Assuming your government participates in immoral wars that are unjust according to your personal beliefs and religious doctrine (for example Christian just war theory), what do Christian groups believe about giving support to the government in terms of ethics and sin?

The government also does useful things and it can be claimed the government saves lives as well, and your funds are being partly used for a good cause (fungibility). Note that it is possible other institutions would save those lives if the government didn't.

To put it in other terms, let's say someone asks you for a dollar and with that dollar they will buy some medicine to save someone and a bullet to kill someone.

Please provide an overview of the stances different denominations would have on this subject.


2 Answers 2


Some Protestant groups, like those represented by the conservative R.C. Sproul Jr and the Acton Institute, believe that even if the government does nothing but evil, one nonetheless is obligated to pay taxes to support it, because what the government does is not the responsibility of the people supporting it but the fault of the government itself. This is similar to but distinct from the material v.s. formal assistance issue discussed below.

Some Catholic groups, like those represented by the extremist Catholic Worker movement, support the refusal to pay taxes in many cases, in accordance with the rule of conscience. This is not technically different than mainstream Catholicism except that these extremist groups cultivate a spiritual culture that encourages members to question the fundamental aspects of their way of life and supports them even when mainstream society would (or does) condemn them, which makes the likelihood that members make choices like the decision to protest a government by refusing to pay taxes much more likely (since, whether or not they ought to morally, people will rarely take up stances that they know will ostracize them from their support network).

More official stances of the Roman Catholic Church tend to reference the differences between material and formal assistance and generally support refusal to pay taxes only as a method of opposing the whole of the government. Paying taxes to an immoral government is argued to be licit from several directions, including the mitigation of moral culpability do to duress (a weak argument), the distinction between material and formal support and vested interest in the public good (a strong argument when it applies), and the principle of double effect. In sum, Catholicism tends to support tax paying in general for most people living in most countries, but supports not paying taxes as a form of resistance in certain unusual circumstances. Basically "It depends". Again, the rule of conscience is the most typical method of actually determining answers within the Church, in combination with the Church's pastoral care and teaching authority.

Christian Pacifists, who oppose war unilaterally, often engage in war tax resistance. Many of them do so in legal ways, simply by reducing the amount of money they have below the taxable threshold (most Christian Pacifists live in countries where this is a thing). Such protestant denominations clearly believe that, at least in some cases, taxes ought to be denied to a government.

For most groups, this is a question of balancing the need to comply with righteous authority and serve the common good with the need to oppose evil and injustice in the world, it's just answered in different ways.

  • 4
    Great answer. I'd give +2 if I could. Well done avoiding the "religious right" issues, which seems largely more political than religious.
    – user3961
    Apr 2, 2015 at 20:12

Independent Baptist groups, who hold the Bible as inerrant and the only revelation from God, believe that Mathew 22:16-22 indicates that we are to always give taxes to our government, whether they are good or bad. With this money Caesar could have helped people, or he could have used it to pay the guy who crucified Jesus.

Independent Baptist groups would also cite Romans 13:1 which says that all authority is ordained by God and is therefore worthy of our obedience.

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