Attorneys for an Indianapolis man have argued before a state appellate court that Indiana's religious freedom law protects him from paying taxes.
Rodney Tyms-Bey, 41, argued at trial that the state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act is a valid defense for not paying his state taxes because he sees them as a burden on his religion. The court rejected his argument.
Tyms-Bey owes about $1,000 and was charged in 2014 with three counts of felony tax evasion, The Indianapolis Star reported. Oral arguments in his case went before the Indiana Court of Appeals on Monday.
Some defendants in Indiana have been citing the 2015 law as a defense because a clause in the act permits individuals to use the law in criminal legal proceedings.
"When this law was signed, it opened up a whole new world of legal defense," Matthew Gerber, Tyms-Bey's defense attorney, said.
Prosecutors argue that Tyms-Bey can't use the defense because he didn't identify his religion and paying income taxes doesn't burden religious practices, no matter what they are. The trial court agreed with prosecutors and struck Tyms-Bey's notice that he would use the act as a defense.
In response, Tyms-Bey's attorneys filed an interlocutory appeal, or an appeal of a trial court ruling made before all claims are resolved.
"Our argument is that we should bring this to a jury," Gerber said. "The jury should determine if (Tyms-Bey has) a closely held religious belief."
The Indianapolis Star reports that the first person to use the law as a criminal defense was a mother charged with beating her son with a coat hanger, leaving the 7-year-old boy with bruises and welts. She said the law gave her the right to discipline him according to her evangelical Christian beliefs. She received probation last month as part of a plea agreement.