With anti-taxers at a fever pitch and politicians locked in an angry stalemate over taxation, EthicsDaily.com announces the release of a documentary on faith and taxes that promises to bring calm, civil and deeply moral reflection to one of America's most divisive issues.
Wayne Flynt, emeritus professor of history at Auburn University in Alabama, is featured in the new EthicsDaily.com documentary, "Sacred Texts, Social Duty." (Photo: EthicsDaily.com)
"Sacred Texts, Social Duty," an hour-long documentary produced by EthicsDaily.com in Nashville, focuses on four states and how people of faith think about taxation.
The program features interviews with nearly two dozen people of faith – congregational leaders, academicians and tax experts. Christians, Jews and Muslims speak candidly about what their sacred texts and religious traditions say about taxation and how their moral teachings apply to contemporary taxes.
· Wayne Flynt, Pulitzer-Prize nominee, Baptist minister and professor emeritus at Auburn University;
· Daniel Isaak, rabbi at Congregation Neveh Shalom in Portland, Ore.;
· Ammar Amonette, imam at the Islamic Center of Virginia in Richmond;
· Ralph Martire, executive director of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability in Chicago;
· Mark Knutson, pastor of Augustana Lutheran Church in Portland, Ore.; and
· Margaret M. Mitchell, dean of the University of Chicago Divinity School.
The filmmakers follow key leaders in four states – Virginia, Alabama, Illinois and Oregon – where the fiscal and moral implications of tax policy come into sharp focus.
Virginia has slashed education spending. Alabama has raised its threshold for taxing low-income citizens. Illinois has a deficit that's half of the entire state budget. And Oregon voters passed two measures in early 2010 raising taxes on individuals and corporations.
And all this is happening without much moral reflection on taxation from houses of faith.
"During my lifetime I've never heard a sermon from the pulpit that's advocated for a good tax policy," says Tami Sober, assistant director at the Virginia Education Association, in the documentary.
It's a recurring sentiment in communities of faith across the country: Moral teachings and taxation are seldom connected in pulpits.
"Sacred Texts, Social Duty" will challenge that dynamic and call viewers to think about the relationship between faith and taxes.
"Sacred Texts, Social Duty" was originally produced as an ABC-TV interfaith special. However, network gatekeepers refused to air the program without the removal of the 10-minute segment evaluating regressivity/progressivity, sales taxes on food, and the lottery as a predatory form of taxation.
EthicsDaily.com was unwilling to gut the program of its moral witness.
"Broadcasting an hour-long documentary on sacred texts without an application of moral teachings to the public square says that religion is irrelevant, that faith has nothing to say to social justice, that the current tax system is a good one from a faith perspective," says Robert Parham, executive director of EthicsDaily.com. "Watering down the moral witness for the sake of an ABC broadcast is too much of a compromise."
"Sacred Texts, Social Duty" is EthicsDaily.com's seventh production. Previous DVDs included examinations of racism, Baptist-Muslim relations, global poverty, faith and politics, and Baptist-Jewish relations.
EthicsDaily.com's most recent documentary was "Different Books, Common Word: Baptists and Muslims," which aired on ABC-TV stations in January and February 2010.
Prior to "Different Books, Common Word," EthicsDaily.com's "Beneath the Skin: Baptists and Racism" won the best documentary award at the International Black Film Festival of Nashville in October 2008 and a similar award at the Cine-Fest Motion Picture Expo in Louisville in December 2008. It was also used in countless churches and programs, including the American Baptist Churches USA biennial meeting in Pasadena, Calif., the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship general assembly in Houston, Texas, and various regional gatherings of the New Baptist Covenant.
For information and ordering, visit SacredTextsSocialDuty.com.