Christian Family Argued Taxes Are Against God's Will, a Judge Told Them to Cough up $1.6 Million

An Australian family that refused to pay taxes on religious grounds have been told they must pay more than $1 million after a judge ruled against them.

Christian missionaries Fanny Alida Beerepoot and Rembertus Cornelis Beerepoot, from the island state Tasmania off Australia's south coast, had claimed that paying income taxes would constitute a rebellion against God. As such, they withheld some $652,000 in taxes and other charges in 2017, ABC News reported.

Despite receiving two debt notices for the outstanding sums, the devout couple still refused to pay the fees. In court papers, Rembertus said he did not recognize Australia's taxation laws as they ran in contravention to the law of "Almighty God."

He told the court that the family "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."

The Beerepoot's told the court they had paid taxes as normal until 2011 but then decided that continuing to do so was against God's will.

The pair have already had property seized over their outstanding debts. In 2017, authorities took possession of their 6-acre home in the north of Tasmania, which the local council eventually sold for $84,000. The couple had refused to pay around $2,100 in charges relating to the property that had accumulated since 2010.

Rembertus said they even sent letters to the Australian Prime Minister and Queen Elizabeth II calling for a review of taxation laws, which they said were causing God to curse Australia. "As we move outside of God's jurisdiction, this country has received curses which we're already seeing in the form of droughts and infertility," Rembertus argued.

"Transferring our allegiance from God to the Commonwealth would mean rebelling against God and therefore breaking the first commandment," he added.

His wife agreed. "As we reject God, the curses upon us become greater, but if we return to God's teachings there will be healing," Fanny said. "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… We don't own anything because we are his."

Judge Stephen Holt, however, had a different opinion. He told the couple he was unable to find any specific references in the Bible that would support their assertion.

"If you can't find me a passage in scripture or gospel that says 'thou shall not pay tax,' then can you see I have difficulty finding a starting point?" Holt asked the defendants.

While he did not doubt their sincerity, Holt said he could not find in their favor. "I believe the submissions to be honestly and genuinely held beliefs rather than an attempt to avoid tax liabilities," the judge explained. "But in my view, the Bible effectively said that civil matters and the law of God operate in two different spheres."

Holt ordered Rembertus to pay around $812,450 and Fanny to pay $817,366. This will cover the income tax debt incurred as well as administrative costs, interest charges and running balance account deficit debts associated with the outstanding fees.

Christian family, taxes, god's will, australia
This file photo shows a a crucifix on the grounds of a church on September 21, 2018 in Wallerdorf, Germany. Sean Gallup/Getty