In an incredibly frustrating decision, a mistrial was declared in the case of Michael Bowman, the Christian from Oregon who refuses to pay his taxes because he doesn’t want to fund abortions.
As I wrote earlier this week, federal dollars don’t fund abortions and you don’t get to avoid taxes just because you don’t love where they go. (If that were allowed, no one would ever pay taxes.)
But the jury had to decide if Bowman intentionally failed to follow the law. My first reaction was that this would be a simple case because Bowman has repeatedly said he doesn’t give a damn what the law is, but his lawyer argued Bowman is innocent here because he sincerely believed his religion gave him a legal Get Out of Paying Your Taxes excuse.
“It’s what’s in his heart. It’s what’s in his mind,” [Matthew] Schindler told jurors. “If he believed in good faith, he’s not guilty. The belief doesn’t have to be reasonable to you.”
Bowman said he believed that the words of the state Constitution and the 1993 federal Religious Freedom Reformation Act protected him: “Government shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability.”
Somehow, that argument worked.
After 11 hours of deliberation, the 12-member jury could not come to a consensus on whether Bowman knowingly broke the law. Because of that, Bowman effectively won the case.
His faith-based stupidity became a legal loophole.
Now it’s up to the government to decide if they want to start over. I hope they do. If one Christian makes up a bullshit excuse for not paying taxes — and it works — you know many more will follow by also playing dumb when it comes to the law.
Schindler urged the IRS to just move on and “save criminal charges for the people that truly threaten the integrity of the system.” But Bowman is threatening the system. The only question is whether he should be permitted to get away with it just because one jury — perhaps just one member of the jury — fell for his woe-is-me act.
(Screenshot via YouTube. Thanks to Brian for the link)