War Tax Resistance in Friends Bulletin

Here are some more tidbits I found in back issues of Friends Bulletin.

This one, from the issue, is an early example of the thaw in the long-forgotten Quaker war tax resistance tradition that began after World War Ⅱ:

Peace Testimony

Two concerned Friends, Bob Vogel and David Walden, who are members of the staff of the Southern California Branch of the AFSC have sent to all meetings in the Pacific Yearly Meeting the following suggested “advice” for implementing our ancient testimony against all wars in terms of current issues.

Friends are exhorted to adhere faithfully to our ancient testimony against all wars and fightings, and in no way unite with any warlike measure, either offensive or defensive, to the end that we may convincingly demonstrate a more excellent way of settling conflicts — the way of Christian love, goodwill, and service to all men.

A living concern having been expressed that Friends[’] practices be consistent with their professions, Friends are urged (1) not to register for any conscription measure nor accept any alternative service for conscientious objectors under a compulsory conscription law; (2) to avoid engaging in any trade or business profession promotive of war or profiting from war activity; (3) to avoid the purchase of government war bonds or stock certificates in war industries; (4) to refuse to pay taxes for war purposes, paying only that percentage of the tax which supports the civil aspects of government; (5) to educate and counsel their children against the use of military toys and books and the attendance or participation in military drills, organizations, parades, or demonstrations.

Friends are urged to live in that life and power that takes away the occasion for war, to give deep attention to the causes of war and conflict, and to support those efforts of mediation and reconciliation which are consistent with our principles gained through Divine guidance.

The edition gave this transcript of a portion of the trial of James Otsuka over his war tax resistance:

Four Dollars and Fifty Cents

On Judge Robert Baltzell sentenced James Otsuka in Federal Court in Indianapolis to ninety days and a fine of $100. Otsuka, a member of Orange Grove Meeting (Pasadena), had refused to comply with an order given by Baltzell to pay to the government $4.50 in taxes which he owed, this being the amount of his taxes that he had determined from the Statemen’s Year Book and other sources would go to military purposes and which he had given instead to the American Friends Service Committee. He was represented by Earl Robbins, an attorney from Centerville, Indiana. An account of the dialogue heard in chambers where James Otsuka was sentenced indicated that Baltzell, who has been very rough with most c.o.’s appearing before him and rude to this defendant, was concerned with the issue. There follows a part of Carolyn Mallison’s report of the dialogue between Baltzell and Robbins, the attorney, after the defendant had been sentenced and taken away:

Judge:
Do you understand this, Robbins?
Robbins:
I think so, your Honor.
Judge:
I hope not! You are an American. I hope you cannot understand such actions.
Robbins:
I do not condone it myself your Honor, but I can understand it. It reminds me of the refusal of the early colonists to pay the Stamp Tax.
Judge:
You know what happened then. You wouldn’t want that to happen… I don’t see how you can represent him. It is a terrible thing for a young fellow to take all the advantages of living here and then refuse to pay his taxes.
Robbins:
Of course the tax law is different from Selective Service, for instance.
Judge:
In what way?
Robbins:
Selective Service does provide for alternative service for those who are conscientiously opposed to war, whereas the tax law gives no alternative.

Immediately after the U.S. Marshal had departed with Otsuka a group of his friends were invited by Judge Baltzell into his chambers for a consultation on the decision just handed down. Included in the group were Ernest Bromley (editor of News of Tax Refusal, from which this report is taken, Wilmington, Ohio), Lloyd Danzeison [sic] (Peacemaker, Yellow Springs, Ohio), Carfon Foltz, Mr. & Mrs. Glenn Mallison, Jean Olds, Perry Ostroff, Earl Robbins, Ralph Templin, and Caroline Urie. Here again the issue was raised as how one changes a bad law with Judge Baltzell indicating that his job was to judge by existing laws and he would continue to do so until the people through Congress created new laws.

This note, from the edition, gives us a peek into the publicity tactics in play at the launch of the Peacemakers movement:

Ernest R. Bromley (General Delivery, Wilmington, Ohio) writes: “The continuation committee of Peacemakers met in Chicago last week . Among the things discussed was a plan to get widespread publicity on the tax refusal business just prior to . At present there are about 35 people ready to announce their stand of refusal (some for this year, but all for next year, 1949 I mean). I am writing, therefore, to several who have recently expressed considerable interest in the position in order to see if any of them are ready to join us and use our group as a medium for making their announcement, at least making it at that time.”

An article from the edition also gave some useful background on the “peace tax” law idea. This came in the form of a proposed model bill that was being sent around for review by the Pacific Yearly Meeting to its Monthly Meetings, in the hopes of coming to “a decision on whether not an attempt should be made to enact this concept into law.” The article says that the proposed bill was formulated in response to a presentation on the subject in by representatives of the Claremont Meeting at the Pacific Yearly Meeting that year.

The proposed legislation called itself the “Civilian Income Tax Act of ” and would have created a walled-off fund, governed by the Secretary of the Treasury, and destined “solely to UNICEF” that would receive federal income taxes from conscientious objectors who were willing to pay an extra 5% surtax for the privilege of not having to pay their taxes into the general fund and pay for military spending.

I also noted several mentions of Quakers discussing the idea of voluntarily taxing themselves a certain portion of their income to send to the United Nations as a way of promoting peace. This continued long after the United Nations formally ratified the Korean War, so seems a bit blinkered to me, but there was clearly a lot of wishful thinking about the United Nations that had persisted through earlier generations in the peace movement and their daydreams about an international legal order that would subdue the frightful anarchy between nations.

Another early “thaw” example, a rare one from Canada, is found in the edition:

Calgary Friends… have written the Minister of Finance regarding non-payment of the defense portion of income taxes.

The Quarterly Meeting encouraged Friends to take what ever stand seemed right to them on the tax question as their consciences dictate, and asked the Monthly Meetings to consider the concern of Calgary Friends.

The issue had this eloquent statement from Irwin Hogenauer:

Non-Payment of Taxes

A problem has been raised in a letter from Irvin [sic] Hogenauer (310 East 170 St., Seattle 55, Washington), which has for many years troubled Friends and members of other peace-making groups. It strikes at two basic testimonies of Friends: our conviction that war and preparation for war are contrary to the will of our Father, and our belief in the rightness of a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. In our observation, this problem has not been solved by any group of our Society to the satisfaction of all. Perhaps our Yearly Meeting, with its diverse, international background, would be able to add to the thinking of the Society and like-minded persons. The Bulletin would welcome comments; please keep them brief.

―Editor

“In the Adult Study Group of University Meeting,” writes Irwin Hogenauer, “we are using Jospehine Benton’s pamphlet John Woolman, Most Modern of Ancient Friends. In my further reading of The Basis of Quaker Political Concern, the speech by Henry J. Cadbury before the tenth anniversary dinner of the Friends Committee on National Legislation, Washington D.C., I came across another quotation from John Woolman: ‘I cannot form a concern, but when a concern comes I endeavor to be obedient.’…

[“]Farther on in the speech, Henry Cadbury quotes Woolman again: ‘To turn all the treasures we possess into channels of universal love becomes the business of our lives.’ Now I interpret the word ‘becomes’ two ways. First, I suppose, one would say that for Quakers this action of which he speaks ‘will be’ the business of our lives. But I also read that the right channeling of our treasures ‘is becoming to’ the business our our lives. And the present tense means now.

“I have been burdened with a concern for many years. I have not sought it out… Try as I will, especially at the behest of friends and relatives, I can not throw it off, or dodge it, or whatever one does with a concern…

“Mailings from the F.C.N.L. continually remind me… that defense is the primary fiscal consideration of the United States government. This means that the dollars we pay in income taxes are being spent largely for the military establishment, security measures, and related endeavours in the defense machinery.

“What has become of our peace testimony if we can allow the govenment to take our substance and put it to a use contrary to this testimony?… Who is there who refuses military service who would not also refuse to pay for a bullet, a rifle, an atom or hydrogen bomb?…

“Some say we can not keep from paying it. There are a number of ways if one would but investigate. A result may be imprisonment, but what period in history has not seen some Quakers in prisons?…

“It is also contended that so many federal taxes that go for war purposes are on goods and services that we buy daily. This may be true, but it should not automatically relieve us from thought and action on the tax which is levied directly and often withheld without consent of the earner. With Henry Thoreau, we can not follow the use made of the dollar after we spend it for groceries, telephone services, gasoline, or a railroad ticket. But does this relieve us of all responsibility in this area? In any case we can do something about a tax levied directly on our wage, salary, or other income.”

A letter to the editor took up the call:

More on Taxes

To the Editor:

The Friends peace testimony that Friends cannot support or prepare for war, implies that one can not pay others to prepare for or engage in war. It is not true that one can’t avoid or refuse to pay federal income taxes. To keep one’s income below the tax level is the most practical course. I think — having done so for the last 5 years. A change in employment may be necessary, but can a Friend properly hold a job that causes him to compromise with his testimonies?

If we follow the Richmond Statement, , “Conscientious objection must be complemented by conscientious projection of God’s spirit into affirmative action,” we will be involved in so much volunteer activity for peace that we won’t have time enough for money-making jobs to have a taxable income. The important thing is to do all one is able for peace…

John Affolter
4004 13th Ave., South
Seattle 8, Washington

(In another letter in the same issue, the writer said that tax resisters could expect to have their bank accounts seized unless “you have no job, raise your own food, and resort to primitive barter… a cumbersome way of moving towards non-participation in the war establishment.” The writer suggested instead that concerned people “influence our legislators” in some unspecified way.)