War Tax Resistance in the Friends Journal in 1986

War tax resistance in the Friends Journal in

There was a noticeable lull in coverage of war tax resistance in the Friends Journal in .

The issue mentioned that the War Tax Concerns Support Committee of the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting was sponsoring “a demonstration on a theme that relates to sanctuary and war taxes: war tax resistance can help to stop the threat of nuclear annihilation and provide sanctuary for our children, our world, our consciences, and the homeless everywhere. A refugee in sanctuary will be among the speakers at the event,” which was to be held at the Federal Building in Philadelphia. “A key part of the demonstration will be the collection of refused tax monies, which will then be used to support local life-affirming work.”

There was also a notice that NWTRCC was collecting information about tax day protest actions for a press release it would be issuing.

The issue included an article by Patricia Gilmore about how the Boulder, Colorado, Meeting had come up with a plan to help Friends who were upset about their tax money going to the arms race but who wanted to respond with “something more creative than all this hassle with the IRS.” Excerpts:

It was noted that for a person in the 30 percent tax bracket who itemized deductions, a $100 contribution to the meeting for someone to work on peace concerns would mean $30 less to the IRS. In essence, the Friend’s $70 contribution would be matched by a $30 IRS contribution. At the monthly meeting, consensus was reached for a peace secretary/coordinator program. That’s when the real challenge began.

The meeting, to save itself disappointment, decided it would go no further until 50 percent of the $9,000 was raised from at least 20 families. Within two months $11,000 was raised from 58 people.

Among the program’s early accomplishments was to convince a Colorado member of the U.S. House of Representatives to sponsor the World Peace Tax Fund bill. They also engaged in vigils and protests, networking with other peace groups, publishing material on peace activism, advocating for conflict resolution education, developing speaker opportunities, pushing for a sister city project to link up Boulder with a city in the Soviet Union, among other things.

This seems to have been an attempt to try to build something approaching the plan anticipated by the World Peace Tax Fund bill — but from the grassroots up, rather than waiting for the politicians to grant it from above. It reminds me of the new Norwegian Peace Fund I learned about while I was in Colombia (see ♇ ).

That said, it only really amounts to tax resistance — even if you interpret that very broadly — for those donors who could take advantage of itemized charitable deductions. Really, it was more of a tax break than a tax resistance strategy. But it’s interesting to see that war tax concerns were part of what launched the project.

The issue reported on one of the regional conferences that had come out of the new Friends Committee on War Tax Concerns — held in Greenwich, Connecticut . Excerpts:

Alan Eccleston, a member of New England Yearly Meeting and an active participant in the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund and the New Call to Peacemaking, spoke on “Opening Ourselves to the Spirit.” He emphasized that money is a very uncomfortable issue for many people. Effort must be made to avoid judging each other’s choices and pushing others into an impasse of guilt or fear. Our witness can be widely varied, as we search for answers together.

was strong in that spirit, as Friends shared openly their own questions and experiences. Worship sharing and group discussions emphasized personal support, and understanding the spiritual basis for our witness. Discussions covered lifestyle and choice of vocation, socially conscious investments, peace tax fund legislation, and group support for individuals. A strong group spirit was fostered at meals prepared by three of the participants, and during walks and worship outdoors in beautiful autumn colors. On , Friends were treated to a potluck dinner at Chappaqua (N.Y.) Meeting, followed by a panel of Friends sharing the “Experience of Concern for the Right Use of My Money.”

That issue also announced an workshop planned by the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund (which had evidently dropped the “World” part of “World Peace Tax Fund” by this time). Supporters of the legislation could learn lobbying techniques and other ways to support the bill at the workshop.

The “First International Conference of Military Tax Resisters and Peace Tax Campaigns” was held in . The Journal’s coverage didn’t come until , but here’s what they had to say:

More than 100 participants representing 14 countries shared personal histories and teported on the progress of the war tax issue in their homelands. International cooperation was the major focus, with participants experiencing fellowship and awareness that they were not alone in their concerns.

Participants were invited by the German Peace Tax Campaign, Ohne Rüstung Leben (Live Without Arms), the International Fellowship of Reconciliation (German branch), the German Mennonite Peace Committee, the German Quaker Peace Committee, and the Military Tax Boycott Committee of Bielefeld/Bethel. Organizations represented were Conscience Canada, Quaker Council for European Affairs, War Resisters International, National Campaign for a (U.S.) Peace Tax Fund, National Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee, Conscience and Military Tax Campaign, War Resisters League, and the Friends Committee on War Tax Concerns.

From their sharing, individuals discovered that people of conscience around the world are carrying the same concerns and struggling with the same complex issues of paying taxes that are used for military purposes. Conscientious objection to paying for war goes far beyond national policies to the underlying philosophical and moral base of conscience.

There were differences between the groups, of course. Some were political; some were religious (of these some were pacifist). Each U.S. group had its own approach, its own program, and its own constituency. In most of the other nations, one group usually embodied many facets, including legislative action, alternative funds for military tax money, and counseling. Each campaign has its own character related to its national situation. For instance, legislative action is strong in the United States and Britain, while the Canadian and Japanese groups are mounting challenges through the court system. In Italy, Catholic clergy are taking the lead.

In the course of the conference, participants began using the new network by writing letters to each other’s governments, exchanging materials and addresses, and sharing experiences and wisdom. They dreamed of integrating the issue of military taxes into the programs of all existing peace groups. Many also felt that the church is an important international organization which holds a great deal of power. Unfortunately, politicians are often able to use the churches as an excuse not to make morally imperative changes in policy, merely by saying, “Well, the church isn’t speaking out on this…”

Petra Kelly, member of the Deutsches Bundestag and the Green Party, spoke to the conference. She urged us to help reach a goal of civilian and nonmilitary defense, moving us away from deterrence and a “peace” that oppresses us. Nonviolence must be both the means and the end. She quoted German theologian Dorothee Solie, “There are things we must just do, to feel worthy of ourselves, to be able to look ourselves in the face…”

The conference agreed upon three major actions: 1) to propose to our groups a World Peace Tax (Alternative) Fund; 2) to publish war tax news in the War Resisters International newsletter; 3) to make September 1 an international day of solidarity on war tax concerns (already a traditional day of antimilitarism in many nations.)

In a recent speech, frequently quoted at the conference, Dorothee Solie spoke of the great European cathedrals, which took as long as 200 years to build. She said, “So a stonemason… never saw the finished building, only scaffolding and foundations and bits and pieces. It’s no better for us, who are building the cathedral of peace. We only see a few stones, but we must live with our dream, and learn from those who have begun the work before us.” The Tiibingen conference seemed to be an important foundation stone for the cathedral of peace we are all building.

Another conference was announced in the issue: “Employers & Employees: Responding to Conscience” which was described this way:

[A] conference for Quaker employers sponsored by the Friends Committee on War Tax Concerns, will be held at Pendle Hill, . Participants will examine the dilemma of a Quaker employer who is caught between the role of a tax collector and an employee’s concern for the military use of income taxes. Keynote speaker will be Kara Cole of Friends United Meeting; resource people will include tax lawyers. Attendance is limited.

Finally, a brief note in the issue, about four U.S. military veterans who had ended a 47-day fast and vigil in protest of the U.S. government’s proxy war in Nicaragua, mentioned that the four — Charlie Liteky, George Mizo, S. Brian Willson, and Duncan Murphy — planned to continue to “withhold war taxes.”

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