Sander Katz, Edith Aldis, and Gerhard Friesen: War Tax Resisters

’s Picket Line was all about Mary McDowell, but it also briefly mentioned three people involved in the early years of the modern American war tax resistance movement whom I hadn’t heard of before: Sander Katz, Edith Aldis, and Gerhard Friesen.

You’d think a name like “Sander Katz” would make for easy Googling, but in fact there is a “Sandor Katz” who is well-known today for, for instance, his fine do-it-yourself guide Wild Fermentation. Google tends to want to assume you’re just misspelling his name if you try to hunt for “Sander Katz.”

Katz is listed as the editor of a collection of Freud’s essays “on war, sex, and neurosis” with an introduction by Paul Goodman. He is also listed as one of two editors of Complex: The Magazine of Psychoanalysis and Society (and he’d occasionally contribute articles as well, for example: “Comparative Sexual Behavior: Is orgasm for the human female normal?”). He was also on the editorial committee of a magazine called Alternative that published and was associated with the “Non-Profit Association of Libertarians” and the “Committee for Non-Violent Revolution.” Other members of that committee included war tax resisters David Dellinger, Ralph DiGia, and Roy Kepler.

In , the syndicated columnist Robert Ruark spent several column inches denegrating Katz, who had just been sentenced to a one-year prison term for refusing to register for the military draft (and then Ruark put out another column’s worth when Katz was released eight months later). “I know something about this particular rugged individualist,” Ruark wrote, “who served 19 months in jail during the last war for refusal to report for induction. His name is Sander Katz, and he is one of the long-hairs who stroll the [Greenwich] Village streets, lost in reverie and a turtle-neck sweater.” Katz was imprisoned because he said he opposed the draft on “social, political, and philosophical grounds” and the law at that time only recognized conscientious objection for religious reasons.

, Katz, along with several dozen others, burned his draft card during a “Break With Conscription Committee” demonstration in New York City. , Katz was arrested, along with several others, for picketing at a draft registration center.

I found a few more newspaper articles about Edith Aldis, all based on the same template. The Long Island Star-Journal of for instance, which also mentions Gerhard Friesen:

2 Pacifists Refuse To Pay Taxes

 Kansas Internal Revenue officials had two “conscientious objectors” on their hands today when Miss Edith Aldis and the Rev. Gerhard Friesen defied federal income tax laws on grounds that “too much of the money goes for military armament.”

Both have signed a statement issued by the Tax Refusal Committee of Peacemakers, a pacifist movement with headquarters in New York.

Miss Aldis said she paid 10 per cent of her taxes, the amount estimated for use for non-military spending. Friesen said he would pay only direct taxes on the “principal of the thing,” because other levies are “a part of the plan to destroy our country.”

I found a few more things about Friesen as well. I even saw one mention of his war tax resistance (too brief to quote, alas) that said that he had begun resisting in !

The Mennonite profiled Martha Graber in . Graber is Friesen’s daughter.

Her father, she said, “was ahead of his time” in advocating war tax resistance and speaking out at Mennonite conferences against profiteering from the war economy. “His conscience would not let him support the military.”

She said her father would have approved the action by the General Conference Mennonite Church to honor employee Cornelia Lehn’s request to not have her income taxes withheld from her paychecks.

The Friesens practiced war tax resistance by living simply, giving generously, and usually not earning enough to owe taxes.

Although as a youth she was embarrassed by her father’s outspokenness to audiences unreceptive to his message, Martha embraced her parents’ convictions about Christian discipleship and peacemaking and taught them to her children. She files tax returns but usually has a zero taxable income due to living simply and giving 50 percent of her income to charity. She has also advocated for the Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund legislation.

Cornelia Lehn sounds interesting as well: “Lehn sponsored a group of Vietnamese immigrants who attended Bethel College Mennonite Church in North Newton… and was an avid supporter of nonpayment of war taxes,” according to one source. Here are some more articles that mention her war tax resistance:

From the edition of The Youngstown Daily Vindicator:

Mennonites Vote Refusal To Withhold U.S. Taxes

 In an action primarily protesting U.S. military policies, the General Conference Mennonites has became [sic.] the first mainstream Christian church to refuse to withhold federal taxes from employees’ paychecks.

Delegates to the church’s international convention voted 1,128 to 457 to authorize church officials to violate federal law by refusing to withhold federal taxes.

A denomination spokesman said the church has tried for four years to secure legislative, administrative, and judicial approval for its employees to refuse to pay their taxes as a protest against the use of the money for military hardware.

A group of Quakers — the American Friends Service Committee — also has refused to withhold taxes, according to Margaret Bacon, a spokeswoman for the Philadelphia-based group. The AFSC provides world-wide relief and works for social change.

But Dean M. Kelley, director for religious and civil liberty of the National Council of Churches, said none of the council’s 31 member denominations had previously refused to forward employees’ taxes to the federal government.

The 66,000-member General Conference Mennonite Church and the 93,000-member Mennonite Church are holding their international meetings this week at Lehigh University. The conferences are the first time the two churches have ever met together.

Larry Cornies, news director for the General Conference Mennonites, said the church has been considering the issue of tax withholdings for five years.

The catalyst came in , when Cornelia Lehn, then director of children’s education for the church, asked the church to not withhold taxes from her paycheck, Cornies said. She has since retired to British Colombia.

, the church has decided a U.S. Supreme Court test case would be unsuccessful and a tax withholding bill could not get through Congress, he said.

Cornies said a bill to let taxpayers earmark their taxes for a World Peace Tax Fund, to be used only for peaceful purposes, “doesn’t look like it’s got much of a chance.”

The National Council’s Kelley said the only denominations considering refusal to let taxes be withheld are the “peace churches” — the Mennonites, the Church of the Brethren, and the Quakers.

“Most of the mainline denominations are not pacifist,” he said.

The Mennonites decided not to approach the Supreme Court after the justices ruled against an Amish employer from New Wilmington, Pa., who had refused to withhold Social Security taxes from Amish employees.

“Then it gratuitiously added something to the effect that ‘if we let this take place, people would be able to insist that they were entitled to withhold paying of taxes on expenditures they object to, such as war and armaments,’” Kelley said.

The (Lexington, North Carolina) Dispatch carried this shorter and slightly different version of the report:

Mennonites’ Vote Protests Funding Military Activity

 To protest funding of U.S. military activity, the General Conference Mennonites have voted to refuse to withhold federal taxes from employees’ paychecks.

Dean M. Kelley, director for religious and civil liberty of the National Council of Churches, said the 66,000-member General Conference Mennonites are the only denomination belonging to the council ever to have taken such action.

A Quaker group, the American Friends Service Committee, also refuses to withhold employees’ federal taxes.

A spokesman for the pacifist General Conference Mennonites said the church has tried for four years to secure legislative, administrative, and judicial approval for its employees to refuse to pay their taxes as a protest against use of the money for military hardware.

Delegates to the church’s international convention voted 1,128 to 457 to authorize church officials to violate federal law by stopping the withholding of federal taxes.

Larry Cornies, news director for the General Conference Mennonites, said the church began considering the issue in , when Cornelia Lehn, then director of children’s education for the church, asked that taxes not be withheld from her paycheck. Ms. Lehn has since retired to Canada.

A third version of the article, from the Gainesville Sun adds this paragraph:

Gene Harris, spokesman for the Internal Revenue Service in Philadelphia, said of the Mennonite’s vote: “It’s a violation of the law. If they actually do that, they could be prosecuted in court. It’s happened before and the IRS has won the case. But they would have to be audited first.”

According to the Toledo Blade, it was , not , when the Conference began mulling over war tax resistance. Here is an article from their edition:

Serious Study Urged On War Resistance

Mennonite Conference Considers Tax Action

From The Blade Correspondent

 The General Conference Mennonite Church, holding its 41st triennial conference here, passed a resolution calling for “serious study of civil disobedience and war tax resistance during the next 18 months.” The vote was 1,178½ yes to 453½ no.

The conference Monday rejected a proposed amendment to the resolution that would have allowed the denomination as an employer to refuse to withhold the so-called “war portion” of an employee’s income tax, if the employee requested it, during the 18-month study period.

The denomination employs about 50 persons at its Newton, Kan., headquarters, Lois Barrett, spokesman, said.

The resolution was drafted because one employee at the headquarters, Cornelia Lehn, had requested that the war-tax portion of her taxes not be withheld from her salary, making it possible for her to “follow her conscience in this matter.”

The “war portion” refers to the percentage used by the Government for military purposes, according to the resolution.

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