Tax Resistance in the American Catholic Press, 1974

Today, some excerpts from The Catholic News Archive concerning tax resistance in

The Catholic Worker published a letter announcing a shake-up in leadership at the national War Tax Resistance office, and what sounds like flagging enthusiasm for war tax resistance as American involvement in the Vietnam War wound down:

War Tax Resistance

War Tax Resistance
912 E. 31 St.
Kansas City, Mo. 64109

Dear Friends,

We want to ask you, at the beginning of this letter, to read it carefully and to respond to it as soon as possible. Some major questions are raised and the answers depend on each of you.

First, as of , both of us will resign our positions on the National Staff. However, we will stay on as volunteers as long as is needed to help whoever takes over the National Office and until the present debt is paid. We have decided this after quite a bit of thought and after talking to a lot of people. The National Office needs some fresh thought and different ideas. We became convinced of this when only three Centers responded to our last mailing, which we felt was a rather important one.

We too need a change. Neither of us has lost our commitment to WTR, in fact both of us feel its importance is greater now than before. So we will not stop urging people to take up war tax resistance, but we would like to couple that with a broader non-violent program. We have already started a mail order book store dealing solely with non-violence. After Bob stops working to pay off our WTR debts he will move full time into working with the Non-Violent Studies Institute of which the book store is a part. Angie will spend her time helping to start a Catholic Worker House, and will also help with the non-violence program.

Although Bob will continue to work until the present debts are paid, whoever takes over the national office will be responsible for programs they initiate and their ongoing expenses.

It seems that this decision on our part in turn calls for some decisions on your part. Who will become the National Staff? Is a National Office necessary? What about Tax Talk and the printing of literature? What about those people who will need a place to turn to when IRS decides to come down on them for their resistance?

These issues have to be decided soon and therefore we are calling a Working Committee Meeting for .

It is becoming clear that IRS feels much safer in “coming down” on war tax resisters now than they did a number of months ago. Apparently they feel there is no united movement to cause them any serious trouble. Are they right? If ever we needed to show a united group of people it is now.

Well, that’s about all. Please let us hear from you so we can have all needed arrangements made for the Working Committee Meeting. Also, please be thinking of people who could take on the responsibility of the National Office. Hope to hear from you soon.

In peace,
Angie O’Gorman
Bob Calvert

The National Catholic News Service carried this dispatch on :

Abortion Opponent Loses in Tax Protest on Abortion Decision

A farmer who refused to pay his income tax in protest against the U.S. Supreme Court’s abortion decision, has found the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) unsympathetic to him.

The IRS has ordered withdrawal of $490 from the bank checking account of Brendan Finnegan, a Richland County farmer who filed his tax return but withheld what he owed.

Instead of enclosing a check, Finnegan attached a letter and some pictures of aborted babies. He told the IRS that he would withhold his taxes “until our government passes and enforces law to protect the unborn from abortion.”

His protracted battles with the IRS have been reported in the Catholic Chronicle, the Toledo diocesan newspaper.

Finnegan, his wife Betty, and their three children live on a 500-acre farm.

The IRS action has not discouraged Finnegan. He says he will withhold payment again this year, and there should be more money involved. “We had a pretty good year on the farm,” he explained.

A National Catholic News Service dispatch from began with what sounded like it was going to be an exciting tale of tax resistance, but then petered out into a dry article about private school financing and teachers’ union negotiation. Excerpt:

Cleveland Monsignor Still Potential Tax Resister

By John Maher

The word “dapper" fits Msgr. William N. Novicky, superintendent of education for the diocese of Cleveland, as well as it can any man wearing clerical black.

The 52-year-old priest doesn't conform to the image of your average tax resister, but that is what he says he will be if state and federal courts continue to oppose government aid to nonpublic schools as extensively as they have.

“I'm committed to the concept that if the prejudice that is evident in the courts continues against anything that is Catholic,” he said in an interview. “I think we'll have to resort to nonviolent civil disobedience. For me, that means withholding taxes.”

Catholic school officials in Ohio are awaiting the decision of a three-judge federal court on a state law that would make more than $81 million in auxiliary services and materials available to nonpublic schools.

In , the same three-judge court ruled unconstitutional a tuition refund law and in the panel struck down a tax credit law that had been passed to replace the refund law.

“I don’t think we’re going to get justice,” Msgr. Novicky said. “If we had all the money in the world for our schools, I’d still be fighting for equitable treatment on the distribution of tax dollars. We won’t get it without fighting.

“It’s going to take a long time to undo the damage done by the present (U.S.) Supreme Court justices. They have done some legal gerrymandering to rule out aid to nonpublic school children.”

Msgr. Novicky contended that the Supreme Court had set up criteria governing aid to nonpublic schools in one decision, and then, after legislation had been drawn up to provide aid under those criteria, made another decision setting up another set of norms.

From the Catholic Worker:

Tax Resistance Notes

On , the East Coast Regional Meeting of War Tax Resistance was held in New York. The gathering brought out several pressing questions: First, the acute need for a National Office or co-ordinating body to distribute information on War Tax Resistance. (Bob Calvert, the inspiration and editor of Tax Talk, is no longer able to devote his energy to the newsletter.) It was decided that WIN Magazine should be approached with the idea of carrying a weekly column devoted to War Tax Resistance.

Second, a resolution was passed calling for a National Conference on to be held at 339 Lafayette St., New York City. The meeting will discuss proposed changes and make plans for confronting the I.R.S. on .

In a related matter, the “World Peace Tax Fund” has been formed to work for legal statutes which would provide for the withholding of war taxes on the basis of conscientious objection. The plan calls for alternative uses of the money, ideally peace-related research and the like. If you are interested, write Kathy Maloney, WPTF, Box 1447, Ann Arbor, Mich. 48104.