After something of a lull in the mid-1960s, in the war tax resistance debate filled the pages of the Church of the Brethren’s Messenger magazine. (Other Brethren periodicals were silent on the issue that year so far as I could tell.)
In the General Brotherhood Board decided it was time to polish up the peace witness of the Church of the Brethren. And in preparation for this, it produced “a paper clarifying various stances on the payment of taxes for military uses… [which] cited various options now open and urged efforts to seek a further alternative for those who, because of conscience, oppose supporting war causes.” (source) This included “urging the government to adopt a provision by which persons conscientiously opposed to paying taxes for military purposes may be granted some alternative, much as conscientious objection is permitted in draft legislation.”
On the matter of alternatives in the payment of federal income tax for war uses, a study committee report was presented and adopted by the General Brotherhood Board. The report was prompted by various inquiries by Brethren, the most recent from the Pacific Southwest Conference board of administration.
The report enumerated as present options (1) paying the taxes, (2) attaching to the payment a statement of protest on the portion used for war purposes, (3) holding one’s income to a level not subject to taxation, and (4) refusing to pay all taxes or the portion of taxes used militarily, as a witness and a protest.
While not endorsing one alternative above another, the paper, like the proposed revision in the Annual Conference Statement on War, did recommend that efforts be made to secure tax laws permitting a constructive alternative to the payment of income taxes for war. The board statement also proposed that publicity be given to such steps as the withholding of the federal telephone tax levied in support of the war in Vietnam.
Towards implementation, the board asked the administrative committee of the Brotherhood staff to study the implications of the paper and to bring subsequent proposals in . One type of question raised by board members in discussion was whether the board itself, in its own operations, might withhold payment on the telephone tax.
A Brethren Peace Fellowship began to congeal, and in one of its early regional meetings: “At several points discussion centered on the possibilities for tax refusal and draft resistance and on proposing an Annual Conference statement on civil disobedience” (source).
The Annual Conference did end up putting out a statement based on the General Brotherhood Board’s recommendation (source):
Another new section deals with taxes for war purposes. The statement on this point was amended in discussion on the floor of Conference to include a preliminary sentence indicating that although Brethren accept the need for paying taxes for constructive purposes, the church opposes the use of taxes by the government for war purposes and military expenditures. Specific suggestions dealing with approaches to paying war taxes on the part of members were put in a permissive form, leaving the action to the conscience of the individual. At the same time, churches and church-related institutions were urged to study the problem of paying taxes for war purposes and even to make a careful review of funds that they might possibly have invested in bonds that would support war.
A feature on “Holy Obedience / Civil Disobedience” in the issue touched on war tax resistance in a couple of places:
The approach of civil disobedience is alive in our day. Knowing that the telephone tax we pay finances the Vietnam war, some individuals do not include money in their payments for the federal tax. They write across their bills, “No money for war,” or some similar statement.
A new surtax requiring ten percent additional tax money earmarked for Vietnam has been demanded by our government. Some who believe that war is contrary to the will of God will question themselves, “Is it right to ask our young men to refuse to bear arms even if for some this may mean jail, if we as adults are willing to finance the devastation?”
The edition included an article that discussed the recent progress of the discussion about war tax resistance, and the search for a legal alternative, in the Church of the Brethren:
Paying war taxes: Ought there be an alternative?
For the Christian pacifist, where is the conflict of loyalty to God and to the state felt more pervasively than in taxation?
And as the nation’s military expenditures skyrocket, persons of peace persuasion are moved to ask: If alternatives are allowable when it comes to putting one’s time and body on the military line, ought not a similar provision pertain to putting one’s taxes there?
The answer, as called for by a variety of concerned spokesmen, is for a legal, constructive, alternative tax arrangement for persons conscientiously opposed to paying taxes for war and military purposes. The appeal for such a plan has been heard off and on for a quarter of a century. For the Church of the Brethren, the matter came more sharply into focus when Annual Conference inserted in its Statement on War a section on taxes for war purposes.
Alternative use: “While the Church of the Brethren recognizes the responsibility of all citizens to pay taxes for the constructive purposes of government, we oppose the use of taxes by the government for war purposes and military expenditures,” the new section declared. “For those who are conscientiously opposed to paying taxes for war purposes, the church seeks government provision for an alternative use of such money for peaceful, non-military purposes.”
The statement, recognizing that members will differ in their responses, cited four positions on the payment of federal taxes for war purposes which are evident:
- to pay taxes willingly.
- to pay the taxes but to express a protest to the government.
- to refuse to pay all or part of the taxes as a witness and a protest.
- to limit voluntarily one’s income or use of taxable services to a low enough level so as not to be subject to taxation.
To implement the concern, the Conference statement urged all members, congregations, institutions, and boards to pursue the matter with serious study and to act “in response to their study, to the leading of conscience, and to their understanding of the Christian faith.”
Dilemma: The appeal for study and action was prompted by concern over the “ever-growing portion” of the federal budget going for military purposes, according to a statement on “Taxes for War Purposes” adopted by the Brethren Service Commission . The commission paper pointed up the dilemma which this escalation of war funds poses for “peace-minded people and conscientious objectors to war who put their trust in the power of love, non-violence, and international cooperation rather than military might.”
Sparked by a request from the Pacific Southwest Conference Board of Administration for a study of federal income tax alternatives, the Brethren Service study committee asserted that the church’s stance historically has been to oppose participation in war; at the same time it has taught responsible citizenship. “The Christian should appreciate and support the worthy functions which government performs. He should willingly obey the state in matters on which he has no contrary moral conviction. On the other hand, he should be alert to occasions when government neglects or misuses its trust from God. When he is profoundly convinced that God forbids what the state demands, it is his responsibility to express his convictions. Such expression may include disobedience of the state,” the commission paper quoted from the Annual Conference statement on “Church, State, and Christian Citizenship.”
Pre-Vietnam: In its own background study the Brethren Service committee noted that while the nonpayment of taxes on conscientious grounds has been a movement of the past 25 years, the concern has “a long and honorable history. Early Christians refused to pay taxes to Caesar’s pagan temple in Rome; many historic peace church members refused to pay taxes during the French and Indian wars, the Revolutionary War, and the Civil War; strugglers for independence in India, under Gandhi’s influence, refused to pay taxes to the British Empire.”
The study committee recounted a series of efforts which the Brethren Service Commission has made in seeking tax alternatives. The General Brotherhood Board had urged explorations with government “to the end that an acceptable constructive alternative be provided for all those persons who, by reason of religious training and belief, conscientiously object to the payment of that portion of income taxes going for military defense.”
At Brethren Service’s initiative, representatives of eight peace agencies, each genuinely interested in seeking a suitable tax alternative, met in in Washington, D.C., for a strategy session. The consensus was that there was little likelihood of the government’s providing a tax alternative until tax protestors and objectors created sufficient administrative difficulties that the government would decide it would be less vexing to provide a tax alternative.
Subsequent efforts by a follow-up committee and other efforts in liaison with the Mennonites and the Friends proved to no avail. Legislators who had introduced measures calling for tax credits for contributions to the United Nations, which had been looked upon as possibly one alternative designation of tax funds, received little support from the public or from Congress for their proposals. In a response to a related query the Annual Conference urged Brethren Service to continue efforts to develop an acceptable proposal for an alternative tax arrangement.
According to the study committee, all efforts to date have failed to find or gain sufficient support for a tax law provision or administrative formula that would satisfy Congress, the Bureau of Internal Revenue, and conscientious objectors.
Wider forum: For the next step, the appeal of Annual Conference and of the Brethren Service Commission is for the question on the payment of taxes for war purposes to receive a wider airing among members and congregations. Copies of two major resource items, “Statement on War” and “Taxes for War Purposes,” were mailed in to pastors and to Witness and Brethren Service chairmen.
The issue of Messenger [see below] will feature a symposium with spokesmen for each of the four stances on the handling of tax payments. A response coupon in the same issue will enable readers to report their own stand on the payment of three taxes used heavily for war use, the federal excise tax on telephone service, the recent ten percent surtax on income tax, and the income tax itself. The names of persons willing to have their positions identified may be published.
Readers also are invited to submit letters to Readers Write to share testimonies and viewpoints on the matter.
Institutions and boards are likewise asked to study the payment of war taxes. The General Board, through its Administrative Committee is examining the implications at the denominational level.
Ralph E. Smeltzer, who is coordinating the study emphasis, stressed the hope “that individuals, classes, study groups church boards, congregations, and all church institutions and related boards will come to their own thought-out positions.”
Accompanying that article was this sidebar, taken from the statement on “Taxes for War Purposes”:
Paying war taxes
Four Positions on the payment of federal taxes for war purposes are evident:
Payment of taxes. Persons who favor the government’s war and military policies willingly pay their taxes for these purposes. Other taxpayers judge the constructive functions of government to outweigh the unacceptable activities. Others feel that responsible citizenship requires the payment of all taxes. Some who oppose the use of taxes for war feel that the risks and efforts involved in opposing such use of taxes are not worth the negligible results.
Payment of taxes under protest. Persons who follow this alternative usually file a letter with appropriate government officials protesting the use of any of their tax money for war purposes or military expenditures. Frequently they urge the government to use their tax money only for peaceful and constructive purposes… Sometimes such persons ask government leaders to amend the nation’s tax laws, especially the income tax law, to provide an alternative opportunity… to designate the use of their tax dollars for peaceful and constructive purposes either through United States government functions or United Nations operations.
Limitation of income or use of service to nontaxable level. Some persons are led by their consciences to limit voluntarily their income to such a low level that it will not be subject to federal taxation for war purposes. Likewise they may not install a telephone or use other services which are subject to similar federal taxation. They may endeavor to avoid participating in all those aspects of economic life which contribute to or support war and military operations…
Nonpayment of taxes or portions thereof. Persons who follow this alternative refuse to pay all or part of the taxes asked by the government. They engage in this form of civil disobedience because they conscientiously object to the use of their money by the government for war or military purposes and because they want to make a more vigorous protest against the government’s war policy and military policy. Sometimes these persons contribute an equal amount to the United Nations or a private peace agency as a positive witness to their position. The Federal Income Tax and the Federal Telephone Tax are presently the taxes most frequently refused by conscientious objectors.
Refusal to pay such taxes might possibly be considered a violation of Internal Revenue Code, Section 7203, which would be a misdemeanor subject to a fine up to $10,000 and jail up to one year. However, the experiences of conscientious objectors to federal taxes for war purposes during the past several years indicate that the government is not interested in pressing possible criminal charges but in trying to collect the taxes here or there with interest. The Internal Revenue Service usually attaches the salary or bank account of the nonpayer and collects the tax plus six percent interest from the date the tax was due.
The nonpayment of the Federal Income Tax or portion thereof is carried out by those who have payment control over all or part of their income tax return and who refuses to pay all or a portion of the money owed.
The nonpayment of the Federal Telephone Tax or a portion thereof is carried out by refusing to pay that part of one's monthly telephone bill and sending with each remittance a written explanation of why that portion is not included. Telephone companies have indicated that refusal to pay this tax will not result in interruption of telephone service. Telephone companies turn over to the Internal Revenue Sendee the responsibility for collecting such unpaid taxes. The phone company treats refusal as a matter between the customer and the government. Some companies continue to carry the refused tax on the telephone bill as an “unpaid balance,” others do not.
The issue asked four authors to each give his perspective on the war tax issue (“Debaters of the war tax question include Russell V. Bollinger, dean of students at Manchester College in Indiana; Charles E. Zunkel, pastor of the Crest Manor church, South Bend, Indiana; David B. Rittenhouse, pastor of several congregations in West Virginia; and William Faw, pastor of the Douglas Park church in Chicago”) and included a survey readers could fill out and send in to the Messenger in which they could say which action they were taking:
On Paying War Taxes: Four Alternatives
In recent actions of Annual Conference and of the General Board, members of the church have been urged to study seriously the problem of paying taxes used for war purposes and to act in response to their study. The church recognizes that its members will believe and act differently in regard to the payment of taxes when a significant percentage goes for war purposes and military expenditures.
Four major positions on the payment of federal taxes for war purposes are evident: Some will pay the taxes willingly; some will pay the taxes but express a protest to the government; some will voluntarily limit their incomes or use of taxable services to a low enough level so that they are not subject to federal taxation; and some will refuse to pay all or part of the taxes as a witness and a protest.
As an aid to discussion and action Messenger has invited four spokesmen to comment on these alternative positions. There is also a response form that may be used individually or by groups to indicate how readers stand on this controversial topic. ―Editor
Why I Pay Taxes Used for War Purposes
by Russell V. Bollinger
Though I write in defense of the first position, namely, that the Christian ought to pay his taxes willingly, it should be clear that I have no objection to the second, which adds only some form of verbal or written protest against the defense budget. Those who take the third position seem to me to be evading the issue. They resolve their personal dilemma by abdicating their responsibility to society. The fourth position constitutes an abdication of personal responsibility in an attempt to correct a social evil.
It should be very clear that I share and have always supported the Brethren peace position, which can be amply documented from the New Testament. Under debate here are particular forms of protest or obstruction against war. Such forms of protest, like all actions of Christians and of the church, must be tested against what Jesus both said and did.
In order to identify and to underscore some basic considerations affecting this discussion, it seems to me necessary to examine an assumption on which many such actions as tax withholding have been proposed and some implemented. Considerable promotion has been given, for example, to the slogan, “Government Is the Christian’s Business.” I have always objected strenuously to this concept, especially to its adoption as a slogan. At best, the statement is misleading; at its worst it grossly distorts the Christian’s concept of his central task.
Government is the citizen’s business, whether he be Christian, Jew, or pagan. To be sure, the Christian’s citizenship will be exercised in the light of his faith — but never as the central or major focus of his activity as a Christian. He has accepted an enormously more urgent and significant “business” — to order his own life after Jesus’ teaching and example and to strive to win others to the same commitment. Whatever the Christian’s proper role in government, it must always be secondary among his priorities. Otherwise, it must seem strange that Jesus and Paul so clearly advised subjection to civil government, at least in all ordinary circumstances, and do not appear to have spent time or energy attempting to reform or even influence a very corrupt government at Rome.
I propose, under the foregoing assumptions, two considerations which for me justify willing payment of taxes, even if portions of the tax budget go for objectionable purposes.
First, it is a matter of reasonable doubt whether any government could long operate under a system by which tax paying is made subject to the range of possible “conscientious” objections to selected government activities.
Let us suppose that such groups as the Amish were to withhold that portion of their taxes which goes to support all education beyond the common school. They declare opposition to secondary and higher education on grounds of conscience. Suppose all Christian Scientists were to withhold a percentage of their taxes allotted to medical research and facilities. Suppose we Brethren were to withhold taxes because welfare funds are sometimes so administered as to endanger or destroy normal family life or because Department of Agriculture funds are paid to large-scale farmers for nonproduction of food and fiber. These and many more may with equal logic be considered matters of conscientious objection. Happily, under our system of government, we have ample opportunity to present and defend other points of view, but the democratic social theory neither contemplates nor condones obstructionism.
There is reason to question whether Brethren leaders can support tax withholding with integrity while at the same time they discourage “designated giving” to the Brotherhood budget. If churchmen be urged to support the total church budget, without discrimination, but citizens be exhorted to support only such governmental budget items as they can approve in good conscience, we may ask whether tax withholding is supported in principle or only opportunistically, as a strategy.
It is surely axiomatic that all forms of human association are possible only because of some surrender of personal freedoms and preferences. Since in our society we have adequate legal, educational, and constitutional avenues for expressing our views to government, to withhold taxes for what we happen to disapprove (and who can differentiate between “conscientious,” philosophical, emotional, and mystical disapproval?) comes perilously close to asking for the benefits of government while shirking its responsibilities.
In short, the proposal to withhold all or a part of one’s tax obligations for reasons of individual or corporate conscience must be conceded to contribute to a fragmentation of society that tends toward anarchy.
Second, tax withholding on whatever grounds with the purpose of preventing selected government activity is essentially a method of force which Brethren in particular should reject.
All attempts to change the behavior, attitudes, or values of mature, responsible persons by force are degrading and destructive of personhood. There seems to be no point in arguing that the purpose of such withholding is simply a symbolic form of protest. Kant’s categorical imperative in ethics tests a proposed act in terms of whether it could be universalized. Since tax withholding quite obviously cannot be universalized without destroying government, it clearly suffers by such an ethical criterion.
No thoughtful observer of the contemporary scene can deny a trend toward the substitution of force for persuasion, of compulsion for rational debate, to bring about social change. The civil rights movement, the student protests, the Poor Peoples’ Campaign in some of its expressions and slogans are illustrations. The church seems in imminent danger of succumbing to this trend, although it is both unworthy and out of character for Christians.
The ultimate indictment of the method of force is of course that it cannot succeed except in appearance. An attack on the war system ought to proceed by using available means to demonstrate its futility, its ineffectiveness, and its immorality — none of which ends tax withholding can serve. At most it seems a crude and primitive way of attracting attention to one’s cause.
From time to time the Christian, as a citizen, may properly make representation to government concerning his views, his desires, and his concerns. Our impatience to reconstruct the world after our own particular blueprint must not lead us into betraying noble ends by the use of unworthy means.
Why I Pay the War Tax Under Protest
by Charles E. Zunkel
In order to be consistent the conscientious objector to war must face the whole range of his involvement with war. In addition to participation in the military is certainly his concern for the use of his tax money for military purposes. This is especially true now that so much of one’s income tax is being used for war.
When my wife and I came clearly to this conviction in and decided that we must do something about it, I wrote the Department of Internal Revenue, sharing copies of my letter with the President and declaring our concern and our intention to refuse payment of the percentage of our income tax which would be used for war [see ♇ 31 May 2020]. I made it quite clear that we were not unwilling to pay the tax, but we were objecting to its being used for war. We wanted it used for constructive, peaceful purposes.
I received a very courteous reply, reiterating my words, but advising us and urging us to pay the tax. I then wrote, asking if we could pay this percentage for the United Nations, Food for Relief, or Peace Corps, programs of the federal government which we considered peaceful and worthy. Internal Revenue replied that it was not in their province to disperse the funds, only to collect them.
In the meantime, I conferred with one who had refused to pay the income tax and learned that, if we did not pay, the tax would be collected by taking it from our bank or savings account or by confiscation and selling personal property. An additional penalty of five percent would be imposed. We decided we did not want to provide the extra five percent for war to carry out our refusal, when the tax would eventually be collected anyway. Instead, we decided to write two checks each time, one designated for “peaceful purposes: United Nations, Food for Relief, Peace Corps,” in the percentage amount of the federal taxes for war. The other for the remaining percentage amount we marked “undesignated.” Since the federal government has the power to use the tax money as it wishes, not as we may designate, the checks were cashed and no comment was or ever has been given. Periodically to accompany the checks I have written letters voicing our concern and protest to the President and the Secretary of State.
While this method does not keep our money from supporting war, it seems to us the only viable way for us to protest, since we earn enough to have to pay the tax and since we do not want the added five percent penalty to provide more funds for war. If enough persons or families used this method and the process became publicized, it would be an educational program which might build conscience in others and eventually lead to the provision for tax exemption of the sort we now have for military service. Legislative bills have been prepared for this purpose but have not been introduced because the lack of public support would assure their defeat. In the meantime, we would hope that the Brethren, Mennonites, Friends, and others concerned might send to the President a delegation asking for tax alternatives, as was done to secure an alternative to military service.
Regarding the surtax or the telephone excise tax, we believe that, because these are small enough amounts of one’s total tax and that they are clearly all for war purposes, they can and should be refused, even though the five percent penalty will be added and they will be collected.
Education could win sufficient popular support for objectors to war tax payment and make possible the passage of legislation that will provide alternatives for the worthy use of tax money which would otherwise be spent to support war.
Keep Income Below the Taxable Level
by David Rittenhouse
While serving in BVS 1-W Program, Merle Grouse, a fellow BVSer, and I were traveling by train from Turkey to Germany. During an all-night ride through Yugoslavia, we talked with a young Yugoslavian who said that he had been taught that capitalism could not exist without war. In all innocence we strongly disagreed.
During , the Church of the Brethren sponsored a work camp in Altoona, Pennsylvania, for the unemployed after the railroad shops changed from steam to diesel. There, at the end of a hot summer day, a group of men sat on the steps talking about their hope for a job. One remarked, “I guess we will have to wait for another war before we get work.”
So it is that with the event of the Vietnam War and the resulting defense contracts, we are forced to admit that which some had suspected. Though I do not believe that this war economy is the inevitable result of capitalism, the war is definitely with us, even if not by design.
It is high time that vocal Brethren pacifists be called to attention by our consciences about our direct involvement in war through taxes. It has been a natural temptation, when Christian ethics are frustrated by the real world in which we live, to turn inward in an attempt at individual purification and character refinement as a goal that is within reach. I do not in any sense want to encourage this type of denial of the implications of Christ’s teachings, for we must accept the fact that we cannot disassociate ourselves from the economy in which we live. In all our expressions of protest there must still be the humble recognition that the curse of Habakkuk is there: “Woe unto him who builds a city on blood.”
But there are ways in which individual citizens can exercise freedom of belief as persons. Living on a limited income is one of these forms of witness. Voluntarily limiting one’s income requires us to reevaluate our standard of values. We are encouraged to find satisfaction in meaningful activity instead of in possession of things. It is in keeping with the Christian concept that persons and beliefs are more important than property. It is related to the spirit of the verse in Hebrews 10:34, “You joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you know that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one.”
Our family includes my wife and me, four children, and many guests. For seven years our income has been below the taxable level. This does not mean to us that we are pure and uninvolved in a war economy. Rather it has freed us to pastor six country churches that could not compete on a minimum salary for pastoral leadership.
This, then, is the exciting part of the idea of limiting one’s income. It frees Brethren pastors, teachers, doctors, builders to go to the places of greatest need, regardless of the salary offered.
Consider Partial or Total Tax Refusal
by William Faw
“Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s.” What do we owe Caesar? Many Christians would say that we owe him complete obedience in all things: We must kill for him, pay for his wars, even exterminate a people for him as Hitler commanded and as we may be doing in Vietnam.
But Brethien have said “No” to that type of obedience. We have said that we will render unto Caesar constructive citizenship and support for constructive programs. We have insisted, though, that Christ’s commandment that we love our enemies forbids us to kill in Caesar’s name. The early Christian church and the Church of the Brethren were born in civil disobedience, saying with Peter to the government, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Paul, who in Romans 13 calls us to “be subject to the governing authorities,” spent much time in jail because of civil disobedience when the command of Caesar conflicted with the command of God.
Many of us have refused to participate in military service but have unflinchingly paid taxes to support that same war machine, seemingly unaware of the contradiction involved. Where your treasure is, there will be your heart also! Our pocketbooks support the wars that our bodies shun! What this amounts to is that we are paying for others to kill for us. If God has not given us authority to kill, how can we give Caesar the authority to kill in our name and with our money? We have often thought that the payment of taxes is a morally neutral issue. How can it be that when our taxes are financing the extermination of the Vietnamese people?
Once you decide to object conscientiously to tax involvement in war, you must make many secondary moral decisions. You might elect to pay your taxes but send a letter of protest which states your preference to pay a portion to the United Nations if such an alternative should become available. It is possible that enough protest letters could strengthen congressional attempts to offer such an alternative tax-payment provision.
Or you might decide to refuse payment of taxes until such an alternative should become available, just as you might refuse to enter military service even if there were no legal alternatives to it.
If you refuse payment you must decide whether to withhold the percentage that would go into military use (some say eighty percent) or to withhold the total amount. If you choose the first path you might reason that you are paying for constructive programs of government while refusing to support the military. If you decide on total withholding you might give one or both of the following reasons: One, since you cannot designate where a paid portion would go, eighty percent of what you pay still goes to the military; and two, a goal of peacemaking may be to hold back eighty percent of the government’s total revenue so that it would have to eliminate its military expenditures, in which case the total withholding of the few tax refusers is a bigger step than their partial withholding.
If you are willing to consider partial or total tax refusal, you will need to think through the mechanics and consequences of it. If you are totally or partially “self employed” (a minister, small businessman, farmer, babysitter, public speaker) and thus have control over all or a portion of your income tax withholding, the procedure might be to withhold all or part of your quarterly estimate payments or listing the accumulated “other income” on your tax form and refuse payment on that.
If all your taxes are withheld by your employer you can at least send a letter of protest to the government with your income tax forms (send letters to the President and to congressmen as well as to IRS) and refuse to pay the ten percent federal excise “war tax” on telephone service. In fact, refusing on both taxes should be considered if that is possible. If the additional income taxes recently accepted to finance the Vietnam conflict had been passed as a surtax, each of us would have had the opportunity to pay or refuse to pay it. Instead, it will be withheld by employers in the same way as normal income tax.
The Internal Revenue Code lists several categories of “tax delinquency” with consequences ranging from collecting, with six percent per annum interest, from bank accounts, salary, or, rarely, the seizure of personal property, to a fine up to $10,000 and jail up to one year. I and others have been assured by IRS agents that there is little chance that the federal government will prosecute us until they have collected the billions of dollars in crime syndicate tax fraud.
Regarding the telephone tax, “In no case so far has phone service been discontinued because the refusal is, according to law, a matter between the refuser and the government” (War Resisters League pamphlet, “Resist Vietnam War Taxes”). Telephone tax collection has followed the income tax procedure, with no prosecutions recorded to date. The consequences may be negligible, but the risk must be understood and considered.
You must decide within the framework of your beliefs, of the limits of your control over your taxes, and of the personal and social risks involved. There is one thing you cannot escape: the moral implications of financing mass murder!
The article was accompanied by a survey form for readers to fill out and return to the Messenger:
Floyd Irvin, an early Brethren adopter of war tax resistance, explained the evolution of his resistance tactics in the issue:
I have always felt that the payment of taxes for the support of our government’s killing agency — the military — is wrong. As a Christian I am exhorted to love my neighbors and my enemies, not to kill them, and to overcome evil with good.
I am mindful of the command, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.” But I also consider that in a democracy the citizens are the rulers — the Caesars. So in this nation I, as a sovereign citizen, have a tremendous responsibility for the actions of my nation. As a sovereign citizen and as a Christian I am obligated to render unto God loyalty in expressing love for my neighbor and for my enemy. And as a co-ruler with my fellow citizens, I must lead my nation to do the same. I cannot help my nation kill people who are God’s children.
In a democracy I express my sovereign rights and obligations not only by my vote but also sometimes by protest. My protest, even if it is expressed by non-cooperation, need not be, and should not be, termed “force” in the same sense in which destroys life. Withholding taxes from war financing is noncooperation in that which destroys God’s highest creation, man. Peter, who exhorted us to be subject to human institutions, did not always obey government orders.
To be loyal to the laws of God is not anarchy. Our own government, with allies, condemned and punished German citizens for being loyal to their government’s orders when they were wrong. Withholding taxes to be used for killing my fellowman is a means of expressing my moral disapproval of an immoral act. This may be considered by some to be wrong. But becoming involved in killing is also wrong. Which is the greater wrong? And how best express my disapproval is the question to consider.
In I withheld seventy-five percent of my income taxes — that being the approximate amount of the federal budget used for military purposes. I gave the amount withheld to UNICEF, an agency of the United Nations. By this donation I expressed my social responsibility.
The publicity that followed was a testimony for peace. But it led to my removal from a responsible position and the office of superintendent of the church school of a leading congregation in our town. I also found that the government can, if it will, collect all the taxes due, in one way or another. They got my taxes by a devious method. My business was such that had the government seized a truck or other property essential to my business, it would have caused considerable inconvenience to many of my 1,500 customers. So, considering all, for some years I paid my taxes under protest.
I finally decided that for me the best way to avoid paying for military operations was to reduce my income. So I retired early. I have most of my investments in real estate. If I have a prospective sale for a piece of property, the profit of which would put me in an income tax paying bracket, I deed that property to a church or to a charity institution and let that organization deed it to the purchaser. So I receive no profit. Or I may get a contract for many small payments over a period of years, making a low income each year. I use all my exemptions and live on my exempted income.
The above plan works satisfactorily for me.