The Interfaith Social Assistance Reform Coalition (ISARC), which includes Ontario’s Catholic bishops, has been praying for higher taxes for weeks

Interfaith groups prayed for a ‘more progressive tax code’ for Ontario

By 
  • April 25, 2012

From Catholics to Zoroastrians, faith leaders gathered at Queen’s Park to pray for prosperity and welcome the compromise Ontario budget passed April 24.

The budget, which raised taxes on those earning $500,000 or more by two per cent, spared some day care centres from cuts and added one per cent to basic welfare rates was welcomed by Interfaith Social Assistance Reform Coalition president Rev. Susan Eagle.

“It’s not the budget that it was three weeks ago. For that we are grateful,” she said.

The surtax on the wealthy is at least a gesture toward a more equal society, said Eagle.

The Interfaith Social Assistance Reform Coalition, which includes Ontario’s Catholic bishops, has been praying for higher taxes for weeks — not just to close the gulf between the rich and the rest of Ontario but to put money into government coffers for public housing, welfare and other programs.

Redemptorist Fr. Paul Hansen was there to pray with rabbis, imams and pastors for a more progressive tax code that promotes the common good.

“The common good is a secular word for the vestibule of the reign of God,” said Hansen.

Hansen also plans to add his name to the on-line petition at www.faithleadersforfairtaxation.ca. The petition proposes modest tax increases for households earning more than $100,000.

“I have a vow of poverty. I don’t have any money and I don’t pay taxes,” Hansen notes. “But I’m going to join it for sure.”

The Faith Leaders For Fair Taxation proposal is a carbon copy of Lawyers For Fair Taxation and Doctors For Fair Taxation. At $101,000 a family tax bill would go up $20 a year. A household with income of $250,000 would owe an extra $6,200. At $1 million income per year, taxes increase $72,800.

The Liberal-NDP compromise for incomes over $500,000 should bring in an extra $400 million, according to government estimates. It is the first Ontario income tax increase in 20 years.

Progressive taxation is “very biblical,” said Hansen.

“If we look at the Acts of the Apostles, chapters two and four, we see that the vision of the Christians for humanity is that we share all in common – that our needs are met,” he said.

Social justice and advocacy intern for the Anglican Diocese of Toronto Leah Watkiss went to her Bible to produce a theological reflection paper that calls for higher taxes. Watkiss, who studied theology at the Catholic University of San Diego, finds the logic for greater taxation in the Book of Leviticus where tithes and debt forgiveness were built into the law. Under biblical law the welfare of the poor was never left to voluntary acts of charity, writes Watkiss.

“It was not charitable giving that allowed the wealthy to pick and choose who deserved to receive their generosity, but a tax that went to serve those in most need, whoever they were and wherever they came from,” writes Watkiss in “A Theology of Taxation.”

Watkiss has it right when it comes to her reading of tithes as a commandment, said St. Michael’s University Old Testament professor John McLaughlin. “The tithe is not charity. It’s a commandment,” he said. “It’s not left up to whether people feel like doing it.”

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