Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen Refuses to Pay Taxes for Nuclear Arms

Here’s a war tax resistance flashback from North Country Catholic:

Archbishop to withhold tax to protest arms race

Seattle — Archbishop Raymond G. Hunthausen of Seattle has announced that he will withhold 50 percent of his federal income taxes as “a means of protesting our nation’s continuing involvement in the race for nuclear arms supremacy.”

The archbishop’s announcement, first in a local television interview and then in a pastoral letter, came seven months after he suggested to delegates to the Pacific Northwest Synod Convocation of the Lutheran Church in America that one possible non-violent form of Christian resistance to “nuclear murder and suicide” would be to refuse to pay 50 percent of one’s income taxes.

In his letter, dated and released in the issue of his archdiocesan newspaper, the Catholic Northwest Progress, the archbishop stated that he is “aware that this action will provoke a variety of responses,” but urged all persons to “continue to discuss this nuclear arms issue in a spirit of mutual openness and charity.”

He also said that he was not suggesting that all who agree with his peace and disarmament views should imitate his action of income tax withholding.

“I recognize,” he said, “that some who agree with me in their hearts find it practically impossible to run the risk of withholding taxes because of their obligations to those personally dependent upon them. Moreover, I see little value in imitating what I am doing simply because I am doing it. I prefer that each individual come to his or her own decision on what should be done to meet the nuclear arms challenge.”

Citing a previous pastoral letter he wrote on the subject, Archbishop Hunthausen stated that certain laws may he peacefully disobeyed under serious conditions, and that there may be times “when disobedience may be an obligation of conscience.”

“I believe,” he said, “that the present issue is as serious as any the world has faced. The very existence of humanity is at stake.”

What he hopes his words and actions will do, the archbishop continued, is “to awaken those who have come to accept without thinking the continuation of the arms race, to stir even those who disagree with me to find a better path than the one we now follow, to encourage all to put in first place not the production of arms but the production of peace.”

The federal income tax which he withholds, the archbishop said, will be deposited in a fund to be used for charitable purposes.

When Archbishop Hunthausen called for unilateral nuclear disarmament by the United States in an address to the Lutheran synod meeting and suggested nuclear tax resistance as one possible response to nuclear arms spending, his comments received national news coverage. His speech led Catholic and non-Catholic church leaders in the state of Washington to begin programs of prayer, study and discussion on war and peace issues in their churches.

Archbishop Hunthausen, 60, did not reveal the amount of federal taxes he usually pays or how much one half of his taxes would be.

His chancellor, Father Michael Ryan, said he did not think the archbishop would publicize the amount because it was the symbol of the action that was important rather than the amount of money involved.

Father Ryan also said the archbishop “realizes he’s responsible for facing the consequences” of civil disobedience, but “I don’t think he’d want to speculate on” the penalties he may face (See accompanying article).

An “accompanying article” follows:

Hunthausen could face prison, fine for tax evasion, according to IRS

Washington — If Archbishop Ray mond Hunthausen of Seattle holds back half of his federal income tax in protest over U.S. nuclear arms policy, as he has said he will, the Internal Revenue Service could prosecute him.

In addition to having his assets attached to pay the taxes and interest or penalties on them, the archbishop could face up to five years in prison and $10,000 in fines for each year that he refuses to pay.

“We’ve got to administer the law regardless of the political or philosophical persuasion of the taxpayer,” said Larry Batdorf, an official of IRS’s national media relations office in Washington.

Archbishop Hunthausen said in a TV interview in Seattle that he planned to withhold 50 percent of his federal income taxes to protest U.S. involvement in the nuclear arms race. In a pastoral letter to his archdiocese a few days later he stated his position more fully and explained it.

Batdorf, following IRS policy, declined to comment specifically on Archbishop Hunthausen’s action or how the IRS would respond, but he outlined the general IRS position and policy regarding those who try to resist or evade their taxes.

He cited the court case of Autenreith v. Cullan, in which a tax resister was trying to withhold part of his taxes in protest over the Vietnam War, as a key legal precedent for IRS policy in such cases.

Batdorf quoted the pertinent part of the judge’s ruling: “The fact that some persons may object on religious grounds to some of the things that the government does is not a basis upon which they can claim a constitutional right not to pay a part of the tax.”

“We feel that the court has ruled very clearly” on that type of protest of conscience, said Batdorf.

He said that during the Vietnam War one popular form of tax protest was to refuse to pay the excise tax on one’s telephone bill. The IRS assessed and collected the taxes from “about 700 to 800 a year” who engaged in that protest, he said.

He said in most cases the procedure is to try for a civil settlement first. If the person refuses to file a return or files a low return, the IRS computes the tax, informs the person of its findings, and notifies the person that he has 90 days to make corrections or petition the findings in court.

If the person does not petition, said Batdorf, the tax is presumed correct. After the court decides in favor of the IRS or the person fails to go to court, the IRS is free to collect the money and can use various means to do so, including attachment of wages or assets.

If the case goes to criminal prosecution, he said, the maximum penalty upon conviction for tax evasion, which is a felony, is five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. The actual penalties in each case are determined by the courts, not by the IRS, he said.