As I alluded to , a group of Quakers from the Pacific Yearly Meeting is trying to reinvigorate the tradition of Quaker war tax resistance.

Some of them are resisting their taxes in some way, and a couple of them are trying to get the government to recognize their conscientious objection to military taxation by means of legal challenges.

But most of what they seem to be asking their fellow Quakers to do in this campaign is to “Pay Under Protest” — in which they would pay their taxes just as usual, but would then write their Congressional representatives to complain about the injustice of it all.

Their literature plays up this “Pay Under Protest” campaign as being “a campaign for war tax resisters” and a way to “take a stand against war taxes” as though writing a letter to your congressperson were actually a form of tax resistance.

I think the organizers see this as a way for potential resisters to dip their toes in the war tax resistance pool, and at least to get thinking about how they might confront their taxpayer complicity. By enabling people safely and easily to get just a little forward momentum in this area, perhaps the campaign will cause them eventually to adopt some genuine war tax resistance tactics.

I’m worried that such an approach might backfire, and make it seem as though since the organizers are demanding only a small, insignificant, useless gesture, they must not be motivated by a very urgent concern.

Telling a Quaker that when she pays her taxes she’s buying war and that she should therefore start paying under protest is like telling a smoker that you’re concerned that he is in danger of cancer, heart disease, and emphysema and so you think he should start smoking under protest. (How concerned are you really?)

The campaigners have convinced the Palo Alto Meeting to approve the following minute on war taxes:

As a faith community, we believe that war violates our shared religious conviction that we should love our enemies and acknowledge and nourish that of God in every life.

We declare as a corporate body our objection to paying war waxes. We express our conviction in acts of individual witness ranging from letters of protest to government officials to acts of civil disobedience.

Nice that it merits mention, but pretty weak sauce. Compare that vague expression of disapproval with the unambiguous declaration of conduct that the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting put out back in the day (this version comes from the Rules of Discipline of ; I’m not sure when it was originally adopted):

It is the judgment of this meeting that a tax levied for the purchasing of drums, colors, or for other warlike uses, cannot be paid consistently with our Christian testimony.

If you would like to assist in the effort to reinvigorate war tax resistance in the Pacific Yearly Meeting, or if you are a Pacific Yearly Meeting Quaker who practices some form of war tax resistance or protest and you would like to add your name to their list, contact Elizabeth Boardman, one of the campaign organizers.


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