War Tax Resistance in the Friends Journal in 2010

War tax resistance in the Friends Journal in

Mentions of war tax resistance and differing approaches to the dilemma of paying war taxes continued to appear in some of the issues of the Friends Journal in .

The issue included a review of the book A Persistent Voice: Marian Franz and Conscientious Objection to Military Taxation. It was a collection of essays by and about Franz and about Peace Tax Fund activism, with some supplemental material about the U.S. versions of Peace Tax Fund scheme legislation that Franz had championed.

The issue included Harrison & Marilyn Roper telling the story of their war tax resistance. Excerpts:

In the contradiction of “praying for peace and paying for war” overwhelmed us. We needed to try to live under the taxable level (supplemented by tax-free investments) so that we no longer would be supporting monetarily what we deplored spiritually. In an open letter to fellow Friends at Haverford (Pa.) Meeting… we wrote:

Along with raising our family and “just living,” we have been trying in our own ways to contribute to a more just and peaceful society. While doing this, we have both had jobs and paid federal taxes. For the last three years we have not paid that portion of our federal income tax (approximately one-third) that goes to the Pentagon. However, IRS has eventually taken the funds, with penalties and interest, by placing a lien on Harry’s salary at West Chester State College. Thus, we are purchasers and part owners (along with you) of numerous H-bombs and other weapons of death. We ask ourselves if the potential damage we are doing is not more than outweighing any benefits to society we might be making.

They wrote that they were hoping for the passage of Peace Tax Fund legislation with which they “could have continued in our present occupations and continued to pay our income taxes.” But meanwhile, they decided to simplify their lives and reorient their finances with a goal to getting under the tax line. They shared some of the details of how they went about this:

After our younger son had graduated from high school, we were able, at ages 49 and 47, to move to northern Maine and live a simpler life. Louis Green… taught us what we needed to know about tax-free municipal bonds and helped us invest the cushion we received from selling our home in Haverford and buying a very low-cost one in Houlton, Maine. Our older son was about to enter his senior year at University of Maine and we would be able to pay the much-reduced in-state tuition.

We… installed an on-grid photovoltaic electrical system and have solar pre-heating of hot water. We also live within walking distance of stores, which reduces our need to travel and helps us live in an environmentally friendly manner. Our home is heated by wood from dead and diseased trees that we harvest ourselves from our woodlot.

…a wonderful new life of volunteering, composing, conducting, and living closer to nature opened up.… Despite all the details of our peace witness through federal tax avoidance being aired on the front page of our Houlton paper soon after our arrival, in we were honored with the “Good Samaritans of Houlton” award for our volunteer work and in we each received a Paul Harris Award from the local Rotary Club for our peace efforts.…

For those who share our concern about not paying for war or preparations for war, tax-free municipal bonds are the legal tickets. Those who purchase them are financing voter-approved and life-enhancing projects in our country such as better sewers, schools, and hospitals. The modest interest on these state and/or municipal bonds is not taxable by the federal government. We file a 1040 every year, but most years we owe nothing or very little. If we think we may “go over,” we give more money away that year to tax-exempt organizations.…

Thanks to understanding parents, most of our inheritance has been in the form of tax-free municipal bonds. When a bond comes due, we always reinvest the capital by purchasing another tax-free municipal bond at face value (i.e. at par) so that there is no capital gain when the bond comes due or is called. Although we do not know how long we will live or what dire situations might eat up our principal, we do hope to be able to continue to live very simply on the interest from our tax-free municipal bonds and pass on some of the capital to our children and grandchildren… We really love the kind of life we’re living; we didn’t make this commitment in order to be miserable. And we sleep better at night knowing that we are not paying for war as we pray for peace.

That issue also reprinted a “declaration of conscience” that came out of a group associated with the Quakers from the New York Yearly Meeting who had been working to try to get legal accomodation for conscientious objection to military spending. Excerpts:

The government of the United States violates freedom of conscience rights by forcing us to pay for war.

…In paying federal income taxes we contribute personally and directly to such expenditure, in violation of our consciences.

We have responded in various ways. Some of us have taken steps to reduce or eliminate our income tax liability. Some have paid under protest. Some have withheld all or part of the taxes due, redirecting the sums involved to nonviolent and humanitarian purposes, or have deposited the money in escrow for any nonmilitary governmental use. Some have challenged federal agencies in the courts. Some have petitioned and campaigned for legislative accommodation. We stress that we are willing to contribute our full share to the expenses of civil society. We simply seek to ensure that the taxes we pay are not used to finance warmaking or preparations for war.

As a result of this conscientious objection we have variously suffered financial hardships, administrative and court fines, garnishment of wages, seizures of bank accounts or other property, deductions from our social security pension payments, and even imprisonment. However, the substance of our remonstrance is that we are all ultimately compelled to pay taxes used for military purposes, and that we have a continuing liability to do so in the future. We have thus been obliged, and are being obliged, in direct violation of our consciences, to be complicit in the funding and waging of war.

…Written expressions of conscientious objection to military taxation are classified as “frivolous” by the government and subject to punitive fines amounting to thousands of dollars. Our freedom of conscience claims have never been fully reviewed at any level of administrative or judicial consideration, nor are we aware of any case in which this has occurred.

Accompanying this was a sidebar from Elizabeth Boardman in which she shared “the following queries [which] are in use at local meetings in College Park Quartely Meeting:”

  • What deeply held spiritual values or concerns make the issue of war tax resistance difficult for me to consider?
  • How can we as Friends, regardless of our perspective, overcome our reticence to discuss the issues with one another?
  • What are the personal or family needs I would need to address before I could become a tax resister?
  • Do I feel a need to further engage the war machine by not paying my war taxes in some form, either fully or symbolically?
  • What are my major fears and joys about challenging the government in this way?
  • What are the personal or family needs I would need to address before I could become a tax resister?
  • How can I engage my beloved spiritual community in supporting me as I take my next step on this complex issue?

Naomi Paz Greenberg, in a letter-to-the-editor that responded to critics of war tax resistance whose writings had been published in earlier issues (I’ve included other excerpts from this letter in Picket Line entries covering those writings, on and ), wrote, in response to people who believe that “conscientious war tax resistance is borne to bring about consequences”:

I knew for all of my adult life that I should not be paying taxes for war, and for most of that time I knew that I did not have the courage to bear this witness. The energy that supports my commitment now has little to do with consequences. I am simply unable to cooperate in murder, in war crimes. As soon as I was able to make that commitment, I began to understand that I will probably pay more rather than less as a consequence of my refusal to pay for war. It matters very little to me whether the hundreds or the thousands of dollars that I may someday “owe” remain pure and pacifistic or not. As a U.S. citizen I have been taught that this is a government of, by, and for the people, so in some sense every dollar in the government’s coffers is my responsibility and not one of those dollars should be spent to kill another human being. This is what direct experience of God teaches me.

Paul Sheldon noted, in a letter-to-the-editor in the issue, that he had “made a donation to the non-partisan Disabled American Veterans organization” and included a letter in which he had “mentioned that this particular contribution was the redirection of war tax money that I had publicly refused to pay the U.S. government (as a pacifist tax resister).”

A letter-to-the-editor from Peg Morton in the issue forcefully encouraged Friends to resist their war taxes: “It is beyond a doubt, in my opinion, that it is time — now! — to withdraw from paying the United States federal government the war taxes it demands… to voluntarily pay war taxes to our current federal government is an immoral act.… When policies and actions of a government become immoral, it becomes immoral to support them.”

An obituary notice for Gordon Mervin Browne in the issue noted that “they [Gordon and his wife Edith Carlton Browne] were military tax resisters in .”

A book review in the issue summarized the use of tax resistance in the First Intifada this way:

[Maxine] Kaufman-Lacusta [author of Refusing to be Enemies: Palestinian and Israeli Nonviolent Resistance to the Israeli Occupation] looks in depth at a tax strike in the West Bank village of Beit Sahour during the First Intifada (), a time of popular activism. This strike was based on the fact that taxes collected by Israelis were not being used to serve the needs of the Palestinian population, but to finance the occupation itself. Elias Rishmawi, a major player in Beit Sahour, said that the villagers “found out that Israel was profiting dramatically from occupying the Palestinian land — from direct taxes, indirect taxes, taxes on the workers inside Israel, taxes on imports, taxes on people leaving the country, using Palestinian land, using Palestinian resources.” Palestinians viewed the strike, which they ended in , as a success because a strong and violent reaction from the Israeli government failed to suppress it.

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