Caesar vs. Christ


Pastors and congregants of the Indianapolis Baptist Temple had been holed up inside their church for over 50 days as of early January, awaiting an inevitable assault by federal marshals—not because of suspected illegal weapon sales or child abuse, but because of unpaid taxes.

In 1986 the church decided, to quote one of its press releases, that "a true New Testament Church is not an employer nor does it have employees. Neither is it a taxpayer. Those who serve the church are ministers exercising their gifts by the Holy Spirit. They receive love gifts, not wages." (Another statement on the church's Web site refers to Indianapolis as "the syphilis capital of America." The church's pastor, the Rev. Greg Dixon, believes his congregation's old-fashioned biblical Christianity might have motivated the federal government to target it.) So the temple stopped withholding money from its ministers' "love gifts" to deliver to the Internal Revenue Service.

Dixon was reached on his cell phone as he and anywhere from "50 to 250 people" stood vigil. (People were still entering and leaving the temple unmolested, even though the deadline to surrender it had passed more than a month before.) "We are making a stand," Dixon said. "We are in the building 24 hours a day, waiting for marshals to come and to remove us bodily from church."

Dixon insists that everyone receiving money from the church paid their own taxes properly and in full. He also says that nearly 60 IRS audits of church ministers have not found any of them to owe unpaid taxes. The IRS refuses to comment on anything concerning the case.

On September 28, U.S. District Judge Sarah Evans Barker issued an order declaring that the church and the parsonage (where Dixon's elderly parents had lived for 32 years) should be surrendered to the government on November 14, in partial payment of the nearly $6 million in back taxes, interest, and penalties the church owes the government. The church has appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, but has failed to overturn the ruling.

At press time, the parsonage had been taken, but Dixon and his supporters continued to occupy the church, where they planned to remain until forced out by federal agents. (They were posting daily accounts of life inside the embattled temple, with details of Dixon's sermons, on their Web site, www.indianapolisbaptisttemple. com.) Speaking by phone, Dixon insisted he wanted no violence, saying the occupants would leave—or, if they preferred civil disobedience to the end, allow themselves to be dragged out and arrested—when the federal agents decided to charge in.