A “brother” and sister pair of Australian missionaries, who argued that it is “against God’s will” to pay taxes to their government, were ordered by a court to pay more than $1.6 million they owed after they failed to convince the Supreme Court of Tasmania that non-payment of taxes is a traditional Christian teaching.
"I believe the submissions to be honestly and genuinely held beliefs rather than an attempt to avoid tax liabilities,” Associate Justice Stephen Holt said in his judgment on the case, according to ABC News. "But in my view, the Bible effectively said that civil matters and the law of God operate in two different spheres."
Christian missionaries Fanny Alida Beerepoot and Rembertus Cornelis Beerepoot appeared in court Wednesday when they both failed to pay more than $652,000 each in income tax and other charges in 2017.
Attorney Stephen Linden told the court the missionaries failed to file their tax returns after they were served two notices of their debt.
Representing himself, Mr. Beerepoot argued that Australian taxation law was against the law of "Almighty God."
"We believe that the constitution affirms the fact that the Commonwealth resides within the jurisdiction of the law of the Almighty God and the law of the Almighty God is the supreme law of this land," he told the court.
The family argued that they previously paid their income tax until 2011 when a deeper spiritual relationship with God made them realize paying taxes is "against God's will."
They claimed that they wrote both the Queen and the nation’s prime minister about the validity of tax laws they felt weakened their dependence on God and cursed Australia.
"Transferring our allegiance from God to the Commonwealth would mean rebelling against God and therefore breaking the first commandment,” Mr. Beerepoot argued.
"As we reject God, the curses upon us become greater, but if we return to God's teachings there will be healing," Ms. Beerepoot added. "We rely on the blessings we receive from God which we give to him and not to an outside entity such as the tax office."
The family’s property was previously seized and sold to settle some of their tax liabilities in 2017. They were ordered by Justice Holt on Wednesday to pay the collective $2.3 million to cover income tax debt, administrative costs, interest charges and balance account deficit debts.