New York Quakers Urge Refusal to Pay War Taxes

I dug up some information about the New York Yearly Meeting of Friends rediscovering and promoting tax resistance. I’ve since found a newspaper article that gives a few more details about this (from the Kingston, New York Daily Freeman, ):

Quakers List Guidelines For Viet Nam War Action

Thousands of American Quakers could suffer persecution and imprisonment reminiscent of their early struggles 300 years ago in England and America if they take to heart the guidelines they drew up at their annual sessions recently at Silver Bay.

In what may well be the strongest message of by a major body within the denomination, Quakers were urged “unequivocally and at all costs” to hold to their Peace Testimony first formulated in a “Declaration from the harmless an innocent people of God called Quakers” to King Charles Ⅱ of England. In quaint language, the statement proclaimed: “We utterly deny all outward wars and strife, and fightings with outward weapons, for any end, or under any pretense whatever; this is our testimony to the whole world… The Spirit of Christ, which leads us to all truth will never move us to fight and war against any man with any outward weapons, neither for the Kingdom of Christ nor for the Kingdoms of this world… therefore we cannot learn war any more.”

The implications of this testimony for members of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), in a country engaged in a war in Southeast Asia in were not left in doubt by the recent message. Friends were urged to “examine their consciences concerning whether they cannot more fully disassociate themselves from the war machine by tax refusal or by changing occupations,” or whether young men “can submit to a military system that commands them to kill and destroy.”

Civil Disobedience Advocated

Friends are counselled to “risk whatever penalties might be incurred” in obeying the Inner Light (Holy Spirit) “even when this means disobeying man’s laws.[”] Material and spiritual help for individuals and their families imprisoned or otherwise afflicted because of “acts of conscience” is to be administered by establishing again the “Committee for Sufferings” which Quakers developed during their early years of persecution.

The religious body proved its intentions to go beyond written words and not to let the risks of conscientious acts challenging government laws fall upon individuals alone. As a corporate body it authorized violation of the Federal Export Control Act under which officers of the Society of Friends could receive five years imprisonment or fines up to $20,000.

In asking for its “Peace in Viet Nam” Committee to send in the name of the New York Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, parcels of medical supplies to the Red Cross society in South Viet Nam, North Viet Nam, and the National Liberation Front, the Quaker organization said that the law it is breaking violates its religious concern to extend humanitarian relief to all who suffer in war, regardless of their geographical or racial identity or their political or national allegiances.

It was pointed out that the steps taken by the 402 delegates and members in attendance at Silver Bay are all the more remarkable because decisions are based on “concensus” [sic] meaning complete or nearly complete unity. Quakers do not favor actions which force a minority to accept the will of a majority, and will postpone action on any matter where a division of opinion is apparent. One Quaker explained their united action this way:

“The shadow of Viet Nam’s tragedy hung like a dark cloud over the week long meetings at Silver Bay. A common sense of divine urgency and of historic moment was felt as the weight of this concern was expressed again and again. We knew that we must speak with our lives.”

The New York Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends includes 6,765 Quakers from 72 local meetings in New York State, Northern New Jersey, and Southern Connecticut.

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