Religion, Taxpaying, and the Contested Meaning of Political Community in the U.S.

“Taxes tend to be viewed from afar as a dry and technical affair, but look closer and a different picture emerges, in which taxes express the ever-contested moral commitments of a nation and its citizens; tax policy is shot through with moral significance and contestation; and ordinary Americans with diverse religious and political ideals take center stage. ”

Team Members/Contributors

Ruth Braunstein University of Connecticut Contact Me

About this sabbatical grant for researchers

While public debates about tax policy are often framed as disputes between secular (anti-tax) conservatives/libertarians and secular (pro-spending) liberals, these debates have long been informed (and complicated) by religious arguments, practices and communities on the political right and left--- from conservative Christians decrying taxes that fuel an expanding secular government to liberal Christians protesting against taxes and budget policies that undermine social justice values. Yet the complex ways that religious ideas, ideals and practices infuse Americans’ understandings of taxpaying have largely been overlooked. This project fills this gap. Through an analysis of historical scholarship and public opinion data on Americans’ moral views toward taxpaying; and a multi-method comparative investigation of four cases of religiously-infused tax activism (war tax resisters, right-wing tax protesters, liberal religious advocates for a “faithful” tax code/budget, and conservative “taxpayer” groups), it illuminates how taxpaying provides a recurrent opportunity for Americans to reflect on their complex roles as members of multiple moral and political communities, within and beyond the nation. Overall, the project reveals a diversity of religious perspectives on taxpaying, and in so doing deepens our more general understanding of the relationship between money, morality and political community within a religiously and socially diverse democracy.