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Behind the political tax debate stands Susan Pace Hamill, a tax and business law professor at the University of Alabama, whose Bible-based critique persuaded many Christian political leaders to oppose the state's unbalanced tax system. Hamill, 42, worked out her thinking while attending Birmingham's Beeson Divinity School, where she earned a Master of Theological Studies in 2002. Hamill doesn't know exactly why she enrolled at Beeson. After all, the rigorous evangelical seminary seemed an unlikely destination for a self-described "comfortable, pew-sitting Methodist who didn't give much thought to biblical theology and its implications for everyday life."

"[Before Beeson] I was the classic nice person who didn't break the law and was good to my husband and kids," Hamill said. "But I was spiritually bankrupt. I wasn't in touch with what God intended for me. I never would've figured out what was required had I not gone to Beeson."

But the seminary curriculum transformed Hamill, and forced her to think more theologically about her expertise. She finally concluded, she told CT, that "a just community, according to biblical principles, not only ensures that the poor are free from regressive taxation, but also makes sure that the least among us must have a minimum chance to better their lives through a decent education."

Though not every Christian agrees with her reasoning, she has garnered significant support. When groups such as the Christian Coalition of Alabama subjected Hamill and her plan to withering criticism, Beeson's faculty unanimously supported her efforts to reform Alabama's tax law.

"It's not like we were converted from one side of the debate to another," Beeson Dean Timothy George said. "But we were awakened from silence ...

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November 2003

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