God and Taxes

As sure as the sun comes up in the morning, Indiana citizens can be counted on to grouse about taxes. While the complaints usually focus on how much we pay (no matter what the rate, it’s too much), I have a theory that it isn’t the absolute amount that gripes us. It’s whether others are paying their fair share, and above all, it’s what our taxes are being used for.


I may be idiosyncratic, but I’m very willing to pay taxes—my “civic dues”—for services I think government ought to be providing: police, fire and environmental protection, streets and sewers and parks. Individual lists may differ. It all comes down to what we think government’s job is.


Which brings me to Mitch Roob and the good folks over at Family and Children’s Services.


FSSA has been sued by the Freedom From Religion Foundation for paying a “Pastor” (the quotes are because according to the Star, the gentleman in question appears to have simply declared himself to be such—he lacks any credentials other than his own say-so) to provide “spiritual counseling” to the employees of that government agency. According to the Complaint, the Pastor was hired—for $60,000 a year!—to “encourage a faithful environment in the workplace.”


Why in the world is Indiana spending our tax dollars to provide “a faithful environment” for state employees? Put aside, for the moment, that this practice is likely a violation of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause. Put aside the question of how a very Christian pastor will address the “spiritual needs” of Jewish, Muslim, Wiccan or freethinking employees. Even put aside the fact that this particular Pastor holds two other jobs and rarely shows up. Looking at it solely from the standpoint of what a government agency like FSSA is supposed to do, it is inexplicable.


Caseworkers at FSSA are among the most poorly paid and overworked members of the state workforce, as numerous studies have confirmed. Their clients are Indiana’s poorest and most disadvantaged citizens. Those clients have seen dramatic cutbacks in services over the past several years. The poor pay of caseworkers and pitiful level of benefits are routinely justified by a (genuine) lack of adequate funding.


So we violate the U.S. Constitution to pay a part-time “chaplain” nearly three times what we pay a caseworker, so that he can provide those caseworkers with a “faithful environment”?  


I may be a voice in the wilderness here, but I am quite willing to pay taxes that are used to help Indiana’s poor children and disabled adults, or to provide assistance to struggling Indiana families. I am equally willing to pay taxes to provide state employees who are doing proper government work with a living wage and manageable workloads. But if those employees want “spiritual counseling,” it is easily available from their own Pastors, Rabbis or Imans, at no cost to the taxpayers of Indiana.


If this is how my tax money is being spent, then yes, my taxes are too high.






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