Praising Occupy movement, Archbishop of Canterbury backs bank tax
The archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams expressed understanding for Occupy Wall Street protesters.
November 2nd, 2011
11:00 AM ET

Praising Occupy movement, Archbishop of Canterbury backs bank tax

By Richard Allen Greene, CNN

London (CNN) -
The head of the Church of England came out in favor of taxing bank transactions Wednesday, finally tipping his hand after weeks of Occupy London protests in front of St. Paul's Cathedral in London.

Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury, said "the best outcome" of the controversies surrounding the occupation would be to "effect credible change in the financial world."

He expressed understanding for the protesters, saying: "There is still a powerful sense around - fair or not - of a whole society paying for the errors and irresponsibility of bankers."

He said there was "impatience with a return to 'business as usual' - represented by still-soaring bonuses and little visible change in banking practices."

Williams, the titular head of the world's 70-million-strong Anglican Communion, had been largely silent as the tent camp in front of one of the world's best-known cathedrals caused controversy within the Church of England and the country.

But amid the controversy, Williams, said, "we are at risk of forgetting the substantive questions that prompted the protest."

In a piece published in the Financial Times newspaper Wednesday, Williams argues for three proposals.

"Routine banking business should be clearly separated from speculative transactions," governments should pour more money into banks, which should be "obliged in return to help reinvigorate the real economy," and "a comparatively small rate of tax (0.05%) being levied on share, bond, and currency transactions and their derivatives," he said.

That last proposal is known as the "Tobin Tax" or the "Robin Hood Tax." The British government has opposed it, Williams writes.

The protests "do not amount to a simplistic call for the end of capitalism, but they are far more than a general expression of discontent," he said.

"If religious leaders and commentators in the UK and elsewhere could agree on these three proposals, as a common ground on which to start serious discussion, questionings alike of protesters and clergy will not have been wasted," Williams said.

The dean of St. Paul's, the Right Rev. Graeme Knowles, resigned earlier this week after intense criticism of his decision to close the cathedral for a week in the face of the protest camp.

Two other clergy quit earlier as the cathedral appeared to be preparing to ask the courts to evict the protesters.

The cathedral announced Tuesday that it would not take legal action against them.

The activists set up camp outside St. Paul's just over two weeks ago when their attempt to storm the nearby London Stock Exchange failed.

The cathedral, located in London's financial district, is one of the UK's top tourist attractions and staged the wedding of Princess Diana and Prince Charles in 1981.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Anglican • Belief • Christianity • Europe • United Kingdom

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soundoff (33 Responses)
  1. Geoffrey Morton-Haworth

    Yes, we need to re-inject the notions of ethics and morality into our social discourse. But – as these comments demonstrate – we can no longer turn to religion to do it because so many nowadays are non-believers. Instead, we must use language that recognizes that somethings are simply good and other things simply intolerable.

    November 7, 2011 at 5:38 am |
  2. myklds

    May God Bless all the atheists.

    November 5, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
  3. Fundie

    Personally, I prefer a Leviticus 25 tax, but that's just me...

    November 4, 2011 at 10:59 pm |
  4. Russell Jeffords

    Right. Let's consult the Archbishop of Canterbury on banking policy, now. Every bit as sensible as consulting Brittney Spears on currency arbitrage regulations, or Barrack Obama on "what makes a President."

    I have great respect for his Grace the Archbishop, but leave secular affairs to those of us – all 7 billion or so – who live in that world. You manage the spiritual, Father.

    November 4, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
  5. Mark

    It is rumored that the church own some 5% off all the land on earth. Imagine what a world we would live in if that land was used to grow food and it's money all given to charity. Funny I heard there was a guy preaching about these values a few years back.

    November 3, 2011 at 7:30 pm |
    • kimsland

      Its also rumored that only 5% of church monies go to charity. (likely less)
      So the other 95% ? Oh that's to the pastors new sports car, and swimming pool.
      These priests and pastors must be laughing at every church goer behind their backs.
      I say don't finance their selfish pockets anymore, don't go to church.

      November 4, 2011 at 5:53 am |
  6. Boo-ya!

    I bet the banks think the church needs to be taxed too!

    November 3, 2011 at 5:11 pm |
  7. RightTurnClyde

    Well it is GOOD that at least somebody understands what their protesting .. if not what they demand. But instead of demanding the end of greed (only) why not demand the end of homicide, violent crime, war, disease, famine, hatred, DUI deaths and injuries, spouse abuse, robbery, mayhem and sloth? Now none of those will happen either but it is at least as noble and worthy to demand. The Magna Carta? The Declaration of Independence? .. is there any place we can demand an entirely new Congress, presidency, cabinet and court in Washington? They are all greedy and much more dangerous than banks.

    November 2, 2011 at 8:57 pm |
  8. True Story.

    A bank tax and a church tax would both be superb.

    November 2, 2011 at 2:06 pm |
  9. John


    November 2, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
    • ......

      GARBAGE ALERT – click the report abuse link to get rid of this trash from this obnoxious TROLL!

      November 3, 2011 at 11:18 am |
  10. Reality


    November 2, 2011 at 12:13 pm |
  11. Reality

    Representatives of a religion founded by a wife-killer should not be recommending anything but the dissolution of their church!!!

    November 2, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
    • clay

      Um... Reality, what happens if an Atheist kills their wife? Would we have to dissolve your faith that their is no God?

      November 2, 2011 at 12:15 pm |
    • kimsland

      Reality didn't reply to you clay, because atheism is not a faith, and if you don't know that (obviously not) then you have a long way to go. Why they let very young children post on here I'll never know.
      Adults are speaking now clay, you go away.

      November 2, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
    • Wow.

      @Kimsland, quit being a b*it*ch

      November 2, 2011 at 2:02 pm |
    • RiadaKram

      We'll listen to you when you apologize for the murder of thousands on St. Bartholomews eve you Papist Pr i ck

      November 2, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
    • RiadaKram

      @Kimsland: Yes it is a faith as atheism makes ultimate claims concerning metaphysical reality, religion, morality, and all things science which is in a perpertual state of flux. But then you being a mature intellectual giant already know these things and you're really just being a dishonest self-deluded pr i ck.

      November 2, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
    • Reality

      WARNING- Don't Become Victims of the Infamous Angelic Con:

      Joe Smith had his Moroni.

      Jehovah Witnesses have their Jesus /Michael the archangel, the first angelic being created by God;

      Mohammed had his Gabriel (this "tin-kerbell" got around).

      Jesus and his family had Michael, Gabriel, and Satan, the latter being a modern day dem-on of the de-mented.

      The Abraham-Moses myths had their Angel of Death and other "no-namers" to do their dirty work or other assorted duties.

      Contemporary biblical and religious scholars have relegated these "pretty wingie thingies" to the myth pile. We should do the same to include deleting all references to them in our religious operating manuals. Doing this will eliminate the prophet/profit/prophecy status of these founders and put them where they belong as simple humans just like the rest of us.

      "Latter-day Saints also believe that Michael the Archangel was Adam (the first man) when he was mortal, and Gabriel lived on the earth as Noah."

      Apparently hallu-cinations did not stop with Joe Smith

      November 2, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
  12. Go for it

    Agree , tax the motive that fuels the greed called speculation

    November 2, 2011 at 11:58 am |
    • claybigsby

      so we should tax the church then right?

      November 2, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
    • John Richardson

      A much better way to curb irresponsible speculation is to follow capitalism actual tenets: DON'T bail out speculators when their speculations go south. Speculators don't bail anyone else out when their speculations reap rich returns.

      November 2, 2011 at 6:09 pm |
  13. hippypoet

    i really do hope that this article gets the attention it deserves... this is be really get for the world if they read and caugth on like the protests did!

    November 2, 2011 at 11:31 am |
  14. kimsland

    The church is asking for taxes?
    They finally realize they are a profiting business?
    Wow the taxes from churches could help save a lot of families out there, so why do the church want this? Since they are only interested in getting bigger (presently they are on the demise so that's probably it)

    November 2, 2011 at 11:09 am |
    • Dr. Zeuss

      Yep. I wish the feds could make the church pay back taxes on its historical revenues. And that they would prosecute the church for fraud and false advertising, among many other crimes commited over centuries.

      The church is expert at using guilt to collect its own tax as well as at not paying any out. Quite the organized fraud.

      November 2, 2011 at 11:41 am |
  15. hippypoet

    hell yes... its about time! this is a good dude as well... however the church should also start paying taxes as well.

    November 2, 2011 at 11:07 am |
    • kimsland

      hippypoet you're just too quick for me.

      November 2, 2011 at 11:10 am |
    • DamianKnight

      Here's my only concern with taxing churches. Many churches, especially the small ones, survive on donations or "the offering." That money has already been taxed by the giver.

      Further, many churches use the funds to do charitable work, such as building wells and schools and feeding the poor. To tax them then, would open the doorway to taxing all charities which I think would just be wrong.

      I think a better solution is for our government to learn to live like the rest of us do. You know you have a certain amount of money coming in. You spend only the money you have, not the money you WANT. I swear, if I spent money like the government does, I'd have a 300 credit score and my phone would be ringing off the hook from debt collectors.

      November 2, 2011 at 11:35 am |
    • Dr. Zeuss


      Charitiable work is always the excuse of last resort for the church, so in that sense it's good to see it being attempted. It just shows that Christianity is in its dying days (fortunately). One of the flaws with the excuse is that it is wrongly assumed that the money necessarily won't go to good causes if it doesn't go through the church first (wherein much of it is skimmed off to pay high church overheads and now big lawsuits for priest offenses, before it can go to the needy anyway).

      November 2, 2011 at 11:44 am |
    • DamianKnight

      Hmmm...I'm not certain I agree with you.

      1) I'm not sure I agree with you that Christianity, or any religion, are in their dying days. Considering there are roughly 2.1 billion Christians and 1.8 billion Muslims in a world where there are 7 billion people, that's nearly half of the world.

      2) I think that the church is merely ONE charitable organization. I don't, and most don't, believe that the church is the only charity. It's just the one that those of faith choose to use and trust that the church is going to put the money to good use. Have there been scandals within churches where the clergy are pocketing the funds? Sure. But embezzlement isn't strictly a "Christian" problem, or a "Muslim" problem, or an "athiest" problem. It's a people problem. People are greedy and selfish. Christians and other religious people are no exception. Should they be? In an ideal world, yes. But alas, we don't live in an ideal world.

      November 2, 2011 at 11:52 am |
    • J.W

      People who work for churches, such as priests, do pay taxes. It is just the money that stays in the church that is used to pay the regular operating expenses and various other things that is not taxed.

      November 2, 2011 at 11:57 am |
    • Reality

      There are different opinions as to what a religion really is or what a non-profit is. To be fair therefore, there should be no tax-exemptions for any group and that includes the Democratic and Republican Parties. Faith and community initiative grant monies should also be cancelled and there should also be no tax deductions for contributions made to charities and non-profits like the Center for American Progress. (John Podesta is the president of the CFAP making over $250,000/yr with eight managers/fellows averaging $200,000/yr each. Contributions made to CFAP for 2008 were in excess of $28 million.

      November 2, 2011 at 12:15 pm |
    • clay

      About point 2, there are 2.1 billion Christians and 1.5 billion muslims. You're still right, I just wanted to be nit-picky about statistics...

      November 2, 2011 at 12:47 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.