Wash Yourselves

December 1, 2013




Ten years ago the state of Alabama almost took the Bible seriously. Almost. This remarkable story started in 2001 with a woman named Susan Pace Hamill. Ms. Hamill was (and still is) a professor at the University of Alabama Law School where she taught courses on tax law. In 2001 she was granted a sabbatical that she used to study the Bible at Beeson Divinity School, a conservative seminary also located in Alabama. During that sabbatical year she wrote a paper comparing Alabama’s tax laws with the Bible’s
understanding of justice. She called her paper, “The Least of These: Fair Taxes and the Moral Duty of Christians.” In this paper Professor Hamill showed that Alabama’s tax laws did not follow biblical guidelines. She pointed out that Alabama taxed the poor at
proportionally higher rate than it taxed the rich. She correctly called this an injustice from the Bible’s point of view.
The next step in this story happened when the newly elected Republican governor, Bob Riley, read Professor Hamill’s paper. Like Professor Hamill, he too was a Christian.

And after reading her paper, Governor Riley was convinced that in his role as governor he was responsible to change Alabama’s tax laws to make them more consistent with biblical justice. Therefore in 2003 Governor Riley developed Amendment One, a legal initiative to reduce taxes for Alabama’s poor and raise taxes for Alabama’s wealthy. As you know, Alabama is part of the Bible Belt where there are lots of Christians. In fact, 94% of people in Alabama claim to be Christian.1 Given the overwhelming number of Christians in the state, Governor Riley openly told Alabamians that Amendment One was inspired by the Bible. He urged voters to approve the amendment so that justice would flourish.

Bible References

  • Isaiah 2:1 - 5