American Brethren and War Taxes in 1970

In the debate over the proper response by Christians to government demands that they pay for war spilled over into the more conservative branches of American Brethren.

Church of the Brethren: Messenger

In the General Board of the Church of the Brethren met. Among the items on the agenda was an invitation for them to stop paying the phone tax as an institution (source):

In still another action, a review of the federal excise tax on telephone service, the General Board by a 2 to 1 ratio voted down a motion that would have discontinued the voluntary payment of the tax. Proponents of the motion alleged that the tax was instituted by the government to help cover costs of the Vietnam war.

Dorothy and Paul Brumbaugh shared their letter to President Nixon in the issue (source):

Preparing our income tax form and realizing that about sixty-six percent of our tax will go for purposes of war, past, present, and future, force us to examine our values.

For the past two years we have refused voluntary payment of our U.S. income tax. We wish this year to reaffirm our previous stance and to emphasize even more emphatically (1) our abhorrence of mass murders in Vietnam and other places in the world in the name of freedom; (2) our opposition to the widespread fear generated by promotion of the ABM system; and (3) our disappointment in the neglect of hunger, housing, and education.

We also wish to affirm that governmental authority is within the will and plan of God. We regret that our government refuses to accept the God-given authority and chooses instead the authority of power and the “almighty” dollar.

We urge you to help our government to place more emphasis on humanizing efforts and much less on the dehumanization of the war effort. We desire that our funds be used for human development. It is possible to choose not to participate in the Social Security program, a program helpful to many persons. Why not also the opportunity of choice in supporting the military?

The issue featured Ralph Dull, a member of the Church of the Brethren and also a long-shot peace candidate for Congress (source). The article noted:

For the last eleven years, the Dulls [Ralph & Joy] have refused to pay the percentage of their income tax that would be allocated to military spending, an amount of one half to two thirds of a tax figure. The government has attached his bank account for that amount plus interest.

Brethren Missionary Herald

The Brethren Missionary Herald reported on the Annual Conference of the National Fellowship of Brethren Churches (source). This is a more conservative group than those organized under the Church of the Brethren, and this is reflected in what its Selective Service Committee had to say about paying war taxes. That said, the statement was sincerely searching about Brethren economic entanglement with war:

The presence of the military establishment in American life embraces much more than the problem of whether our sons accept military duty or claim conscientious objection. The believer should realistically recognize the extent to which the military has invaded the whole of our lives and the probability that it will assume in the future an even more critical influence. Let us carefully consider several grim realities and possibilities.

To begin with, our American system of taxation is so structured that every adult member of our society, from the oldest retiree to the youngest wage earner makes his contribution to the local, state or national government. Huge chunks of these taxes are earmarked for the military. Whether we like it or not we are involuntary contributors to the support of the military and are therefore participants. Indeed, as law abiding citizens we believe we have an obligation to support our rulers (Romans 13). Thus we are involved.

Furthermore, we must think fairly and logically about the very financial structure of our country and thus face a very disturbing reality. Our economy is based upon the foundation of the investment of capital. Each of us has been taught to save our money, to bank it, to invest it wisely. Central in our economy is the building loan deposit, the government bond, the insurance policy, stocks and bonds and even the lowly savings account. These monies, trustfully placed by us in the hands of financial experts, are reinvested for our benefit. The returns are then paid to our accounts. It is common knowledge that tremendous amounts of investors’ money are spent to develop defense businesses. Again we are involved.

Again, let us be reminded that a large segment of America’s work force supports the military. The day is long gone when we can say that a few munitions makers supply the powder and ball for the military or that the Philadelphia Quartermaster Depot has purchased a supply of clothing and food for the soldiers. Government contracts are eagerly sought by nearly every industry. The sophisticated weaponry, communications systems and transportation systems consume material far removed from the conventional concept of war items. The huge maw of the military gulps down huge quantities of goods of every description. Thus from the farm, the mine, the forest, the ocean and from every type of manufacturing and assembly plants unnumbered items flow into the channels marked military. How does one know whether or not he has been a part of this nationwide effort?