War Tax Resistance in the Friends Journal in 1968

War tax resistance in the Friends Journal in

The momentum of war tax resistance continued to build in the pages of the Friends Journal in 1968.

A letter-to-the-editor from Wilmer J. & Mildred B. Young in the issue mentioned the 500-person-strong “writers & editors” tax strike advertisement, and a second one from the “No Tax for War Committee,” and noted that the War Resisters League was “also collecting signatures for this purpose.” — “Some Friends are participating. Should not many more do so?”

At the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting’s annual sessions in , “[t]here was talk of establishing a common escrow account into which all tax-refusers could pay, and finally a suggestion that the Yearly Meeting participate in the AFSC suit [see ♇ 15 July 2013]”

A note in the issue concerned a “Quaker pacifist, Neil Haworth,” who was facing prison “for not revealing his assets to the Government and for refusing to pay his income taxes because of his religious scruples against taxes of which seventy per cent go for war purposes.”

David D. & Barbara C. Houghton had a letter-to-the-editor in the same issue in which they explained why they were embarking on war tax resistance: “Letters to our congressmen and public demonstrations of disapproval have not been enough. We feel compelled by our consciences to perform the symbolic illegal act of withholding that part of the Federal telephone tax reinstated as a result of the war expenses in Vietnam.” (The following year, they wrote in to say that in anticipation of a proposed federal income tax surcharge for Vietnam War expenses, “[a]s a constructive expression of protest we have increased our contributions to organizations working for man’s welfare so that the added deduction entirely offsets the tax surcharge.”)

The issue had an article about expatriates who had settled in Canada that included this note:

Several young married couples whom we met expressed relief that they had left the United States and that they could now bring up their families in a land where there is less emphasis on violence, where the military is less powerful in national affairs, and where their taxes do not rise so greatly to support military activities — especially war.

Also in , the New England Yearly Meeting’s gathering “adopted a… statement giving approval and support to Friends who in conscience refuse taxes for war and conscription.”

A letter from Geoffrey D. Kaiser in the issue tried to remind Quakers that war tax resistance was not some crazy innovation of the longhair set:

With the institution of new taxes which avowedly are largely for Johnson’s war, many Quakers are asking if they can in good conscience pay them. Some, on the other hand, are saying that all civil disobedience and refusal to pay taxes is unquakerly. A statement by the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting on the subject is as follows: “It is the sense of this meeting that a tax levied for the purchase of drums, colours, or for other warlike uses, cannot be paid consistently with our Christian testimony.” This quotation is from page 98 of the 1825 Philadelphia Yearly Meeting Discipline. Who now are the conservatives?

The Richmond Declaration

In , in Richmond, Indiana, 203 delegates from “nineteen Yearly Meetings, eight Quaker colleges, fifteen Friends secondary schools, the American Friends Service Committee National Board and its twelve regional offices, and nine other peace or directly-related organizations” met to draft a “Declaration on the Draft and Conscription.” Most of the statement concerned the draft, but war tax resistance got a mention. Excerpts:

We call on Friends everywhere to recognize the oppressive burden of militarism and conscription. We acknowledge our complicity in these evils in ways sometimes silent and subtle, at times painfully apparent. We are under obligation as children of God and members of the Religious Society of Friends to break the yoke of that complicity.

We also recognize that the problem of paying war taxes has intensified; this compels us to find realistic ways to refuse to pay these taxes.

We commit ourselves to validate our witness by visible changes in our lives, though they may involve personal jeopardy. We cannot rest until we achieve a truly corporate witness in the effort to oppose and end conscription. Let us hold each other in the Light which both reveals our weaknesses and strengthens us to overcome them.

“Nonviolence: Ends and Means”

In the first Friends Journal issue of was a piece about nonviolent direct action by Lawrence Scott, in which he urged Quakers to take civil disobedience more seriously and to examine more closely the means and ends involved.

“Such direct action will include civil disobedience against conscription, war taxes, and armament construction,” he wrote. But he was concerned about the way people were engaging in civil disobedience.

He hoped people who practiced civil disobedience would do so not in disrespect for government and law, but “in such a manner as to enhance the principle of just and democratic laws and government.”

He also thought that people should adopt a more satyagraha-like version of civil disobedience — in particular, that they should submit to arrest and legal consequences without resisting. He was concerned that practices like “going limp, or trying to pull away” during arrest, or “noncooperation with normal court and jail procedures” tended “to transform the witness being made against a specific law or immoral practice of government into a witness against the principle of government itself.” Such tactics “tend to attract and foster anarchists and angry persons who are opposed to all regulations and seek the disruption and overthrow of all government” and this in turn reduces the influence of the movement.

Scott’s anarchist-baiting resulted in a letter-to-the-editor from Jim Giddings, who said that when it comes to keeping means and ends in harmony, it is the people who try to defend both Gandhian nonviolence and coercive government who should be on the defensive:

I assert that “law” (as the term is used today) is based on violent coercion; the means and ends that we who use noncooperation advocate are in harmony. Our goal is the establishment of a society free from coercive law. The law, the police, the courts, the prisons, the army — they are all there to enforce privilege.

In the following issue, Samuel R. Tyson defended the tactic of going limp on arrest, saying “I have seen it done with great dignity.” He then played the generation gap card, saying that Scott’s article seemed to be “another sad instance of younger people’s being turned off by the rigidity of adults.”

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