American Brethren and War Taxes in 1963

Today I’ll look at war tax resistance among American Brethren in 1963 by hunting through the archives of Brethren periodicals.

Church of the Brethren: Gospel Messenger

In the issue of the Gospel Messenger, John Forbes introduced the idea of a form of tax resistance as a symbolic protest, rather than as a conscientious imperative (source):

Suggestions for Taxpayers

For the benefit of the readers of the Messenger and all others across the Brotherhood interested in the peace position, I would like to quote three statements and make a suggestion.

“We urge the Brethren Service Commission to continue its efforts to develop an acceptable proposal for an alternative tax arrangement” (Report of GBB to Annual Conference, adopted).

“My feeling has been that the initiative on this has to come from taxpayers around the country rather than from any organized effort here in Washington… that until there is widespread nonpayment of taxes by those opposed to war, there will be no change in government policy” (Edward F. Snyder, Friends Committee on National Legislation, letter to the undersigned ).

“I am as convinced as ever that all those who are opposed to preparations for nuclear extermination and who will owe any federal income tax should refuse some token amount. I suggest holding back $10, an amount large enough to be noticed but small enough to avoid excessive penalty. When Internal Revenue took $14.49 from my bank account, the ‘statutary addition’ was only 21 cents. The year before, when I owed $5.90, it did not bother to collect at all.

“This ‘token ten’ could be given to some constructive project, and IRS so informed in a letter explaining the objection to over half of it being otherwise used for destruction. Enough pacifists are interested in this, I feel, to make it become a significant force for peace” (Franklin Zahn to editor of the Peacemaker, ).

I think everyone in the Church of the Brethren with a concern for peace should take up this suggestion and apply it when income tax is due in April, if they can. I am willing to act as coordinator of this project, if one is needed and someone in Elgin doesn’t want the job. If enough Brethren and others take this action now, we shall surely see action in Congress or in the Treasury Department before long.

In a “Brethren Ministers’ Peace Retreat” was held. The Church teachings on pacifism and peacemaking were given a thorough going-over. Dale Aukerman reported on the retreat in the issue (source). Aukerman had himself come out as a war tax resister (see ♇ 31 May 2020), so he would likely have been attuned to any mention of it, but except for one mention of Civil War-era refusal to hire substitutes for military service (but payment of tax), his article on the Retreat is silent on the issue of taxes.

The issue published a brief dispatch about Quaker war tax resister Arthur Evans (source), but a more in-depth dispatch appeared in the Brethren Evangelist so I’ll save it for that section, below.

The following comes from the issue:

Minister Deducts Defense Share From Federal Income Tax

The minister of the Unitarian Universalist church in San Anselmo Calif., has declined to pay sixty-one percent of his federal income tax on the grounds that it would go for “carefully planned machinery to kill millions of human beings.”

The Dutch-born pastor, Karel F. Botermans, who was a leader in the Netherlands underground during the Nazi occupation, sent the remaining thirty-nine percent of his tax to the Internal Revenue Service.

In the protest letter he sent to President Kennedy and Secretary of Defense McNamara he asserted the belief that he had international law on his side. He referred to the Nurnberg trials, “where it was stated by our Allied judges that, in actions of genocide, every person in that society involved in those actions is to be held responsible.”

The pacifist clergyman points out that he would gladly pay the withheld sixty-one percent of his tax if the U.S. pledged to spend the money for other methods of settling international differences.

In the issue, O.E. Gibson raised a series of questions about conscientious objection, suitable for consideration by Brethren. Several of these concerned war funding, and the others seemed designed to guide the consideration of those (source). Excerpt:

  1. Is there a difference in principle in supporting one’s government as a soldier and supporting its war plans with money?
  2. Are those persons in the U.S. (some forty or fifty) who are openly refusing to give their money in tax to support the military plans of our government more radical or less realistic than the conscientious objectors who would not submit to the draft in World War Ⅰ?
  3. Allowing that refusal may mean much more than a few months in prison — that it may mean a complete change in one’s way or standard of living as is the case with most of those who are refusing, should we condemn or should we uphold them?
  4. Would history or reason suggest that a law allowing that one might divert his tax money into religious or peace work be passed by our Congress without a comparable amount of suffering as that endured to get our “alternative service” law?
The Brethren Evangelist

The issue of The Brethren Evangelist printed a wire service article about Quaker war tax resister Arthur Evans:

Quaker Deducts “Military” Cut from His Federal Taxes

A Colorado Quaker who long has refused voluntary payment of that portion of his federal taxes earmarked for military spending plans the same course of action .

For 20 years, Dr. Arthur Evans, a Denver physician, has donated the amount of money equal to his tax burden of military spending to a charity and has sent the receipt to the Internal Revenue Service.

Every year the IRS attaches his bank account, collects the amount due and adds a 6 per cent interest charge.

, because the IRS was “using the information I was voluntarily giving for evil purposes,” Dr. Evans did not file any federal return.

To make up for his tax liability, the physician sent the IRS five checks for $200 each — payable to the United Nations, the Peace Corps, and the AID Program.

Dr. Evans contends he is meeting his obligation by contributing to organizations such as the United Nations, which are supported at least in part by the U.S. government. The IRS, in returning the checks, stated “they have no connection with any tax liability and cannot be accepted by this office.”

The Quaker, who terms military spending as a “Doomsday Machine,” continues to pay his state income taxes because they have no military spending connection.