Top Clerics Urge Tax Exemptions for the Poor

United Press International

Leaders of 12 religious denominations, reminding Congress that the needy are not protected by well-heeled lobbyists, have urged that tax reform legislation exempt all poor people from taxation.

“No tax issue is more important than achieving tax justice for the poor,” the dozen Protestant leaders said in a statement issued Thursday through the Interfaith Action for Economic Justice.

“Taxing families into poverty is a situation we find to be intolerable and immoral,” they said.

Tax justice for the poor, the statement said, “must be a major goal in the congressional debate over comprehensive tax reform.”

“As powerful groups organize to protect their own private interests, this goal could easily be eclipsed. As advocates with and for the poor, we urge Congress to enact a tax plan that removes the increasing tax burden from the working poor and from families who are being taxed into poverty.”


The statement said President Reagan’s reform proposal, being considered by the House Ways and Means Committee, “moves in the right direction.”

Crucial to the Cause’

“However, we believe that further improvement in the proposals is crucial to the cause of achieving tax justice for the poor,” the church leaders said.

The religious leaders, including Lutherans, Baptists, Episcopalians and Presbyterians, specifically urged:

- All poor people, including single individuals, be exempt from income tax.

- No one should be taxed into poverty, and the tax burden on the near-poor should be reduced significantly.

- The full amount of payroll taxes paid by the working poor should be refunded to them through the income tax system.

- Single heads of households should be treated the same as married couples with the same income and family size.

- Child-care allowances should be designed so that lower-income families receive maximum benefit.

Noting that some politicians believe that tax reform will not pass this year, the religious leaders said that if the reform effort fails, “separate action on tax legislation in this area is imperative.”

Low Cost Cited

They said their proposals would cost the government little or nothing in lost revenue.

Signing the statement were Presiding Bishop John M. Allin, the Episcopal Church; James M. Andrews, stated clerk, Presbyterian Church (USA); Robert C. Campbell, general secretary, American Baptist Churches; Presiding Bishop James R. Crumley Jr., Lutheran Church in America; Bishop Paul A. Duffy, secretary of the Council of Bishops of the United Methodist Church; the Rev. Milton G. Engebretson, president, Evangelical Covenant Church; Natalie Gulbrandsen, moderator, Unitarian Universalist Assn.; the Rev. Will Herzfeld, president, Assn. of Evangelical Lutheran Churches; the Rev. John O. Humbert, president, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ); the Rev. C. J. Malloy Jr., general secretary, Progressive National Baptist Convention; the Rev. Avery D. Post, president, United Church of Christ, and the Rev. Everett L. Zabriskie, ecumenical administrator, Reformed Church in America.