenal that would at least limit the negative effects of these products – tax them and tax them relentlessly. They extract far more than they contribute and those who insist upon using them should be made to put something back into the culture. Their use of these products affects all of us in various negative ways.
You also argue that if one takes my argument to its logical end, then we should also support a tax on certain foods, such as a “twinkie tax.” I strongly disagree. In fact, your point, I think, in some ways substantiates my position. Food is a necessity of life. However, cigarettes and alcohol are simply luxuries and unnecessary to life. Moreover, again, they extract far more than they give.
I appreciate your support for me and the Christian Action League. But I do wish that I could convince you, as well as many of my close Republican friends, that there is in this case an exception to the rule to the conservative dogma on taxes. My position is entirely Christian and the best that we can hope for at the current hour. It would provide, at least, for the deliverance of some. Is it not better to free some than none? I beseech you to join me in this campaign. It is a righteous cause!
May God bless you immensely. I look forward to meeting you. You are obviously, indeed, a choice servant of our Lord.