British Quakers Debate War Tax Resistance

In the “Correspondence” section of its issue, The British Friend had a back-and-forth about war tax resistance that captures pretty neatly one of the arguments in Quaker circles about the subject:

War and the Taxes.

Dear Friend,

How far should Friends carry their protest against all war? Should it extend to a refusal to pay that proportion of the Income Tax which is equivalent to the proportion of the revenue spent by the Government in maintaining the army and navy and military establishments at home and abroad?

We are required by law to pay a certain sum towards the support of Government and administration. Does our responsibility with respect to that money cease once it is paid in to the National Exchequer, it being understood that we have done our utmost by legal means to prevent public money being spent on munitions of war? Or, knowing the way in which part of the money will be spent, are we justified by the higher law in resisting the law of the land and in refusing to pay more than that proportion which we calculare is spent on peaceful projects?

Thine sincerely,
J.W. Gillie

The editor of The British Friend responded:

It appears to us that in fulfilling the two obligations of rendering “unto Cæsar the things that are Cæsar’s,” and “unto God the things that are God’s,” we must be guided by such light as our conscience possesses. For ourselves we are quite satisfied to believe that we are not responsible for what we cannot control. The responsibility for the appropriation of a general tax levied for the use and maintenance of the Government of a country does not rest with the taxpayer, but with the Government. This appears to be the principle acted on by our Lord in paying the Temple tribute money; it is implied in His words “Render unto Cæsar,” etc. Matt. ⅹⅻ. 21; and bears a wide application in Rom. ⅹⅲ. 6, 7, where Paul exhorts the payment of tribute, notwithstanding the fact that such tribute, paid by Roman Christians, was in part used for military and other purposes, very open to exception, as well as for civil government.

I hadn’t heard much about Cindy Sheehan’s tax resistance for a while. She hasn’t been mentioning it as much lately. But she recently announced:

I just got a notice from the IRS that I owe them $104 grand and they are going to levy my bank accounts and property. I don’t have any property and there’s less than $150.00 in my bank accounts. Looks like Fed Prison is in my future. I would rather go to prison than fund the crimes of this government. I am going to send them a notice that they owe me infinity dollars for killing my son.

It would be pretty unusual for the government to send her to prison just because she didn’t have assets to cover her tax debts, though they could I suppose if they felt like making an example of her.